Prudence and the band Liyana
The band Liyana was formed in 2005 – as a class project. Even with the challenge of working in teams, in barely an hour, Liyana had produced four great tunes. From the start they had a special knack for communicating musically through various subjects and musical styles, including gospel, reggae, and traditional Shona music.
Fronted by singer and songwriter Prudence Mabhena, with other members specializing in marimbas, African drums, shakers, keyboard, and piano, Liyana won the Crossroads Africa Inter-regional Music Festival in Mozambique and went on to tour Sweden, The Netherlands, and Belgium. They also went on an American tour in 2009, and released two CDs, Liyana and Sugar Rhythms. Their music is also featured on the soundtrack for Music by Prudence. Now all in their twenties, the members have finished school at KG6 and are busy building their individual and independent lives.
lead singer and songwriter
Prudence composes in a wide range of styles and many topics. Her voice has been likened to the great South African liberation singer, Miriam Makeba. She has arthrogryphosis. Prudence nowadays travels the world, is recording an album, and has been appointed Unicef’s national Goodwill ambassador. She recently had spine surgery, and now is finally able to sit up straight in her wheelchair!
back-up singer and songwriter
Marvelous Mbulo was the main back-up singer at the band. He has muscular dystrophy. He and Prudence have been friends since they were twelve. Nowadays, he’s a playwright and a sitdown comedian.
first marimba, back-up vocalist
Energy Maburutse was first marimba player and back-up vocalist and the band’s resident jokester. He has osteogenesis imperfecta, brittle bone syndrome. He now studies at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida.
back-up singer, keyboards
Tapiwa Nyengera sang back-up, played keyboard, and was the front man. He has Spina Bifida and is in a wheelchair but is totally independent. Tapiwa now works as a Public Relations Officer and Arts/Music Director at KG6 in Bulawayo.
Vusani Vuma, the bass marimba player, has done all his schooling at KGVI. He has partial hearing and uses sign language and can lip read and hear some Ndebele and English. He currently lives in South Africa, where he’s becoming a visual artist.
traditional drums and percussion, back-up singer
Goodwell Nzou, who played traditional drums and percussion and sang back-up in the band, was bitten by a snake when he was 11, requiring amputation of his leg. He has an artificial leg, walking with crutches, but is very mobile. He now studies in the US.
Farai Mabhande, lead keyboardist, is an orphan from Bulawayo and has very little family support. Just like Prudence, Farai has Arthrogryphosis. He is in a wheelchair but is totally independent. He’s specializing in sound engineering.
Honest Mupatsi played tenor marimba in the band. He has hemophilia. Prudence inspired him to love music. He was accepted into the USA Embassy college programme and now is studying at the University of Kansas.
Music by Prudence is dedicated to Elecium Nkomo.
He was the ninth member of the band, and past away during the filming period.
Three questions for director & producer Roger Ross Williams
How did you hear about this band, and about Prudence?
ROGER ROSS WILLIAMS: My neighbor lives part-time in Zimbabwe. She is a print journalist and author. I asked her if she had ever come across any amazing stories there. One day she told me she saw this amazing singer named Prudence and she thought she would make a great story.
She put me in contact with Inez Hussey, the co-director of Prudence’s school. Inez and I started a dialogue and eventually she sent me footage of the band and of Prudence. I watched the tape and knew that I had to make a movie about them and about her.
Was it apparent to you from the beginning that you would be focusing on her in the film?
Yes. Even before I went there, I knew that the film had to have a central character, and it was obvious it’d be Prudence. It became more obvious when I met her. Oh my God, I thought, she’s charismatic and brilliant, and engaging. The camera loves her.
How’s Prudence now?
The Oscar win made it possible for me to bring her over to America once again. I organized a three week tour through the country, giving Prudence the opportunity to perform at the Kennedy Center, record music, and to get connected with many people and organizations. It opened a lot of doors and she grew into a new role as a spokes person for disability rights. She has so many talents. She’s now a National Goodwill Ambassador for Unicef. Of course, I’m first and foremost a filmmaker, and I’m currently focusing on my next documentary, but it’s great knowing Prudence now has a future full of opportunities.
About Roger Ross Williams
Roger Ross Williams wrote, produced and directed the 2010 Academy Award® short film winner, Music by Prudence. He is the first African American director to win an Academy Award® in his category of Documentary Shorts, and the first ever African American director to win an Academy Award® for directing and producing a film, short or feature. He is a member of a Gullah family from South Carolina, and has lived and worked in New York City for the past twenty-five years.
Williams began his career as a producer of political satire for Comedy Central and Michael Moore´s Emmy award winning series TV Nation. Soon following, his TV news credits include NBC Nightly News, MSNBC, the Today Show, ABC News, CNN, and the highly rated Barbara Walters specials for ABC.
At ABC News Williams also wrote and produced for critically acclaimed specials including the ABC news aids special Sex, Drugs & Consequences, the youth culture special Power of One and the one-hour documentary series Life 360 for ABC News Nightline and PBS.
Since then he has produced and directed numerous primetime television specials for PBS, ABC, the Sundance Channel, and Showtime. He has produced a documentary series for Discovery Networks and a lifestyle series for Scripts Networks.
He has won numerous awards including a NAMIC Vision Award for his television special Moroccan Style and the National Headliner for Best Human Interest Feature for his documentary New York Underground.
As a writer, his columns have appeared online on AOL´s The Hub and the Style Channel.
Currently Williams has several projects in development, including a feature narrative film on the African American baptist church, and a feature length documentary, called God Loves Uganda.