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Michelle Hopkins is ready for the music world

Saturday January 23 2021
michelle pic

Singing sensation Michelle Hopkins: PHOTO| Hugo Fernandes

By Mpoki Thomson

A relatively new act is bursting on the scenes of Bongo Music with a formidable force that promises for an exciting future in the industry.

Michelle Hopkins exudes raw talent the moment you see her. She is a charming 20-year old artiste in pursuit of a career as a musician. But: how did it all start? One might wonder...

For Hopkins, singing is an inbred ability. She remembers having a predilection for singing ever since she was a child. But it was her sister’s similar interest in this art form that ignited hers. “I was inspired by my sister to start singing,” Hopkins says, stating that the interest elevated when she was nine years old, and by the time she was 11, she started writing her own songs.

Hopkins was born and raised in Tanzania in her formative years. At the age of 16, together with her sister they moved to Canada, where their father is from to pursue further studies.

It was during her brief visit back home that The Beat got a chance to sit down with the rising star who gleams of a bright future not only in Bongo music, but also on a global scale. We got to talk about her outlook in her nascent journey as an artiste, and what kind of imprint she would like to leave behind in the music industry.

For Hopkins, the Tanzanian and Canadian affiliation that her family shares is leverage to her music interests. “Right now I’m more established in Canada because it is my current place of domicile, but I have not forsaken my Tanzanian roots,” she says. And this is evidenced by how she identifies herself musically, “I often tell people I meet and work with that I am Tanzanian,” she says. But she doesn’t stop there; Hopkins also likes promoting Swahili music, popularly known as Bongo Flava. “I always introduce people to Bongo music in order to make them have a glimpse of the abundant talent that Tanzania has,” she explains, adding that Tanzania has many talented and creative artistes that are looking for a global breakthrough, a chance to break the barrier on the international market.

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Hopkins has a number of projects lined up that are sure to upscale her status both locally and internationally. “In 2021 I plan to release a couple of songs featuring both Canadian and Tanzanian artistes,” she reveals, while overtly professing her admiration for local rapper Rapcha, echoed by popular demand on the social site Twitter for the two to work together.

Her mission to promote local talent transcends musical boundaries, Hopkins, a novice herself, knows too well the power of collaboration. She thus wants to work with different creatives; from videographers to photographers. “My aim is to highlight Tanzanian talents, so any possible way I can do that is an open door for me,” she says.

2020, a year filled with mishaps has seen the entertainment industry hard-hit by the global coronavirus pandemic. Hopkins being a part of this industry has felt the pinch. But as the old adage goes; turning lemons into lemonade, Hopkins has used this time of dismal activities within the music industry to work with various creatives. “I have reached out to independent artistes offering to work with them. Since right now everyone has ample time, it is the perfect opportunity to work together,” she says.

Endowed with a vocal range that could rival any top artiste, Hopkins doesn’t like to blow her own trumpet, but is never shy to appreciate and praise the gifts bestowed unto other artistes. For example, she is in awe of Zuchu’s rise to prominence. “Her creativity is ingenious, her voice is amazing,” she says, and further extends her appreciation to Diamond Platnumz for not only giving Zuchu a platform under his WCB record label, but for his own individual contribution to Bongo music.

Hopkins also listed another female artiste as a reflection of excellence in music: South Africa’s Sho Madjozi. “I like how she blends South African and East African culture; she is doing an amazing job.”

Dreams and ambitions are often cut short due to lack of support be it from family or friends. But that is something that Hopkins doesn’t have to worry about. She has the full backing of her family. She credits them for helping her overcome her music inhibitions, with their only request being that she has to finish her education and she will have her whole life to pursue her dreams.

With an absentee father when growing up, Hopkins describes the bond she shares with her older sister and mother as a pillar of strength, support and encouragement to stay the course.

When the time comes and she’ll have to hang her musical boots, Hopkins would like to leave a legacy that will last for posterity. “I want to create a space for local artistes to thrive; a community, if you will, not only for Tanzanian artistes, but for artistes across the East African region. I want artistes from outside Africa to be able to come here and witness firsthand the great talent that the Mother Land has,” she says.

Hopkins is currently studying Psychology, Professional Writing and Communication at the University of Toronto.

Apart from music, she is passionate about education, the fight against gender and sexual violence, and mental health.