VETERAN pop star, Mercy Pakela, found fame in the 80s when she took South Africa by storm with her hit track, Ayashisa Amateki. With over 30 years in the music industry, she has come out stronger than ever before.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
At the age of 16, the hopeful songstress hitchhiked from Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape to Johannesburg in pursuit of a musical career. She stayed at Mzimhlophe Women’s Hostel in Soweto and later auditioned for Patience Africa, who housed her and took her on musical tours where she was paid between R5 and R7 for her performances. She then released her debut album in 1985. Fast forward to 2017, her wacky hairstyle and energy have not disappeared over the years.
DARK SIDE OF THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY
Mercy has a lot to say about the exploitation of artists in the music industry. “My first recording deal was in 1985 with Ron ‘Bones’ Brettell, who played the keyboard for Hotline and PJ Powers. About 15 000 copies of the album were sold, but I was never paid any
royalties because all the proceeds apparently went to the recording costs,” she says.
When she compares today’s music industry with that of her time, Mercy says not much has
changed. She says she is still concerned about the exploitation of artists. “What’s disturbing is that our youth are still signing the same contracts we signed back then,
making them vulnerable to exploitation,” she says. She says she would like to thank all the
managers, agents and promoters who exploited her because it made her stronger. She adds that although Ayashisa Amateki was downloaded eight million times, she did not receive a single cent from the proceeds.
PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
Mercy has not been in the limelight for a long time, but behind the scenes, she is making big strides in dealing with the injustices that female artists are facing. Not one to rest on her laurels, a return to the stage beckoned recently when she got together with female artists from the 80s and started an organisation called Imbokodo in Music for Economic Empowerment. Asked about making a musical comeback, Mercy says she is putting together a compilation of all her recorded songs that were never released due to financial constraints. “I would like to thank all my fans for their loyalty. I am nothing without them because they have proven their loyalty to me,” says the pop artist. The Lenasia resident says she is currently not married, but is in a relationship. She has no children, but considers her siblings’ children as her own.