The first song that Ashleigh Moyo, aka Shashl, ever wrote propelled her into the musical spotlight in 2017 – and led to her signing with one of the continent’s major record labels.
Universal Music Africa snapped up Shashl when she was still a teenager for No More, an R&B track. She was the first female musician from Zimbabwe to be taken on by the company.
Being so young and so new to music when she signed had its benefits and drawbacks.
“It put me on the map, which I needed to be. It helped me in a great way – I can now handle a lot of situations that people go through in the music industry,” she says.
“But I was so young that I didn’t have the freedom to be as creative as I [truly] was. I was still finding myself trying to figure out my sound, trying to figure out who I actually am and what I wanted to do in life.”
The 23-year-old has since found her sound – a mix of R&B, Afrobeats, a bit of Afro-fusion. And she sings in Shona and in English.
Being the daughter of a former government minister meant that she grew up in a privileged way. But she wanted her music and her lyrics to appeal to less well-off Zimbabweans – and so she started visiting high-density residential areas so that she could try to relate to the sorts of issues most people endure on a daily basis.
“Stepping out my comfort zone and breaking out of my shell takes me places – and that’s exactly what I did,” she recalls.
In 2021, she had a huge hit with Ghetto Buddies, which has had about 1.5 million listens so far, and which she sang in Shona.
“I feel it’s easier to break into a market when you are being more genuine,” she reflects.
She won Best Newcomer at the Zimbabwe Music Awards, and was nominated for best female artist in the Southern African region at the African Muzik Magazine Awards the same year.
“The fact that what I love to do is being appreciated by people. It just fills my heart with so much joy.”
It also made Shashl realise that her musical talent is special, and she doesn’t need to fit in with everyone else. “For the first time I told myself that you were born to stand out.”
The name she performs under – Shashl – came about because she has an older sister called Sherris. They look very similar, which meant that relatives would often get them mixed up and end up calling her a combination of Sherris and Ashleigh.
Shashl plays 10 instruments – including guitar, marimba, mbira, violin and the cello.
“One day I will give a performance playing all of them – because I feel the world deserves it,” she tells me.