Interview by ARMC | Edited by Reggie Rasodi

Embark on a journey into the future with our first Pioneers of Change blog article for 2024, shining the spotlight on Zanah Afrikan. At just 22 years old, this hip hop maestro, creative director, and entrepreneur from Lawley, Johannesburg South, is redefining the narrative of what it means to be a trailblazer in the music and business realms. In this exclusive feature, Reggie Rasodi delves into the life and accomplishments of Zanah Afrikan, an inspirational figure who embodies the spirit of change and innovation in the ever-evolving landscape of creativity and entrepreneurship.

Happy new year, please introduce yourself and share a little about your musical journey?

My name is Zanah Afrikan, and I wear multiple hats as a 22-year-old hip hop musician, creative director, and entrepreneur hailing from Lawley, Johannesburg South. My artistic journey traces its roots back to Meadowlands, Soweto, where, at the tender age of 8, I stumbled upon a gift that would shape my destiny—a piano given to my late granddad by his employer. Despite my lack of formal training in playing the piano (a truth that persists to this day), the instrument’s enchanting sound spoke to me in a language beyond notes and keys. It was a magical encounter that set the stage for my creative exploration. In those early days, I was more of a poet than a musician, expressing myself through just words.

As the years unfolded, my poetic inclinations naturally gravitated towards the dynamic energy of hip hop. This evolution marked the genesis of my musical career. Today, I find joy in crafting poetry that not only speaks to the soul but also moves to the rhythm of hip hop.

Lovely! What motivated you to choose music as your career path?

I’ve always been passionate about music and its power to create change in society. It’s not just a creative outlet for me, but a way to make a difference. I grew up with a natural love for melodies and rhythms, and I quickly realized that music could be used to express the untold stories of my community. As someone from Lawley, Johannesburg South, I feel a sense of urgency to use my musical talents to highlight important issues. For me, music and activism go hand-in-hand. It’s a spiritual calling to address societal challenges through a medium that transcends boundaries. When words fall short, music becomes a universal language that can spark dialogue and create empathy. That’s why I’ve decided to pursue a career in music, to be an advocate for change and use music to amplify the voices of the unheard. I want to draw attention to the issues that resonate deeply within my community and create a positive impact through the universal language of music.

Please share a moment when you felt empowered as a woman in the music industry, and how did it shape your career?

Attending the Basadi In Music Awards in 2023 was truly a life-changing experience for me. Even though I was there in a professional capacity as an interviewer for my media startup, Unfiltered Media House, the event was about so much more than just getting the story. As I talked to all the amazing women there on the red carpet, I felt a sense of empowerment that I’ll never forget. It reminded me how important it is for women to have a voice in the music industry, and how important it is to use mine, as a woman in the music industry.

The awards show was truly amazing, with so many brilliant women showcasing their diverse talents and contributions to the music industry. I had the chance to speak with artists, industry professionals, and other music lovers, and the atmosphere was electric. It was clear to me that initiatives like the Basadi In Music Awards are essential for amplifying women’s voices, building a community, and breaking down barriers. This experience reinforced my commitment to the music industry and my desire to use Unfiltered Media House to share women’s stories and make sure that their voices are heard far beyond just the red carpet.

At ARMC, we strongly believe that representation matters. How has the concept of representation influenced your career, and what approach do you aspire to adopt in the music industry to serve as a positive example for future generations?

I truly believe that representation is a crucial concept that has helped shape my career. Being an African myself, it has influenced everything I do – not just my music. In this fast-paced world, it’s easy to forget our roots amidst all the changes around us. But my African heritage keeps me grounded and provides me with an opportunity to infuse my music with authenticity and depth.

But representation goes beyond just me. I realize that there are systemic prejudices and limited resources that often prevent women from being represented in society. As a woman navigating the music industry, I aspire to be an inspiration to all those women aspiring to pursue their dreams. I want to show them that despite the barriers, they can rise above and make a significant impact. My ultimate goal is to encourage everyone to stay true to their roots and cultural heritage and to contribute to a more inclusive music industry that celebrates diversity and inspires future generations.

Collaboration is key in the music world. Tell us about a memorable collaboration you have had with another talented woman and what have you learned from that experience?

Being part of the movement with Future Females of Africa, led by musician Ntombikayise Motloung, also known as BadMilk, has been a game-changer in my musical journey. The movement is about creating a sisterhood that opens doors to gigs, music creation spaces, and, most importantly, safe havens for women in the music industry. BadMilk’s vision introduced me to a fantastic group of women on a shared mission—being heard and making a mark in the industry.

One collaboration within this empowering space stands out, highlighting the strength that comes from unity. Working with these talented women taught me that safe spaces for females are not only possible but vital for personal and artistic growth. It’s about more than just the music; it’s about creating an environment where every artist feels supported and acknowledged. This experience has affirmed that collaboration among women in the music industry is a catalyst for breaking barriers and building a community that fosters creativity and empowerment. Together, we’re not just making music; we’re reshaping the narrative, and I believe that by uplifting each other, we’re paving the way for a more inclusive and supportive future for women in music.