Spotlight: Blooming Gwenyambira set to launch debut album
Sunni Chi (born Tanaka Samantha Chikati) was born and raised in Zimbabwe. A product of the Zimbabwean schooling system, she then tested into the prestigious African Leadership Academy in South Africa and is now currently a music major at Dartmouth College in the United States as part of their class of 2025. Sunni Chi is set to release her debut album titled “Midzi” at a concert hosted in Harare.
Her earliest memories of music are singing in her church choir which her older brother occasionally conducted. Her love affair with the mbira started when she was in primary school. “I chose to play the mbira because it was a Zimbabwean traditional instrument, something unique and made in Zimbabwe. I also just liked how it sounded.”
In high school she was a member of the choir, mbira club, marimba ensemble (which she captained), debate and public speaking teams. As part of her marimba ensemble, she recorded an album with the late musical icon Oliver Mtukudzi. She also plays shakers, drums, xylophone, glockenspiel, vibraphone, piano and guitar.
She recently released a single titled ‘Unonzani?’ which speaks on identity and the wisdom from elders and was inspired by moments she shared with her now late grandfather. The album as a whole was born from a prolonged period of grief, loss and homesickness she was experiencing in the past few years. Sunni Chi set out on a journey of healing and creativity.
“So, this year the healing journey was really for me to release all those negative emotions, and to accept reality and all the sad things that happened and try to focus on the present moment more.”
The mbira track backed with her smooth vocals is reminiscent of Zimbabwe’s beloved Queen of mbira and culture custodian Chioniso Maraire. She has sighted Maraire’s music as inspiring her to create her own music.
Sunni Chi also hosts an online show on YouTube titled ‘Tea with Tanaka’ on which she engages various artists in conversation. In the future she envisions contributing to arts education in Zimbabwe and launching a record label that can help upcoming talent enter the industry easily.
“My process with recording music has been a lot of work and if I can help artists not to stress too much about things like where to find a photographer, or where to have a launch, how to get their music out there, the high costs etcetera then I would be so happy.”
With a strong sense of self, the love and support of her family and her undeniable talent, the young musician is on a trajectory for success.