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By Lineo Lesemane

Digital Lifestyle Journalist

‘When I am gone, I’m gone’ – Yvonne Chaka Chaka on legacy ahead of LALBall Africa Music Awards honour

The legendary musician also speaks about Amapiano, helping upcoming artists and more...

Ahead of her forthcoming honour at the 2024 Legends and Legacy Ball Africa Music Awards, iconic musician Yvonne Chaka Chaka has opened up about her illustrious career that spans decades. 

The legendary musician is one of the esteemed musicians who has been announced as honourees for the prestigious awards set to take place next month on 8 June. 

Speaking to The Citizen, Chaka Chaka expressed deep gratitude for the recognition, emphasizing her profound love for Africa. 

“Africa is my home. My aim is to ensure that those who come after me also achieve great heights,” she said. 

ALSO READ: Yvonne Chaka Chaka is still shaking it up

Helping upcoming musicians

She shared that having launched her music career when she was still young, she encountered a few problems. 

“Getting into music at a young age, with no knowledge of the game, was a challenge to me as well. That was just after passing matric, by the way.

“That led to a lack of understanding of copyright, intellectual property, and subsequently signing bad deals. Rights are a big deal in the music business. Eventually, I grew my knowledge in the music and business in general as they go hand in hand.” 

Because of her personal experience, Chaka Chaka is currently working with younger artists and sharing her knowledge. 

“It is important for me to share knowledge with younger artists so they do not make these mistakes, which we made at a cost,” she said. 

In 2015, Chaka Chaka launched the first-of-its-kind awards that acknowledge, reward, and celebrate backing vocalists and sessions, the Backing Vocalists and Session Musicians Awards. 

The healing power of music

She said she is planning to present another opportunity for the background artists to shine once again this year. 

“This project is very close to my heart and mission. We are giving artists a platform to learn about the music industry via the MusicEx initiative at Gallagher Estates this year. 

“Not only will the industry experts engage the artists but also professionals from all sectors, including finance and taxation. Industry experts will team up and empower each other with the necessary and effective knowledge,” she shared. 

Influenced by legendary artists such as Letta Mbulu, Miriam Makeba, and Hugh Masekela, whose music served as a potent tool against apartheid, Chaka Chaka said she found purpose in her musical endeavors. 

She said her belief in the healing power of music and its ability to amplify the voices of the marginalized has been a guiding force throughout her career. 

ALSO READ: South African musical artists generate more than R250M from streaming in the last year

Chaka Chaka on the evolution of the music industry

Reflecting on the music industry’s evolution, Chaka Chaka acknowledged the transformative power of new genres like Amapiano. 

She said she has watched with admiration as the genre continues to evolve, creating employment opportunities and fostering a sense of cultural pride among its proponents. 

“In the 80s, our music was called bubble gum because they assumed it wouldn’t last for longer. Today, those songs of the era still shake the ground, and I still perform my classics in every corner of the world I’m invited to. 

“Kwaito was later very relatable to the young people. They found a way of expressing their culture and lifestyle. ‘Uziyithola kanjani uhlale ekhoneni’ by Mandoza is one memorable hit of the time. It’s a song of encouragement. 

“I related to Amapiano as it developed. I witnessed the rise of some of my favourite genre stars, including Nkosazana Daughter, Aymos, Eemoh, and others. The genre is taking over the world and it’s so wonderful to watch the way amapiano is offering young people employment opportunities,” she said. 

Advice for upcoming musicians 

For aspiring musicians who seek to follow in her footsteps, Chaka Chaka offers invaluable advice drawn from her own illustrious career. She emphasizes the importance of authenticity and staying true to one’s craft and the need for aspiring artists to surround themselves with a supportive team that shares their interests and values. 

“There’s no one grand way to go through. Every journey is unique. I would simply say: be comfortable with your craft and don’t try harder to be something you are not. Just make sure you do things the right way. In this game, it’s imperative to get a team with your interest at heart. 

“I also recommend having a mentor on your journey. I still learn every day from the people in our circle. Those who are presented with an opportunity to study and pursue your academic activities, it’s a very grand advantage.”

Leaving a legacy

Chaka Chaka said she wants to be remembered as someone who served her country and continent with passion and humility. 

She added: “I appreciate life, and I have lived it to my best ability. For every opportunity given, I’ve given it my all. I’d like to be remembered as someone who emphasized that every life approach and step requires humility.

“My intention is not to leave any legacy but to use my time now and be grateful to God, the Almighty. Life is for the living. When I am gone, I’m gone.”

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