Vanessa Mdee is an award winning musical sensation, businesswoman and philanthropist. From a successful media personality to one of Africa’s biggest pop stars, Vanessa’s definite cultural reach places her as one of Africa’s most powerful women despite her young age.
Born Vanessa Hau Mdee, to a Tanzanian diplomat and beauty queen, Vanessa grew up in different cities around the world, from Paris to Nairobi, New York to Arusha; an experience that made her into what she calls; a global African.
“ Its hard to separate my upbringing from my art. I am versatile; I can shift from a Bongo Flava sound to a global R&B radio tune. Being a global African translates into all I do.” Says Vanessa, who describes her music as Progressive Afro-pop.
Even though Vanessa first came to the spotlight as an on-air personality and MTV VJ, Music was always in her. “ I have memories of my dad playing all this world music, from Miriam Makeba to old school R & B. Music was always there, I just never really found the time to push it out. ” says Vanessa.
Her first musical breakthrough was a song called “Celebrate” which she performed at an East African soccer tournament final in 2011. With Tanzania winning the championship, the song instantly became a national victory song, catapulting Vanessa into icon status.
And it wasn’t long until she attracted some even more serious international attention. After releasing hit songs “come over” and “siri”, in 2013, Vanessa shook the African continent In 2015 when she released “Nobody But Me “, which featured South African Hip Hop icon, K.O. The song and music video continue to enjoy heavy rotation and airplay on many of Africa’s radio and Television stations respectively.
Fast-forward to 2018, now bragging over 30 chart topping radio singles and features, Vanessa released her debut album, “Money Monday”. With over a million streams, the album has become one of the top best selling albums of all time in the East Africa region.
Vanessa’s impact transcends beyond the music and entertainment, she is an inspiration to many in Africa, especially young girls who marvel at Vanessa’s success in a very male-dominated industry. Something Vanessa doesn’t shy away from talking about. “ I don’t like being approached as a female artist, I am an artist who happens to be a woman. So when I see injustice like female entertainers getting less pay, I always find it in me to show the world why we deserve equality, and that is why I push for excellence. I don’t want competition, I want inclusion.“ says Vanessa, whose songs like “cash madame” and “Hawajui” have become inspirational anthems for many girls on the continent.
A former Law scholar, Vanessa is passionate about seeing Young African girls get empowered. “ There is a big role model problem. I feel we need to retell the girl child that she is beautiful and not lesser than anyone. That message has been tainted through advertising and culture and I feel it is important to echo that positivity. “
Vanessa’s artistic muse has also activated various entrepreneurial and philanthropic pursuits. “ Our purpose on this earth is service. It might be something as small as picking up the litter or saving water in the shower, but we must serve at all costs. I believe that is what we are here for”.
She founded the Udada Foundation, An organization that focuses on empowering the African girl child through TED-format inspirational talks. Together with various partners, the foundation also participates in creating quality education environments and has brought clean energy to about a hundred schools in Tanzania and Kenya.
Having done a lot of collaborations with many Africa artists, Vanessa believes collaboration is a great tool to achieve peace and unity on the African continent. She stresses, “ Music can open up borders, why do I need a visa to travel to another African Country?”
Currently, Vanessa Mdee is a member of the internationally acclaimed UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP label AFROFROCE1, in a unique joint signing between Universal Records Germany under AirForce 1 Records, the first deal of its kind for an African artist.
With all of these successes, Vanessa Mdee is just getting started. She is busy adding more acclaims to her expanding CV: Pop-star, fashion icon, actress, entrepreneur and philanthropist. “ We are going beyond the expected African artist box, there’s a great global response to African music, and the fact that we are the last emerging market in the world makes it even better” She says.