Converse + Star = Wanda

by Thulasizwe Somdyala

Beautiful clear skied Tuesday late morning; Wanda had the courtesy to let a brother know she is running a little late. So I had more time to contemplate whether I am going to this interview high or not, so to have the deeper more introspective Thula. I opted to be sober for this one and rather indulge in some red wine to create the illusion of. Jumped on the scooter, rode out, and made a pit stop by the corner shop for that new small pocket Vaseline- I am not trying to have dry thirsty lips while starring at a woman.

Wanda arrives as I am chilling with a glass of wine outside, appreciating the sunlight. Do the whole hug formality- I wished the hug was stronger rather than being light and friendly but okay- sit down and settled in.

We get to talking about weed because I wanted to identify if she would have been cool with me being a little dimensional. It turns out she is pretty liberal but not for her, doesn’t work with her system. I lay her fears at rest, announcing we not a tabloid or a sensualist publication- we for artists and understanding the person the artist is. So let us get into understanding the person, Wanda.

The music industry is said to be a struggle and a hard place to sustain in, what moment in your career have you said to yourself, “It was all worth it”?

W: I think now, where I am at right now. I feel this the moment where my previous struggles were all worth it. Because when I was going through my journey and the struggles I felt when I wanted to give up, I felt I didn’t have the strength for this or this is not for me or what God planned for me. I just felt like I needed to find something else, I can’t take this anymore- but I never gave up. When I tried to stop, I was spiritually sad, very sad, depressed, dark. It was so hard to run away from it because everywhere I went I was reminded by it. When I switched on the TV- somebody is singing. Switch on the radio- a song is playing… how am I supposed to run away from it!? Laughs

So right now in this moment…

W: So right now in this moment, it’s there. It’s that picture, that I wake up to and it’s music. It is something that fulfils me, I know that’s my calling and this is what I have to wake up and do. My journey is my story and my painting; the colours I paint with make part of my story being my picture. I am content with where I am but know there is still more to my ultimate destiny. All those feelings of doubt and fear are gone.

A friend shared a story of a guy who went to a guru and wanted to know how to succeed. It basically boiled down to the guy being near drowning, gasping up for air wilding, the guru said, “When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful”. I guess you were drowning before…

W: Yeah, and that is how bad I want it. People would think I am crazy, like, “This chick wants to cry or die for music, omg” but that bad, that’s how bad I want it. If I can sit down when I am old and show my grandchildren and have people speak to me throughout the world on how my music have impacted them then I can tell God to take me. Because I have done my work on earth.

Seems like you want to live to old age…

W: I do, I wanna die on stage. In a certain pattern, with style (demos elegant fall), in a beautiful ball gown. Laughs

So you’ve been thinking about your death…

W: I have always said I wanted to die on stage, if I will die for music then why can’t it kill me on stage.

Deep… I have romanticised about dying while having sex, like how those old men die while having sex with a young women.

W: But you must have cum. Laughs. You can’t be on your way to satisfaction and then krrrr… naaaah… But yeah, I would like to die in the song, in the music.

What does that mean though? I was listening to Eminem’s new album, and it’s disappointing to think this was someone who was once my childhood hero musically and now he is not as powerful or musically inclined as he was once before. As you said you would like to die in song, let’s say for some reason the audience doesn’t appreciate your music anymore- would that be dying in song for you?

W: It brings me back to the genre of music I do. My music I would like to believe is not moment music but longevity. I would love to grow with my audience and relate with them at every stage of my life. An Example is Bra Hugh, a legend in music and is still current to me. As old as he is and as young as I am, when he is on stage- I feel like he is talking to me.

I hear you. So we have established that age can be excluded as a factor when making music but there comes a time when an artist cannot make music anymore. Is that true to you?

W: Yeah, it is true. I am honest enough to say my strong points are not in producing, in writing- i write my own songs but I would like to work with song writers. People who are there to specifically write songs and they understand your tone, texture and what sort of sound will suit you. So if we can understand the whole structure of how the industry works and pick the appropriate people to help you build the sort of project you looking for then there is no such a thing of not being able to.

Deep. Glad you spoke of the technical side of music. I was thinking to myself that there are not many women in the technical side of things say producers, sound engineers. Music is best when emotionally driven and women are emotional beings; how different do you think music would be if women were more hands on on the technical side?

W: I think it would be beautiful. Just like food, we say that a woman’s role is in the kitchen but you find the best chefs are men. Best hairdressers. So I would be very curious to see the outcome if more women were in the technical side. I have no doubt. It’s just that sometimes it takes time to introduce these things; we really don’t have many songwriters, who are female. And making an example of Zonke, she took this as her first album that she wrote and produced herself and it’s her biggest album.

