TGIF! Interview with music maker Zaki Ibrahim

Zaki_illustration by Parishil

I'm so delighted to bring you this interview with the beautiful Zaki Ibrahim. You may have heard the South African music maker and storyteller on the soundtrack for the film adaptation of Ntozake Shange's great choreopoem, For Colored Girls who have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf. Well, there's much more in store for us and here, Zaki shares the passion behind the music.


What's your passion? 
I love making music. I love connecting to the parts of people that are vulnerable and child-like. I like to work with people that I connect with musically and creatively. And I love being able to work at my passion, on my own terms, as my own boss.

What inspires you to create music? 
I like the fact that I'm able to express a variety of things through the medium of music. I believe a lot can be done with music. It encourages people to communicate, whether through dance, speaking about an invoked feeling, excitement or sadness, sparking discussions. It’s poetry open to interpretation and can be shared globally. Music has the ability to mobilise and that inspires me to do what I do.

Zaki and Tanika_opening for Mos Def_Joburg_April 2009_photo by Liam Lynch

What has been your greatest obstacle/challenge in being an artist? 

I think a lot of artists struggle to maintain balance and use instinct to navigate the strange, but interesting and ever changing world of the music industry. Sometimes when there seems to be a machine behind pushing a product, lines can begin to blur. It can be difficult to decipher when there is genuine appreciation and, because of mass marketing, what is a viral reaction.As artists, we need to have good idea of who we are and what influences and drives us to do what we do, as well as have an understanding of the business around it.

I would encourage anyone starting out in the music industry, to learn as many aspects of it as possible. Read every book you find on it, work as a tour manager, a sound engineer, a production assistant, a promoter … in order to have a healthy idea of exactly what it takes to get your music "out there". It will not be easy but, if it's what you love, then I think it's important to be thorough. Treat it with care and expect to make some mistakes, they only make you sharper.  


How have you dealt with/overcome it?

I started out by having my hand in all sorts of jobs in and around the music biz. Working a little in event management, promotions and even tour managing. I was able to gain perspective, taking risks to see a vision through, falling a few times due to inexperience and navigating through tough challenges. I kept people I trust very close and learned to create systems to work within.  

What has been your greatest achievement? 
In the last few years I've felt that I've grown considerably. I've had moments of surprise, when I took a moment to realise my achievements.  There are definitely points that I feel are equal in importance for me. One would be getting nominated for a Juno award for my first release, another would be starting my own record label, Iqra Music. The first one because it was a sign that I was doing something right, the second because I became the owner of my own foundation to keep building onto, for myself and others that come after me. 

Zaki and crew on set at Money Video Shoot_by Seema Jethalal

Where will you be in 10 years? 

One can never know! But if I'm going to paint a picture, I'm gonna make it look really nice. I'm on my fourth world tour and third album. I've written, scored and directed my feature film called, No Dream Deferred, based loosely on the life of Miriam Makeba. I have three kids, with nannies and teachers when on the road. I've built my own house and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. And when I'm not touring, I'm running and cutting hair at my Barber Shop Gallery in Cape Town, South Africa.

How does Africa inspire you? 
It is a part of me and my music. It is the origin of so much. I am constantly challenged by its complexity and wowed by its beauty. Africa, to me, will always be home. Home is our point of reference and the place where we always come back to replenish our souls.


Anything we should look out for in the coming weeks/months/year? 
Two singles form my up-coming record are being dropped early 2011 and  a little later in the year. Look out for my full length record, Every Opposite. The film For Colored Girls is out in South Africa in May so I am looking forward to seeing that here at home.




Check out Zaki's website for more sounds, photos, videos, tour dates and to purchase her music. 

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