Shungudzo Warns to Protect our Energy on “There’s Only so Much a Soul Can Take”

I’m not a Mother but I Have Children is out June 18. 

On her vibrant single “There’s Only so Much a Soul Can Take,” Shungudzo makes flipping off the white supremacist patriarchy feel as refreshing as daily moisturizer. The Zimbabwean-American is equal parts activist and artist, making sure that her pop songs are invigorating and powerful. There are so many struggles, major and minor, personal and systemic, that disproportionately affect us depending on our race, gender, sexuality, financial status, etc. As a result the vast majority are suffering immensely, but Shungudzo is here to shut down that expectation to “tough it out.” 

She explained her intention for soundtracking soul limitations: “So many of us are currently suffering from varying systemic afflictions: stress about money; stress about health; stress about being discriminated against; stress about being the discriminator; stress about growing older on an archaic timeline; stress in the news; stress created by watching other people live perceivably stress-free lives on the Internet. Even if what stresses us out is different, it’s often caused by the same source. Perhaps we’ve been trained to smile and nod by the very system that oppresses us.”

It’s unsettling how routine it is for most of us to answer the question “How Are You?” with a shrugged “fine” or “good,” even when that’s farthest from the truth. “Why are we so afraid to say, ‘Not good’ when we’re not good? Why do we feel the need to pretend everything is alright when so much is wrong with society?” Shungudzo asks. “I know how to turn anger into something productive, but it doesn’t change the fact that inequality, inequity and injustice piss me off — on personal and societal levels.”

The video for “There’s Only so Much a Soul Can Take” finds Shungudzo wearing bright outfits, but is continuously slapped by an omnipresent hand and pulled by her phone in rapid directions. The imagery represents both the stress of the physical and digital world. “At the height of the abuse, which is represented by a full indoor rainstorm, my soul gestures as if to say, ‘Bring it on.’ Because reaching our breaking points doesn’t mean we have to break. And even if we do break, it’s ok! It’s so often how we grow stronger,” she says. 

Shungudzo’s music is resolute and catchy. Although ostensibly seamless, to make funky pop songs that parse out emotional shrapnel lodged in our spirits is an immense skill. She continues to release singles that reflect the necessary and immediate descent we must practice against institutions and norms that dehumanize. Watch “There’s Only so Much a Soul Can Take” below and ready yourself for her debut album I’m not a Mother but I Have Children, which is out June 18.


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