Amanda Black leans to her internal voice for ‘Mnyama’.
Award-winning and proud Xhosa songstress, Amanda Black, has just released her latest album, ‘Mnyama’ – a body of work that gives us a peek into her thoughts and views around her career, her spirituality and politics.
Known for her powerful anthem and album, Amazulu, which Amanda Black says was filled with too many influences, ‘Mnyama’ is truly about Amanda Black- what she thinks about, her worries, what uplifts her, what’s happening in the world and how she relates to it all. In her previous album, ‘Power’, one can conclude that she was fighting for her place in the industry, fighting people, self-doubt, her identity and for her voice to be heard.
Through ‘Mnyama’, audiences get to experience the vulnerable Amanda- a young girl with dreams who has stopped fighting the world and everything outside of her but has chosen to look internally for peace.
“I’m a healer and I only realized that when I was making Power. This album is 100% me. ‘Amazulu’ had a lot of influences about what needed to be done. Power was about me showing them, doing this and that- everything they said I couldn’t do. ‘Mnyama’ is me. ‘Mnyama’ is the calm after ‘Power’. ‘Power’ was a storm. I don’t think I’ve ever been in this particular space. It’s been calm. This album took me to another space. I allowed myself to be vulnerable which I have never done before, not even on stage. I do get emotional on stage but with this album, it’s another type of vulnerability. I’m bare. I’m stripped down. ‘Kutheni na’ clearly paints that picture of a lost child trying to figure out how to fit into this world again”
In the song, ‘amaginxiginxi’ Amanda tackles mental health challenges that can affect us all. Having artists and celebrities speak out and seeking help has helped normalise not being okay and going through mental challenges regardless of how big of a star one is. More often than not, people hide behind their work or substance abuse to avoid dealing with their internal battles. In ‘amaginxiginxi’, Amanda speaks about her challenges with taking the time to give her mental health the attention it needs which have caused her self-doubt and sometimes questioning whether pursuing the music journey is worth it.
“For me, ‘amaginxiginxi’ are always spiritual and mental challenges. I don’t take the time to acknowledge and deal with what happened. I always feel like I need to get over it or get things done. The thing that gets me and cuts me off my feet is the things I said when I went home faced me square in the face because I couldn’t run from them. The kind of challenges that get me as Amanda, are my mental challenges. If that space is not good, then my entire life is not good. Everything stops. I don’t want to do anything. I can’t even be productive. The challenges my spirit acknowledges are internal. We are our own worst enemies.”
Twitter is a platform we have seen artists post rants about various matters including industry abuse, social issues as well as political issues. While audiences on Twitter have often side-lined artists from political issues, Amanda Black’s rant about the government not assisting artists during the time of COVID-19 saw her make it to the Twitter trends list of the day. After being accused of only speaking about it because this particular matter affects her directly, Amanda took to Twitter to engage with those who said her politics were biased stating that she, as a South African, has the democratic right to express her opinions. She further stated that there is a bigger issue at hand, corruption and theft within the government and not just relief funds for artists.
“I’ve always been vocal. My music is very vocal. People don’t realize that my music is very political. I’m aware that I’m here to heal black people, my people. Those are the people I make music for and it’s amazing that other people relate to the music as well. It’s just that now I realize that I need to speak as well, instead of relying on my music, which also has its place. I’m a citizen, that’s why I’m speaking. I’m a South African. I’ve always been affected by things that happen in the country. It’s just that the wool is finally coming off. We are out here not being able to make a living; people don’t have jobs and this is something that has been ongoing. Politics is about people. To say to me, I’m not allowed to comment on
how my government is running the people- read the constitution. We are literally supposed to have an opinion and have a say about how the country is run. It’s baffling how many South Africans don’t know what’s going in the country and that was a shock to me which is why I feel that we need to speak more- all of us. Not just artists.
Let It Go.
“I’m so afraid, I don’t want to fail. Don’t know how to feel, don’t know what to say. Don’t want to need nobody. Just want to free my mind”
Navigating the music industry as a black woman is a challenge many artists continue to face despite the strides they make. Some make hits win awards but behind closed doors are stuck in deals that do not serve them in the long run. Learning the ropes has not been a joy ride for Amanda as she, amongst other things, has had to fight for her identity. Many of us were introduced to her as a strong, black Xhosa young lady who was going to be the next big thing. Over the years, the same identity that drew people is the same identity she has been told needs a makeover. Knowing who she is and what she stands for as she grows in the industry has made her talent the key focus of the growth of her career as opposed to trying to mould her into something she is not, to appeal to the market.
