Zimbabwean Exeter university student free to follow musical dream at last


She says to dream of a singing career is "taboo" in her home country and yet the 21-year-old has wowed the judges in the first round of auditions for a national singing competition.

Tino beat thousands of other hopefuls to a place in the regional finals of Open Mic UK.

And she says that moving to the UK to study has allowed her talent to flourish.

Tino, who is studying history, politics and sociology, will now compete alongside some of the region’s most talented vocalists of all genres, for a place in the national final at the O2 Arena in London.

She said: "I grew up with my grandma who said I started singing as a baby. But I only realised I had some talent when I came to Exeter to study two years ago.

"It’s taboo to want to be a singer in Zimbabwe. It’s considered a hobby, not a profession.

"My degree isn’t a normal choice for people in Zimbabwe either — most people study business or medicine. But my parents are very supportive and they’re happy for me."

Tino, who lives in St David’s, said she joined the university a cappella society, The Sweet Nothings, and sings as part of the band at The River Dream Centre church in the city.

"My favourite type of music is pop and R ‘n’ B," she continued. "So when I start making music it may be a mixture of both — maybe with an African twist!

"I don’t want to be like everyone else, but stand out. If I make it in this industry I don’t just want to sing, but I want to sing songs that are meaningful and send out a message.

"Alicia Keys always sends out an amazing message. I find both Alicia and Leona Lewis inspirational."

Open Mic UK is Tino’s first competition and she says her dream would be to sing professionally.

Over £50,000 in prizes are up for grabs in the competition and the overall winner will be offered a recording contract.

"Entering the competition meant really stepping out of my comfort zone," she said.

"I’ve sung in front of people a lot since moving to Exeter so I wasn’t too nervous. I try to channel my nerves in a positive way.

"I watch The X-Factor and American Idol and thought I could do it too but I never did anything about it."

Tino sang Happy by Leona Lewis for the auditions at The Beck Theatre in London. She will sing at the regional finals there on September 19.

She said: "I know my life is going to be about music — I know that for sure.

"Even if I don’t win the competition, it’s not going to be the end but the beginning."