As we celebrate Women’s Month this March, let us take time to celebrate the women who have made it to the Zimbabwean Local Radio. It is never really easy for women in any profession and it goes with no say that women in the music industry don’t have it easy either. On that #each4equal theme, we decided to interview a couple of women in the music industry to have an insight on how the past decade has been for women in music with focus on radio and air play. The information was gathered based on the interviews with Edith Weutonga, Lipsy and Phreshy.
The first question we wanted answered was on the women who have been toping the charts on the radio, and Edith agreed that names like Shingisai Suluma, Fungisai Zvakava Pano Mashavave, Ammara Brown, Tamy Moyo and Janet Manyowa deserve to be mentioned. These women have managed to put female voices on the radio and have contributed greatly to local entertainment in the past five years. This highlighted the issue of imbalance on radio play between male and female musicians.
“Radio has never been balanced where women are concerned. So if one payola is not an option then so much would go into compromising one’s dignity with the DJ’s. And for those of us who took over 200 copies to the stations, the music just never saw the light of day because we obviously did not pay or play along with the demands.”Edith Weutonga
Come to think of it, this is not only a music thing, Zimbabwe and the world are yet to see the day where there will be equal opportunities for males and females in all occupations. Is it really a matter of women being treated unfairly or do women need to be prompted to take up the spaces that men are fighting to keep? Much has been said about the reasons why we have few women occupying spaces and one of the common statements is that women don’t support each other but are always looking for competition. Woman to woman Support and collaborations are key if we are to have strong female representations in the music industry. In an interview with Lipsy, she confirmed that collaborations have been there among female musicians with the Mambokadzi track by Gemma and Ammara Brown highlighting the chats in 2019.
We cannot talk about music on radio without mentioning where the music is brewed. For music to be on radio it starts in the studio and so we had to raise the question of whether or not recording studios are accommodating and conducive for female musicians?
“I suppose it depends on where one goes to record and the genre. With a rise in backyard and/or home studios, so has the claims of abuse for most female musicians. On the one hand you have producers who claim the artist threw herself at me to those who are put in a corner by being offered free recordings.” Edith observed
The gathered responses show that its neither here nor there since studios cannot really be generalized as they are different. Most Females who have made it to the radio come from studios that work very well for them.
“Haa inini kwandinoenda kuribho and I am given respect iribhoo yakafanira.”
“Speaking for myself, I have no problem with my studio space and my producers Vic Enlisted and Afrow are very professional.”
To sum up, evidence of new female voices popping up in the past five years is another justification that there are conducive and comfortable spaces for women to record their music. However, issues of Sexual harassment do come up in rumours and grapevines but can they be justified? Maybe that’s a story to look into independently on another day.
While studio time is the pathway to the airwaves, factors like whether or not one believes in themselves, receives support and has access to platforms that helps them nurture their talent plays a big role in a musical career.Phreshy
“We credit places like the Book Cafe that gave us a program through the F.L.A.M.E project that saw us training, grooming and giving platforms to younger crop of women who are now popping” Edith.
The last question we asked the ladies was if they had any aspirations or hopes for the future of females’ music on radio. The
” I hope females get more airplay, have enough support from the DJs and promoters. However, us as female artists need to continue making good music and be consistent.”
” I wish and pray that we have a lot of women in the industry who submits their music ku radio and the radio people vanoshaya excuse yekusatiridza” Lipsy
“There was a sharp rise in female voices popping up since 5yrs back but the airwaves have not done them justice. It is in women that you find stable, reliable and focused brands but being completely ignored or denied access.”
In conclusion, we celebrate all the women who have contributed to the Zimbabwean music industry understanding that it is not always easy to make it. The music industry needs more platforms that nurture and groom talent. We have seen the rise of rap battles and open mic sessions in the past two years. While Jibilika has created a stage for the untapped talented youngsters to realise themselves every Wednesday at the Wordnest Rhyme Sessions and monthly rap battles, Batsirai Magama also hosting open mic sessions and Moto Republik hosting the Bata Mic Battles. Underground female Artists should make use of these platforms to develop themselves. It is also of paramount importance for the musicians who have made it to take time to help in mentoring new artists to make sure that they leave legacies.