Self written/produced
Self written/produced

Yeah, I feel you. I somehow feel with the immense commercialisation of music women voices got lost and were replaced by sex and their bodies sold.

W: Mmmmh…another thing with music is there are commercial voices and there are thousands of voices out there which are not heard of.

So what do you think the South African entertainment industry is missing?

W: I think what is missing is a fully local support. We are already brainwashed by international music, on your TV, radio- we do not have enough local music on radio. We have to like fight to get a channel to play your video. If we are already fighting for such things, we can’t blame people for not knowing who Wanda is, or someone is not buying your CD. It’s not the people’s fault; it’s not the audience fault. It is the people who are supposed to take that (whatever music format) and exposed it to the people.

So I heard someone say that most local artist don’t bring quality music. He was saying if the government can subsidize artists to record and create a better product, then radio stations would play more local music. So do you think it is more of a quality issue or an issue of the public being prescribed to more international music?

W: Yes, you do get products that do lack quality but we do not have guidance in this industry. If we had an institution that every artist has to go through in order to bring out a good quality product- we wouldn’t be discussing this. We need something that is supported by arts and culture that caters for musicians. We don’t have anywhere to run to, it is every man for themselves. If somebody wants to be part of the music industry, we need an institution that educates them about the business of music, about your rights.

I feel like how we structured in this society is to be consumers, we don’t produce- we not owners, specifically us black people. I don’t hear of people I know who make things and sustain their lifestyles by their product. I know a lot of workers, who get money just to pay for things. I feel Capitalism makes you a consumer and you do not know the value of what you consuming. So I hear you echoing the government does not look out for producers, they trying to make you a consumer. So they fund your way through varsity where they mostly develop a skill where you come out helping someone else make money…

W: So if you think about it… An accountant comes out of varsity, there are businesses, and there are places that they can be placed in, like an auditing position within a company. But when you study music, where the fuck do you go? Where do you go? It’s not like someone is waiting for you somewhere. Nobody is waiting for nobody.

So when you (musician) come out, you still have to create your own lane…

W: So you studied whatever music you’ve studied for however many years you’ve studied. You go out there and still struggle to find resources to record an album, if you don’t have a record deal, money or studio. After recording this album, you still need to struggle to get it out to there to the public. It’s you constantly working hard, hard. Why can’t they just have it there? You come there, where they ready with marketing, media companies are part of this thing. Corporate companies are part of this thing. Promoters are part of this thing, all the people that make part of the industry, entertainment industry, are part of this thing. Currently you have individuals hustling for themselves, who might not have the right team or resources.

Or right strength to hustle on…

W: Thank You, Thank You.

So due to it being a political season and musicians are usually intertwined with political rallies because of the voice they have in society, I tried to get Wanda’s political view. Due to how mainstream journalism has exploited words of their subject, I could sense the reluctance she had with sharing. She attained she doesn’t like to be labelled. After a series of trying to lay her fears at ease, I respected her decision and she shared her religious view with me…

W: I grew up in a home where my mom is Muslim and dad’s Christian. My mother’s whole family is Muslim and it’s like ok, what now. My parents never forced us to be anything. So in the younger years of my life I chose to be Muslim, read the Quran and changed my name to Fatima. Laughs. I was Fatima  for a while. I was just curious about the religion. And then things changed and I went to church, Sunday school and I was heavily involved with the church, bible studies and then I stopped. I wasn’t going to church I wasn’t doing anything, I just wanted to be. Then I grew up and felt I wanted a sense of belonging, something that made sense to me and that reminded me of what my purpose is in this world, in this life. And for me also church is more of an energizer, it’s like uuuhm, charging. When I go to church I am charging myself for the weak. I am there for the motivation, the word and just to be inspired.

I had a discussion with a friend over lyrics I heard saying, “I wish we can go back to a place where we once loved each other”. So we came to a conclusion that we started not loving each other as the villages got bigger. When the villages were small we all understood and could live with each other and I guess as humans we always trying to go back to our small village.

W: Yeah, I think hatred comes from misunderstanding.

I see church as that small village that people want to reunite with. But we also have a village of sport, a village of music…

W: Even with those small villages, we still intertwined and mix somehow. I am curious. I want to come to your sport village and see what it is about, I might like it and join you.

And you can be a spectator or be part of it

W: And I think the key is taking the time to understand before you judge or put an emotion to it.

Real, real. So in Sweden right now, I heard they are legalizing masturbating in public. What absurdness or what that we find taboo would you legalize?

W: Oooh, I think weed. Weed should at least be legalized in hospitals.

 

So you should be able to do whatever you want on your death bed…

W: I think anyone who is about to die should have anything they want, it’s their last day. There should actually be a day where anyone can have anything they want.

