The new diva: Zaki Ibrahim

2012-05-18 10:45

‘Oh, I’m just fluttering about being that ninja and connecting some dots, getting merchandise together and sussing the markets,” says 29-year-old Zaki Ibrahim over Skype from New York.

Born in Canada, the vocalist lives in South Africa and is performing in the US en route to Germany before coming home to launch her debut album, Every Opposite.

Her sounds have increasingly hit the mainstream through dance music collaborations with Spoek Mathambo, DJ Kent, Culoe de Song and Boddhi Satva. Then there’s that mix tape she made with Tumi. Her vocal style is jazzy, soulful, hip-hoppy. In short, it’s Zaki.

I first met Ibrahim when she was posing as Patrice Lumumba for a photo by artist Kudzanai Chiurai. She explained that it was people like him and a sense of zeitgeist that made her choose South Africa as the place to record.

Even though her father, community radio legend Zane Ibrahim, is from here and her mother is British, she was raised in Canada. She wants to talk about her music, not her life. That she does with a lilting sense of poetry.

“Every Opposite is the story of a woman who’s a housewife. She’s hidden from her family and can astral travel in her sleep. It’s told as a fable and is set in the future, in a time when the forces are trying to eradicate deviants like sangomas. I’ve always been fascinated by sci-fi.”

She cites Michael Jackson as her biggest influence. “I started in hip-hop, but I like the idea of contrasts – heavy beats with a rainbow over.”

She snorts when I say she’s becoming a style icon.

“I’m not a victim of fashion,” she cries, making the connection break up. “I am a victim of circumstance. I dress like I dress cos I feel like I have my own style. I’m not that much of a fashion whore as I am a fashion butterfly – or a moth to a flame,” she admits with a laugh.

Ibrahim writes her music and controls her videos. Like Delazy and Suttle, she pauses when I ask the key question – if it’s tougher being a woman in the industry.

“I hate to play the woman card, but the challenges are significant. You’re expected to project a certain kind of sex appeal. You’re expected to toe the line. If you know what you want, you’re gonna be called a diva and a control freak. If a man knows what he wants, he’d never be called that.”

Or, as Delazy says: “Take it or leave it. This is who I am.” 

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