Cape Town - She’s perfectly poised when she pops into our offices. Tall, dark and confident, Amanda Black cuts a regal figure in a blue beaded wig, her face adorned with her signature dots. “These dots make me feel in tune with my African culture,” she tells DRUM.
“They are usually done by Xhosa women at traditional ceremonies, but I rock these every day to remind me of who I am – a proud Xhosa queen.”
It’s this fierceness that saw the singer face off against her former record label in a David and Goliath court battle. In an exclusive interview, Amanda opens up about why she slapped Ambitiouz Entertainment with a lawsuit – which she recently won. “Ambitiouz made me,” she tells us candidly.
“I loved them to death, and I appreciate the platform they gave me. They helped me find my sound and my identity and I will be eternally grateful. It’s a pity things had to end up in court.”
Her lawyer, Zola Majavu of Majavu and Associates, says the record label owed her a little under R1 million for overdue payment for bookings. “All outstanding amounts were paid to her” after the record company lost their appeal on the matter.
READ MORE: Amanda Black leaves Ambitiouz Entertainment
Contacted for comment, managing director Kgosi Mahumapelo says Ambitiouz Entertainment is a principled business. “I am not going to jump every time artists cough,” he says. “The business can withstand anything because we are professional.”
Amanda tells us her relationship with the record company soured when she started asking about booking fee charges.
“They said, don’t worry about it. Handle the music and we will handle the finances. “That was not going to work for me. I needed transparency. I needed to know how much money I was still owed from the advance they gave me and how much I was making for every performance,” she says. “There was just a lot happening that made me very unhappy.”
She claims things went from bad to worse when she stopped getting paid for bookings. “I was gigging but I wasn’t getting paid. When I called to ask why, I was given answers that didn’t make sense about me owing money instead.”
The award-winning singer carried on doing gigs, pretending everything was fine. “For five months I was gigging but I wasn’t getting paid. “I used my savings to pay rent, the band, transport and to survive,” she says. “I didn’t want to taint my reputation and be the girl known for not pitching for gigs.”
After depleting her savings, she started dipping into her credit card, eventually maxing it out. “I was miserable. The music was great, but I wanted to quit because I was unhappy. Everyone was singing along to my songs, but nothing was coming into my bank account.
“I was very discouraged and had no more fight left in me. I didn’t even want to perform anymore but I dragged myself onto the stage and smiled, hugged and took photos with fans like everything was okay.” Things came to a head in July and Amanda decided to take legal action against the company that produced her 2016 debut album, Amazulu.
“People told me to back down because I was a nobody fighting a giant,” she shares. “I was scared and alone. I didn’t trust anyone. At one point I was so paranoid I thought I was being followed. “I didn’t go out at night unless it was to gigs. I kept a very low profile. I always had my doors locked and I completely isolated myself [ from family and friends].
“This entire trial just made me so depressed.” It also drained her financially. “The first lawyer assisted me until I could no longer afford the fees. The second one, a family member, pulled out. The third lawyer didn’t require upfront payment and stuck with me until the end.” On her darkest days she wanted to throw in the towel. up and thought I was never going to make it out of that dark hole.”
Amanda, who shot to fame on Idols SA after entering the singing competition three times, has always been a fighter. The eldest of five children, she credits her mother and the man in her life for carrying her through the tough times. It wasn’t easy but she’s glad she stood up for herself and won the case.
“Man, I feel alive again,” she says. “I just hope other artists are resilient because many people are going through what I went through.” Things were so bad Amanda sought counselling to help her recover from the experience.
“I feel like I still need to go for more sessions just to unpack the load I have been carrying because I was traumatised.” The 26-year-old is also leaning on mom Fundiswa.
“My mom is a legal adviser, so she goes through all my legal documents before I consult with a lawyer.” She’s taken her finances into her own hands with the launch of her record company, Afro Rockstar, and Amanda – who has a contract with Sony Music – has released a new album under her own label. The Sony deal means she has more say over her money. “I’ve regained my power.” The singer and songwriter is proud to have penned all 18 tracks on the album, which features American singer Anthony Hamilton, whom she met during a storm at a festival in Mahikeng. Titled Power, the album also features newbie Ami Faku, the Soweto Gospel Choir and Nigerian star Adekunle Gold.
“The album is a medley of genres. I wanted to explore musical styles and be creative. There’s a touch of gospel, rock, alternative and a lot of R&B. “It’s an album for everybody but I am still Amanda Black.” Her music reflects who she is, she says – soulful, sincere and unapologetically fierce.