What do you think most women would go for?

W: I don’t know… Husband. Laughs

Laughs. So as a child I romanticized a lot, like wanting to somehow put my hand through the TV screen and change the events happening or sitting on a cloud. What childhood fantasy would you like to have been possible to be a reality?

W: I wish I could be invisible. And I could be helping people.

Growing up in the village, there was a myth which existed about doing a certain ritual on a windy day and you could become invincible. I remember wanting to become invincible just so I could go inside chicken licken and take some shit. Laughs.

W: Yeeeah, me too. Always wanted to go inside a supermarket and just take anything. Or go to the bank and just grab as much money as you want and they wouldn’t know who you are. Laughs

I think being a fraudster is your next best job; people not knowing who you are. Laughs. What would you like your child to believe in?

W: I would like my child to believe in love. I really do. I want them to be driven by love; I want them to see love in everything. Just oozes happiness and this is what he/she believes in.

Is this love in terms of ubuntu or is it love in terms of relationships with a man or woman?

W: No no, love in general, not relationship only. Like my nephew, he is such a love love…

Until some chick tears him apart…

W: Yeah hey, I guess I would still like him/her to be a very free spirited person and be open to many things that life offers you. I wouldn’t want them to be blocked.

My political view is that that’s how we being treated, blocked. We are structured in ways where we don’t know too much because when we do we start asking why. And they don’t want us to know why so they can play on our ignorance. So we somehow living an illusion just like a magician showing me tricks. I know that he is lying to me, but he is doing it so well that my eyes believe and it appears true. So what current struggle do you feel your generation cannot change but you would like the current or future to change?

W: I wish the next generation can be full force with no limitations or boundaries in achieving whatever dream, they are go getters. You can already notice it in the new generation in the music industry. They are not afraid to experiment with sounds. Whereas before we were so like, ooooh, we need to stay in this line because this is what works. But now it is so open and because they broke through that barrier and did what they want to do, the audience is receptive to that. People are now open to sounds and doing different things.

I dig that. So what are you working on, what’s the future for you?

W: I am releasing in February. An album called Love and Life; it’s about my love life and my life. Laughs

Yep. Laughs. It’s pretty clear. But women love talking about those things…

W: I’m a love, love person. It’s like I was born in a heart shape, the way I love love. I get heartbroken but I still don’t learn, I still fall into the same trap. So I talk about my relationship experiences, I speak about break ups. I speak about self forgiveness. Love. Laughs. In particular, sometimes you enter a relationship and you feel so stagnant and you feel like it’s a routine. It’s like we just going around the same circle and there’s no spark anymore and you forget what actually brought you guys together. You forget what it is to love one another.

And your album resembles?

W: My album is like a naked portrait of me. I really stripped myself naked. It’s so personal. There is a topic where I speak about meeting somebody and I fell in love with this guy but I was in a relationship.

That’s deep…

W: It is very deep. The track is called bittersweetness. It was a bittersweet situation.

I take it you wrote most of it?

W: Actually this album, I worked with a songwriter.

Was he stalking you, your songwriter?

W: Actually the songwriter is my friend.

So he was around you, watching you every day?

W: Laughs. He was there every day. He knew my story, he’d be like, “Wanda let’s write about this ‘cause I know you going through it”. We wrote songs on his couch, sitting while having a drink. One day I was just sitting having a drink at his place and came a random thought, like, yases– I like kissing. And then he started writing. Laughs. I like kissing, I like kissing. Throughout I would be like this and this happened, this and this happened and he’s like “aaaah that’s interesting.” I spoke about the dark space I was in when in Cape Town, when I felt like I didn’t want to live anymore and I was able to go through all of that and forgive myself. It’s called Mirrored, so I look into myself and talk to myself and I face myself. Another personal track, it’s a very personal album. It’s about my life and love.

So production…

W: It’s produced and written by Kabomo, we worked in Daveyton. He asked me where I wanted to work and I wanted to be in the township. I just felt I wanted to be with the people. We’d go to the tshisa nyama for lunch and have ciders and then back to studio and I’d be all excited. It was so beautiful because you had people from Daveyton, who are musicians, up and coming musicians. Others could sing, others played instruments, they just came. Everything came together so beautifully. Still today, I love Daveyton- I now sometimes tell people I’m from Daveyton. Laughs

Wanda & Kabomo

Shortly after, my sit down with Wanda was over. A charming, smart and well spoken lady with a bundle of love for love. She will be doing a regional tour of unplugged sessions, an intimate way in which she wants to connect with her audience. Exclusive CDs will be given away to fans in the audience as a build up to the 14 February 2014 release of Love and Life.

 

Love and life is true freedom– Wanda

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