Berita – staying grounded
01 January 1970
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Welcome back to Old Mutual Live Radio. I am your host Aphiwe Manono and today I am in conversation with singer/songwriter/composer/vocalist siGugulethu Khumalo who is better known as Berita. Welcome back, Berita.
Berita: Hello Aphiwe. Thank you so much for having me on your show once again.
AU: Now before, earlier we spoke about, you have just told me actually that you are just getting into the music industry and getting your feet into it and really getting your hands dirty. I want to find out from you, I mean, you are quite young and for you to be given a big title as Afro Pop Princess.
You know there are people who have been at this music thing for way longer and you’ve been at it for what, two years and you’ve already being crowned. What are some of the pressures you’ve found in the South African Music industry? Are you having to live up to certain expectations or are you learning to let some people down sometimes?
The pressures of the SA music industry
B: Well, you know there’s a lot of misconceptions about people that are in the public eye and particularly musicians but one thing that I’ve learnt is that there’s a difference between a musician and a socialite and there’s a difference between an actor or an actress and a socialite. There’s a difference between a model and socialite and presenter and a socialite.
You know what I mean, and so I’ve had to look at my role and my role is a musician. I’m a singer/songwriter, I’m a performer and a music producer. So I know I keep to that role and I think as long as I do that people do respect what you do and who you are without having to know everything about you. I feel like it becomes destructions and obstructions when you take on more than the role of what you do.
AU: As I mentioned earlier, you are quite young and knowing the music industry, you know, it’s not exactly as glamorous as it looks. Sometimes behind the scenes you have people experimenting with drugs and alcohol. What would you say is keeping you from getting sucked in into all of that?
Like you mentioned, you have learnt to not put yourself out there too much so that with every mistake you are scrutinised. But how do you keep at that and your support system, who is helping you remain with your feet firmly on the ground?
B: Yes, oh I’m very lucky, I mean, although my family is overseas, they are still in New Zealand but I communicate with them regularly and they follow me on Twitter and Facebook. So my mum is always like, “Oh, I see you were in PE doing this” you know like they’re very, they will ask, “How is everything going?” and I’m very honest with them so that helps. I have a big sister in East London. Her name is Afrika Mandasi and she’s really amazing.
She’s one person that really assists with a lot and she’s in the beauty industry, so it’s an industry which is very much similar to the music industry. I have a wonderful group of friends and an amazing management team so all I try and do is just go ahead because my purpose is to unite people through music. That’s my purpose and I try to live according to that purpose.
AU: When it comes to dealing with, you are currently signed under which label, Berita?
B: Well, at the moment the label, I wouldn’t really go into that, you know. In the music industry a lot of things happen so in terms of that department it’s not a department that I’m talking about at the moment.
Do record labels treat artists fairly?
AU: You see, you don’t have to mention that but what I was getting at is, you know in the South African music industry a lot of artists complain about these labels where they feel exploited and you know you putting in a 150% and you only take home about 8%. Obviously this is not fair. What have been some of your experiences and maybe why you are unhappy with your current situation?
B: It’s not that I’m unhappy with my current situation, it’s a matter of, I think as a young artist when you get into the industry make sure you know, there’s a lot of music books out there. There’s a book actually that will code all you need to know about the music industry and I wish it’s a book I had read before I started into the music industry.
If you don’t read, if you don’t know about that it’s just like someone that works in an office job, you know, there’s certain things that you need to comply with and there’s just a certain way things work. Unfortunately the music industry is not as regulated so if you don’t know your cards right you will end up in the wrong places and it’s something that happens and unfortunately it happens a lot and it repeats. It’s a recurring cycle in the industry but thankfully now artists are wiser.
There’s a lot of amazing artists that I know that are comfortably running their own labels and that comfortably know because making money in music is not in a record deal. There’s so much more involved. There’s publishing, there’s management, there’s brand, associations and it’s not just South Africa. There’s so much more, even overseas there’s a lot that us as South African artists can do in that space that financially can set us right as well.
AU: Aha, you speak about, there’s many facets to being an artist, one of them being branding. Do you see yourself any time in the future possibly branching out into branding and Berita being a brand as a whole, whether it’s the face of something or giving lectures to children that are interested in music?
B: The children? Yes, most definitely. Well, I’m growing to that step because I believe that people need to believe in you and you need to give people to believe in you and to appreciate you when you when they see you in a certain space and I think that definitely I’m in the right track.
AU: Your experiences with your fellow musicians and your peers, I’m sure, you know you being the young girl that you are, it’s difficult to sort of work with other people. Do you find that they respect you regardless of your age or do you feel like you need to push your way through and leave your own mark?
SA music legends live up to their billing
B: Oh well, I haven’t worked with many people in the industry as of yet but I will say that my experience with working with Baba Oliver Mtukudzi and Bra Hugh Masekela was the most humbling ever experience of my musical career because here are people that are traveling the world, they are renowned legends in their field. They changed the music space not just in Africa but all around the world.
When I was in studio with them, I thought I could share my ideas. We could laugh about this and that. Even you know when you hit the wrong note, you’re corrected nicely so after working with such amazing musicians I don’t see how it is that maybe musicians would look down upon each other in studio and all of that stuff. You know, I just think that I’ve learnt from the best.
AU: All right, thank you.