“IT ALL happened so fast, I wrapped up my tour and then waited a few days before theirs could begin,” exclaims Fortune Shumba.
What was initially a tour in Australia to promote his provocative smash single Trash, has turned into a month long stay down under after Shumba mesmerised the management team of local reggae fusion/indie rock band, Sticky Fingers, who demanded he join the band’s tour as an opening act.
Such is Shumba’s presence on stage, it turns first timers into fully fledged members of his Fortunism tribe. I’m talking the stuff of Beyoncé and her beehive, Justin Bieber and the beliebers. But Shumba’s tribe is uniquely held together by three pillars; Love, Acceptance and Freedom.
There was a harsh paucity of the aforementioned trio in Shumba’s upbringing, as a queer artist in Mpumalanga. “It was until I was a little older and a bit more independent in my thinking that I started wondering what it would take to get me to be in a better space as I’d grown tired of being forever morbid. I started wondering what it would take for me to turn my situation around and each time, Love, Acceptance and Freedom came up on top as the three things I’d been longing for and the only way I’d be able to reach a place of complete harmony and peacefulness within myself. Love because I never felt like I got any from the people I was surrounded by, and the same applied with Acceptance and Freedom. I also came to a realisation that I was not giving myself any of the three things that were very much necessary and began wondering if that was the reason I was not getting any of the three back, the law of attraction? So I started practicing the three things in my everyday life and once I had figured out it worked I then felt the need to share it with others and bundle that message up with the music I make so it does not feel like an extra gig,” he says, speaking to Tha Bravado from Australia.
Australians have been reciprocating the energy Shumba exudes on stage. “Does not matter the age, race, sexual orientation or gender, at the end of the day we all need to be loved, to be accepted for who we are and to be liberated essentially. Initially I’d be shocked when 60 something year old cis males who normally only listen to metal rock would come up to me after the shows, at times all sweaty from all the dancing around with tears streaming down their faces, thanking me for speaking to their souls and sharing my inspiring message with them in a time where hate seems to be the biggest issue in the world. Me supporting a band like Sticky Fingers who are totally from a different musical background from me made much more sense to a lot of people after they came to the shows.”
This is Shumba’s longest stay in a foreign country and despite missing home and Mzansi food, he talks in awe of the liberty of people to be themselves in Sydney- which has been his favourite part of the country. “We went there earlier on while I was on my Trash tour and thank goodness we are going back again for the Sticky Fingers tour this time! Firstly the house we were living in was amazing (our friends Jodi and Craig were kind enough to let us use their stunning Sydney house as our base for free). There is a street called Oxford St which is the queerest and prettiest street I have ever seen. Gay bars at every corner, gay rainbows all across and just good spirited people hanging out… ahhh there’s also free WiFi on the streets. I also met some cool musicians and recorded some new music there. I enjoyed Sydney a lot.”
Artists such as Shumba, Fella Gucci and a slew of other black musicians who make alternative music which challenges the status quo, usually battle the fact that demand only comes from Eurocentric spaces, not the townships or other black spaces where there’s still a lot of fear and misunderstanding of something different. “My DJ and I were having the conversation the other day about how much this message is still very much necessary back at home. It really sucks that you don’t get offered a lot of platforms and opportunities back at home, especially if you are doing something different. I can never say if it’s an issue of promoters and the people responsible for putting us on such platforms not having faith in the power of alternative African sounds to pull in large crowds or a case of our audience not being open minded enough to receive the message. All I know is that I am manifesting more shows back at home after this, I mean I sing in Swazi and English after all and make a lot of African references when creating these songs. I just choose to express myself in my own unique way.”
The strong contralto singer has two EP’s to his name, Dawn (2015) and Daylight (2016) and wants to title his upcoming project Dusk, completing the trilogy of EPs. “To be honest the EP has beeeen done, most of the songs I have been doing on this tour are from the upcoming EP. We are just waiting for the perfect time. This pause also allows us to do a few tweaks here and there and I am steadily building an audience before we release the project. I will be putting out a music video for Trash and the follow up to that, a song called Trouble. I will still be recording more music because that is a way of life of me and because for my debut album I want to have more than a hundred songs to pick from once I decide it is time to put out an album, some day.”
An avid activist, his #LoveAF has also extended itself in a pad drive, to help provide young girls with sanitary pads- he heeded this calling after reading an article about girls in rural KwaZulu-Natal who did not have access to pads. “We are doing T shirts for which proceeds will go towards that cause. StiFi(Sticky Fingers) have been kind enough to help pay for the printing of the merch once I told them about the cause. I am glad we are doing this even though the turnaround time has been short as we had not planned to go on this tour with Sticky Fingers as the opportunity almost came out of the blue, but once I realised we would get to reach such a big audience I told my manager ‘This is it! We are starting with the pad drive now’, and here we are.”