Golden girls on a mission

2009-08-26 14:51

In 2003 an all-girl band became runners up in SABC1’s hugely successful Pop

Stars. As critics were ready to write this pop band off, they somehow managed to

create a sound and feel that got them noticed. In addition to this, they made

the first-prize winners (what was the name of that band again?) look like a

bunch of nobodies. That is the power of Jamali.

Now six years on and three albums later they have firmly established

themselves in the music industry and have silenced critics all over South


They seem to churn out hit after hit and have an undeniable crossover appeal.

They are also role models to many South African women and girls. “It is so

important to have women involved in all aspects of everything you do. They seem

to be an anchor,” says band member, Leisl Penniken. The porcelain doll lookalike

adds that her mother is a perfect example of this.

The three women, who come from different backgrounds (Penniken and Mariechan

Luiters are from Cape Town while Jacqui Carpede is from Joburg), say they have

two things in common: the way they were brought up and the type of music they

listened to while growing up.

Luiters, who is a single mom, says that when it comes to setting an example

there is no room for pretence. “You can’t pretend to everyone you are a goody

two shoes when you are not because at the end of the day the way in which you

were brought up will always reflect on you. It will come out.”

Carpede, the third and most outspoken member of the group agrees: “All three

of us have been blessed with such good parents and we share the same values, so

before we think of anything we think of them.”

The trio does admit, however, that they have their own role models who they’d

like to meet eventually. “As corny as it sounds, Oprah is my role model,”

Carpede says. “She is someone I look up to. She has such strength and character.

There are so many wealthy people in South Africa but not one of them has done

something with that wealth – she came here and opened a school! She is someone

who doesn’t only think of herself and that’s what I admire in her.”

Luiters says her personal hero is Nelson Mandela. “I just want to go to his

house one day and chill with him over a cup of tea and chat. That’s really my

ultimate dream”.

Jamali’s success stems from sheer guts and determination. They say they

envisioned performing live on stage as kids and followed through on this

passion. The hard-working trio admits that Pop Stars did help propel them to

stardom, but Luiters says: “It does not help to have talent and no

determination, it goes hand in hand and we were lucky that we had that sense of

determination long before we were on Pop Stars.”

Jamali’s success has led them to win a South African Music Awards (Sama) but

they say that the win was bittersweet. “I promised myself that I would not

attend next year’s Samas if we didn’t take that Sama this year. We had been

nominated six times before that and every year we left disappointed,” says

Penniken. Luiters adds that the win was a shock and though they had planned an

acceptance speech Penniken’s outburst on stage where she screamed “finally!”

threw them off, so they had to settle for a plain and simple “thank you.”

Although the women’s success has been inspiring to other women wanting to get

into the music industry, they make no apologies for how they feel about the

cut-throat music biz. “People have messed us around and then tramped all over

us,” says Penniken.

Carpede adds: “Only when you win something will you get certain TV

interviews. You are constantly graded and compared and we feel like we always

have to prove ourselves. There is a lot of crap in this industry that people

don’t want to talk about. We are so much more careful now because this is a

tricky business.”

Luiters admits that the best decision Jamali ever made was to get a good

manager: “You don’t understand the value of a good manager and when I see the

youngsters wanting to hand in their demos I think to myself do they know what

they’re getting themselves into?”

Although Jamali have proved successful and have churned out hits they have

shied away from the limelight and chances are we won’t see them at the next big

social event. The ladies admit that this is a conscious decision. “We would

rather have a braai with our friends than attend the socials and parties,” says

Luiters. Carpede interjects and says: “There’s a lot of fakeness in the industry

and one week you’re buddy-buddy with someone and the next time they see you they

won’t even greet you.”

Penniken says: “Thank God we have each other and that’s why when you do see

us out and about we are always together.”

Jamali – which is created from the first two letters of each of their names –

have realised the importance of growing not only as a band but as a brand. They

have jumped on the bandwagon to grow the Jamali brand by designing jewellery for

AngloGold Ashanti. The range is yet to be showcased but the women describe it as

“booty bling”. Penniken says: “Hopefully they (AngloGold) will give us a

discount on our wedding rings one day!” The women admit however that they are

all a long way from marriage. “We have no time for a balance between personal

life and our careers. Balance? What is balance?” says Carpede, who was once

rumoured to be dating fellow reality TV star Bjorn Blignaut from M-Net’s Idols.

Jamali’s hopes and dreams naturally include international success. Luiters

says: “There has to be a loophole somewhere in order for us to go international.

Other artists from Africa have done it and I think we just need to go through

the right channels.” The trio are certainly on the right track.

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