Shishani means ‘crown’ in one of Namibia’s native languages. She is a uniquely versatile artist whose music transcends genres and cultures. Shishani is a vocalist, guitarist and songwriter loved for her soothing and powerful voice.
During her career, Shishani has received multiple awards and nominations and has toured internationally. Her roots are Namibian and Belgian, but she grew up mainly in the Netherlands. Through her work, these worlds come together. Her vocal sound has both a mystical lightness and the power to pierce the soul with the spirit of an activist that runs though her lyrics.
She has performed internationally at Glastonbury Festival (UK), Afrika Festival Wurzburg (Germany), Amsterdam Roots Festival, Lake of Stars (Malawi) and various countries including Kenya, South Africa, Russia, USA, India, Morocco, Moldova, Latvia, France, Czech Republic, Poland, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Greece, South Korea, China, Jordan and her home countries, Netherlands, Belgium and Namibia.
Shishani is founder, producer, lead vocalist and songwriter of Miss Catharsis (2019), a unique all-female group centralizing women of colour. She is co-founder, lead vocalist and composer of Namibian Tales (2015) an acoustic quartet delving into the musical heritage of Namibia. With Namibian Tales, Shishani led a unique international project with UNESCO and the Museums Association of Namibia on safeguarding cultural heritage through archiving and producing new music in collaboration with San communities in Namibia. This project toured internationally.
Shishani is also founder, vocalist and songwriter of Shakuar, a group combining live electronica with traditional instruments and enchanting voices, exploring artistic and spiritual expressions. In 2021, Shishani founded Sisterhood: a group of 11 female artists who highlight a shared heritage between Indonesia and Namibia through the Dutch colonial past.
2012 – Song “Minority” nominated for 2 awards at Namibian Annual Music Awards
2012 – Winner “Last Band Standing”, Namibia
2013 – Winner Singer-Songwriter Competition “Mooie Noten” Amsterdam, Netherlands
2014 – Finalist Radio France International Awards
2016 – Winner Best Album in World Music Production, Netherlands
2017 – Winner Best Album in World Music Production, Netherlands
2020 – Nominee Amsterdam Prijs voor de Kunst, Netherlands
Shishani has collaborated with various artists internationally over the years. Among them, she has recorded & toured with critically acclaimed drummer and percussionist Bodek Janke with his jazz trio on the album ‘SONG 2’ as vocalist & songwriter. Together with pianist Kristjan Randalu and bassist Phil Donkin European this trio belongs to the European heavyweights in jazz.
“Overall SONG 2 is a most unusual and highly fascinating album, which requires repeated attentive listening sessions in order to truly expose its hidden treasures. It offers strikingly unusual arrangements and brilliant performances, full of aesthetic sophistication and reflecting the best European Jazz has to offer… Shishani adds her warm and somewhat mystical vocals, which bring the depth of African music in the music.”
Shishani’s versatility also allows her to create music for interdisciplinary projects including:
(2021) Visual artist Patricia Kaersenhout’s What A Piece of Work is Man
(2020) Choreographer Christian Guerematchi’s Non Aligned Movement
Explorations on Black European identity. Watch interview with Shishani (in Dutch) here.
(2020) Multi-media artist Dries de Poorter’s installation for IDFA Doclab
“Shishani created a sacred sound composition that added a whole new dimension to Dries’ grainy internet images.”
(2019) Theater makers Romano Haynes, Joenoes Polnaija & Mitchell Havelaar Wij Waren Er Al
(2017) Film-maker Tim Huebschle’s film Another Sunny Day
Art & Activism
Shishani has spearheaded various initiatives throughout the years. In 2010, she initiated a multidisciplinary stage in Amsterdam called ‘Cinnamon Wednesdays’ which was run by six young cross-cultural women until 2012. This stage hosted some of today’s trailblazers in the Dutch cultural landscape. In 2014, she founded ARTNAM (2014) which aimed at promoting Namibian Arts nationally & internationally. She has frequently performed at demonstrations and protests for human rights and climate justice. Her song “Clean Country” (2012) became the anthem for the Campaign Against Nuclear Waste in Namibia and she continues to create art where inclusivity and awareness are fundamental pillars of her work.
Besides her music career, she holds her Bachelor in Anthropology and Masters in Musicology. In her academic work she has specialised in Namibian music. She has written on this topic for the Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Contemporary Music of the World, being the first to write on contemporary Namibian music for this renown encyclopaedia. She has written articles for Music in Africa, and written a chapter for the book The Changing Faces of Aawambo Music Arts.
““Shishani is a singer that gives hope. Her songs have a positive message though she doesn’t shy away from touching on sore points through her statements and lyrics. Musically, Shishani is a delight. Such emotion and such beautiful accompaniment with her guitar.”
— Richard Wagenaar