Chiedza Kundidzora: Singer, Restaurant Manager

Spotted: in Old Oakland

Occupation: Restaurant Manager/Singer

Where is your name from?

It's Zimbabwean, and it means “light causing me to return.”

What's the story behind the name?

My dad is from Zimbabwe, and my mom's from Berkeley—she's Jewish, and that was my dad's father's first name. My dad didn't have a birth certificate so he chose my grandfather's first name as his last name and that's how I got my last name.

Where are you headed today?

I'm going to meet my brother for lunch!

That's great! Do you have a lot of family in the Bay Area?

I do—my brother lives in El Cerrito, my sister lives in Oakland, and my mom lives in Berkeley so we're all Bay Area people. Although, I live in San Francisco and they act like I live in another country. They never visit me. They're like, “No you come visit us over here," and I just have to say “OK." It's good because I get to come home, it's close, but I get to live away from home at the same time. Which is kinda the best of both worlds.

What do you do?

I'm a restaurant manager and I'm a singer.

How did you start with both?

I was a professional singer for years, and I worked at a place called Supperclub in San Francisco. I started there as a performer and needed a day job, so they offered me work in their office. Then I started picking up shifts, doing other things to make a little side money. When I decided to leave there I was working a couple days a week at another restaurant and they offered me a management position. And I was wondering, “Am I even qualified for this? I'm a singer! What!?” I guess I did well because they promoted me to assistant general manager. It all happened super quickly! I thought “Ok, I guess I'm a restaurant manager now!”

What kind of singing do you do?

I sing jazz and funk.

Who are your inspirations at the moment?

I would say Teena Marie, Minnie Ripperton and of course, Sarah Vaughn—that's definitely an “of course.” And I'm really into early Pointer Sisters; pre-1975 Pointer Sisters are amazing.

What's the sound like?

Bebop. They have tons of Dizzy Gillespie's band in their first two albums. And it is like some crazy funky jazz bebop amazingness. They can scat like nobody's business. You think of the Pointer Sisters as being corny—I always thought of the Pointer Sisters as corny. But then I listened to that and I thought, these chicks are the baddest chicks ever! They need to be up there with the jazz greats. They're so good. They do covers of “Black Coffee” and “Cloudburst.” They do “Salt Peanuts” by Dizzy—they sing it scat—like the entire instrumental part, with words. It's incredible.

How did you stumble across this?

One of the old bartenders at Supperclub. We used to kick it on the late night, and one night when we were shutti

ng down he asked, “Have you ever heard this song?” He played me one of the songs and I thought it was incredible. I asked who it was and he said “It's the Pointer Sisters—you gotta to check this stuff out.” And I started digging it—it's some of the best music I've ever heard!

Do you sing locally?

I do—I got a gig coming up at Yerba Buena Gardens on October 11. That's going be super fun. It's an event called Yerba Buena Night and it's my fourth year doing it. I kinda took a break when I was just doing restaurant management but I got a call from my old creative director, and he told me to come through. Then I just started getting calls—I have a session on Saturday. It's like suddenly everyone got the APB—ok, she's ready to work again!

What do you enjoy doing on your time off?

I love going to good shows, of course. I love eating good food. I'm very much a traditional Bay Area person; I love beautiful, interesting places to sit, and walk and soak up.

How would you describe your personal style?

I would say I'm kind of, not so much this particular outfit, but I definitely have this hint of French 1970s. I've always kind of had that. Anything that I grab, if it's new, or it's old, it has this little hint of not even so much American 70s—but something else. People always ask where I'm from, and I'm like, I'm from here!

What's something that's been on your mind lately?

I guess I've just been thinking about the way the Bay Area is changing. I'm born and bred in Berkeley, my mom's born and raised in Berkeley, so we're all very Bay Area-grounded people. And we're not just seeing San Francisco change, but also Berkeley. And now Oakland is changing and shifting. Some of it's good, some of it's bad; I've been reflecting on what that means in the context of my home.

In what way? In the way that you remember it?

Just the culture of it—the culture is bigger. Restaurants may open and close, but it's more that the actual culture of the places have started shifting and morphing. It's not just that your hometown will never be the same—it's more that it will never be the same in a big picture way. The course history was on has taken a detour. I'm thinking about how we can shape that detour into something that is positive.

How are you seeing the changes—the good parts and the bad parts?

I would say there's so many more things to do in Oakland now, there's so many more venues and events and things like that. But I feel like that has been to the detriment of neighborhoods, and knowing your neighbors and knowing people. The culture of saying hello, of being open, present and accepting of people for who they are has shifted. I feel it's a lot more guarded. Which is interesting, because Oakland kind of has this impression of oh, it's a gritty city, and people are like no, it's getting nicer! But that's not true. I used to live in the hood in Oakland when I was in my early twenties and everybody said hi. You knew everybody. It was a community. And I feel like that community in Berkeley has been lost in a lot of ways, in Oakland it's starting to happen too, and in San Francisco, definitely.

Let me just ask you about outfit because it's amazing and I had to stop you to ask you about it.

So actually one of my best friends saw this jumper at a thrift store, thought of me, bought it, and said this is for you! Of course I thought it was amazing. The jean jacket I saw in the window at Crossroads and liked the fact that it was cropped. I liked the scalloped part of it; you can throw it over anything without it being boxy like most jean jackets.

The earrings and the sunglasses are great too!

So I got the earrings because I cut my hair and I realized I needed to wear long, dangly earrings. And the sunglasses—Multikulti man, in SF has the best sunglasses.

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