Welcome to Spotlight Series, a monthly feature shining a light on emerging local music makers in the stellar music community in Manitoba. Come back every month for a new interview!
By Hannah Foulger
Winnipeg-based R&B artist Cisha didn’t set out to become a singer, although had a love of music from a young age. Born in Burundi, Winnie Cishahayo was raised in South Africa, where she developed a love of singing through her church. She moved to Canada in 2015 when she was 17 years old.
She started to develop beats in her head, inspired by old school R&B of the 90s and early 00s, particularly Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez’ early work. For many years, music was a private hobby of hers, but one staff Christmas party changed all that. Throughout high school she worked as a cashier at Safeway and one year she sang at their annual Christmas party.
“There was one person there who saw me, and they were like 'Oh my goodness! I can’t believe you haven’t been heard throughout the city. I feel like a lot of people would like your voice and what you have to give.'"
From there, Cisha booked a performance spot at Fools + Horses for Nuit Blanche, which caught the eye of several event planners and bookers, who continued to keep booking her to perform at different events and shows.
“For me that expands and opens my creative side. Different ears bring different perspectives,” she says. “I always try my best for every song to be recorded in a different studio.”
Cisha dropped her self-titled EP Cisha at 18 in 2017 with some smooth bops like "Deep" and "Why You", featuring Ndu.
“I want to go everywhere. The universe is the limit for me. So, if I have to perform on Saturn I will perform on Saturn.”
The highlight of her career came a year later when performing for Canada 150 with Spur Winnipeg from the rooftop of the McKim building. For her, the best part of music is the electric chemistry that comes from being able to connect with a live audience.
“I've always wanted to form on the big stage,” Cisha says. “ That was a very big highlight for me, that changed my whole perspective on performing and connecting with people.”
Cisha took a break from music for a few years to focus on school.
In 2020, Cisha came back to music, releasing not only her single "Ridicule", but also appearing on "Evidence" by VITAL.$IGNES. Releasing music during the pandemic, of course, comes with new challenges.
“I'm not a digital person, I don't like promoting online, I'm more of a performer. This dynamic opened my eyes because I didn't know that you could gain more listeners and followers on digital platforms. I feel like that's so powerful,” she says.
While this year has had its challenges, it has been a very creative time for her. In addition to per collaboration with VITAL.$IGNES’, she released "I.D.G.A.F.B.Y" in December, kicked off 2021 with the release of a video for "Ridicule" followed by a video for "What's Good" featuring Pay$o in Feburary, and launched "Run" featuring Max Winds in March 2021. Even more releases are coming, with over eight new tracks completed, but the shape of the next release is still in flux.
Even though this time has been a creative opportunity, what Cisha really misses and hopes to return to with the release of new content and vaccinated days ahead is that physical in-person connection with an audience.
“I want to go everywhere. The universe is the limit for me. So, if I have to perform on Saturn I will perform on Saturn.”'
Find out more about Cisha at https://linktr.ee/Cisha
Hannah Foulger is a British Canadian writer and theatre artist with a disability. Born in Holland, she was raised on Treaty 4 territory on the Haldimand tract. She is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Guelph.