Simphiwe Dana performs live this weekend in Pretoria
07 April 2015
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Great things start here, great things start now, welcome back to another edition of Old Mutual Live, I’m Brad Brown. It’s an absolute pleasure to be with you today and coming up this weekend, a very, very special performance to look forward to at the Pretoria National Botanic Gardens. It’s all part of the Old Mutual Music In The Gardens program, and this Sunday a special one indeed. Simphiwe Dana is going to be performing live and she joins us now on Old Mutual Live. Simphiwe, welcome onto the show, thank you so much for taking the time to chat to us.
Simphiwe Dana: Thank you so much Brad for having me.
BB: Simphiwe I was doing a bit of reading. I obviously love your music, but I wanted to just read up a little bit more about you before this interview. I was doing the math and you were only born in 1980, so you’re still a spring chicken. Can you believe that you’ve been in the music industry for more than half of your life practically.
SD: Funny you say that, I don’t feel like a spring chicken at all. 10 years in the industry is a long time I guess.
BB: Simphiwe it is, and the music industry is fickle at the best of times. Often you’re only as good as your last hit, but you had some longevity. What do you attribute your success to in the music industry?
How to survive in the music industry
SD: I think it’s my lack of trendiness. I’m not a, I don’t go out of my way to create trends or to be trendy or fashionable because trends often are quite dismal. So I basically exist outside of all of that and I create music that is close to my heart. I am very honest in my music which can help the people that listen to it. They identify with the emotions and the experiences that I speak of in my music.
BB: You raise a very important point there, because as music lovers, often we think of the musicians that we listen to as almost out of this world, that they’re not like us. But you mention a word there, honesty and I think that’s probably what people can relate to and why people love your music is because they realise, you, just like them, have problems. You sing and write about it and that’s probably one of the reasons why they love you so much.
SD: I definitely think so, it’s because my music is quite relatable.
BB: Simphiwe, as far as getting into the music industry, you grew up in a very musical family in the Eastern Cape. Do you think you were born or destined to be in the music industry, or is it a case of; you know what, I was lucky to be born into the family I was born into and here’s an opportunity for me to take it further.
I’ve always had a love for singing
SD: I believe I was destined to be a musician because from when I was very young I loved to sing. Sometimes I didn’t even have the voice. You know I’m one of those people who voices broke out, when a voice gets to a certain stage where it breaks and it deepens. For me it was that my voice broke and became beautiful, it became a beautiful singing voice. But even before I thought I could sing I used to love to sing. I used to sing all the time when I was a child and I used to dream of being a big musician one day.
BB: Can you believe that little girl who had those dreams, it’s all come true?
SD: You know, every day I have to actually pinch myself and I guess that’s why I don’t glamorise music at all. For me, I’m glad that I can live my life doing what I’m most passionate about. You know, the glitz and the glam for me is not such an important part of the work that I do. So in a way I can be quite mundane. I got there and I work and I come home and I’m just an ordinary person.
BB: And it is, at the end of the day, you’re a musician and yes, you get to live your passion. But it is a job essentially and it is work and you’re, like you say, lucky enough to do what you do. It could be a lot worse, I’m sure and I think there’s a message in there for everyone. That it doesn’t matter what your passion is, if you can figure out a way to make your passion your work, it makes life simple.
Make your passion work for you
SD: Definitely, I mean I once was in the IT industry and I was so unhappy. I was happy with the pay cheque, obviously, but I was so unhappy. I really believe that if you follow your God given passion, the universe works in your favour eventually and that’s what I did. I took some risks to be a professional musician. I left a job and I just took that leap of faith. I did everything that was in my power to actually be able to live my passion and the universe worked in my favour because I was true to my God given gift.
BB: Simphiwe you mention that one of your keys to your longevity is that you haven’t gone after the trends. You’ve remained true to yourself. But obviously the music industry has changed over the years. If you think particularly with regards to the introduction of technology and you think of the likes of iTunes and music downloads, is it difficult as a musician to keep up with that side of it. Because obviously you want to keep up, you might not want to keep up with the trends in music. But you need to keep up with the trends in society in order to stay ahead and keep your business alive.
Technological advancements are a part of music
SD: Yes definitely, the industry has changed quite dramatically in the past 10 years. With the advent of technology there has been lots of piracy, it’s easier to acquire music without paying for it. What has made record labels suffer and they’ve had to change the way they do business and some of them could not. The machinery was too big for them to make a quick turnaround and many labels have suffered. Which then in turn means that we as artists also have had to adapt quite quickly. That’s the nature of evolution, you have to adapt, even as artists we have to adapt.
For instance these days, it’s better that you depend on yourself as an artist, create your own business space within which to operate if you want to survive. You can’t entirely depend on local business anymore, because they just don’t have the capacity.
BB: And I think that probably goes for many industries. You think the traditional book publishing industry is in exactly the same boat and authors need to sort of take charge of things and really drive their own careers. But let’s talk about this Sunday’s performance at the Pretoria National Botanic Gardens, all part of the Old Mutual Music In The Gardens. People coming down to Pretoria on Sunday, what can they expect from Simphiwe Dana?
Old Mutual Music In The Gardens – Live music at it’s best
SD: Well this year I’m celebrating 10 years in the industry so I’ve gone through my catalogue. I have four albums, at least 90% original content and I’ve gone through it and gone down memory lane. Brought back songs that somehow I haven’t sung in five, seven, 10 years; so people will walk with me through the four album journey in my 10 years of being in this industry.
BB: Simphiwe, how does it feel as an artist to go through your back catalogue and particularly for a performance like this? Where you talk about songs from your first album, that you might not perform very often because I think as a musician you feel you need to perform your newer stuff. That’s why people want to come and see you. But sometimes people have listened to you on the radio and they haven’t seen you live and it’s a great opportunity for them to hear those old songs. How does it make you feel, obviously you’ve changed over those 10 years from when you wrote that song, but the music hasn’t changed that much, the song in essence is still the same.
SD: Yes, I’m actually, you know, as an artist, as a creative, we are quite sensitive about our work. Firstly, how you speak to it and then secondly; we always doubt ourselves, you know, we release this album and then you wonder how you even wrote those songs. Then when you start your next album, you’re thinking, oh my God, I don’t know, those songs are so beautiful, who wrote those songs. Now will I be able to even access that part of my creativity to come out, to come up with something that amazing.
You know, so I’m quite blessed that four albums later, I can still look back at each and every song I’ve written and feel like wow. I keep doing it over and over again and I pray to God that I will continue to be able to write those songs because I foresee myself being in this industry for at least the next 20 years.
BB: I love that, Simphiwe Dana, thank you so much for your time. If you want to get down to Music In The Gardens this coming Sunday, it is the 5th of July at the Pretoria National Botanic Gardens. All you need to do is head over to dogreatthings.co.za, you can pick up tickets online there for R50 the pre-sale or you can pick them up on the day at the venue at R100 a ticket. Simphiwe, thank you so much, enjoy the performance this Sunday and we look forward to catching up again soon.
SD: Thank you so much and see you there.