“Building industry relationships as a woman of colour is not easy. I’m only now learning the business. It’s been coming in compartments from my big break and who I was working with back then – a phase where I was still trying to identify who I am as Amanda. I know I am a proud Xhosa, a proud black woman. I came into the industry like that, which I love because it helped a lot. Just knowing who I am and what I came here to do besides knowing that I wanted to perform. With that relationship [previous management team], it was a fight to get out but more a fight for myself. It was a fight for my identity. A lot of my identity was warped into that relationship because I was young and trying to figure out this business. There was a lot of awakening and it’s a never-ending learning. At the time it was me fighting for myself, for me to be myself. It was me fighting for how I wanted to do my music.”
After going through a few management teams and then trying to be an independent artist, Amanda quickly came to the realization that she could not do it all alone. Partnering with Sony was a decision based on the fact that she didn’t have the money, resources or knowledge of the business to be able to drive her career to the next level.
“Moving forward, with my previous management, it was amicable. I just needed to grow. Then I partnered with Sony because I was not ready to be on my own and they were the best to go with at the time. I needed to be practical and get help. I have always had a team around me so I’m never doing it myself. I’ve got a great team of musicians behind me, making the music with me and performing the music with me. Every part of my career has been about learning. We learn and we outgrow.”
The lack of unity in the industry.
Patriarchy is a phenomenon that is still rife in most industries and the music industry is no exception. Several women have spoken out but have had no resolution to their cries. Amanda Black highlighted that the double standards set in the industry have been frustrating to go through but what has been worse is the lack of support and unity in the industry. When women in the industry speak out against injustices and prejudice in the industry, they are often side-lined and deemed to have diva tendencies as if they did not earn the right to be where they are.
“I am expected to be grateful to be here when I work hard. I’ve been called so many different things (like a diva) by virtue of being a woman and suddenly there are standards that apply to me that don’t apply to men. I am not a diva. I know what I want. I make things clear and I ask. As black women in the industry, we not only have to deal with the fact that we’re black, we also still have to deal with the fact that we’re women, “ayinintsi.” We also have to fight our fellow black men. It’s unfortunate that we come into the industry and you’d expect for us to help each other but we don’t. It counts for the women as well because it’s not “kumbaya” this side. It’s like we go through the same things in isolation because no one wants to help anyone. No one wants to share information.”
If you know anything about African culture, you’ll know how important it is to honour the wishes of grandparents while they are still alive because their prayers are believed to be immensely powerful. This alongside Amanda’s spirituality has been of great guidance in the making of this album. Ekuphile is a Catholic hymn titled “Maria mandla ami” and is dedicated to Amanda Black’s grandmother. After asking Amanda to record the song for months on end, Amanda dreamt of the song in the form of a prayer and knew it was time to fulfil her grandmother’s wishes.
“That’s my grandmother’s song. If you want to make her feel better, sing that song. She loves that song. She’s always asked me since I’m a recording artist, when am I singing her song and I always said I will. This was the first time I was able to do it. It came to me like a prayer. The only new thing in the song is the chorus. It’s a prayer song, ask Maria to pray with me. It is saying that I know I have to pray and I am asking Maria for help to pray.”
Be sure that this is for you.
Having gone through hardships in the industry causing Amanda to undergo mental health challenges and lean to prayer and her spirituality for strength and direction, Amanda says the industry is not for the faint-hearted and that you almost need to be absolutely certain, without a shadow of a doubt that it is what you want to pursue. The multi award-winning singer says she is still fidgeting for her place in the industry.
“Be sure that this is for you because the glamour is 5 seconds and the rest of it is hard work. I’m still fighting today to be where I am and where I want to be. By virtue of me knowing what this is for, it keeps me fighting. Know that if it’s for you, there’s sacrifices, trials and tribulations to go through. Be careful who you work with. When you know yourself and why you’re there very little can be done to sway you. People can do a lot of things but if you are centered around what you’re about, the universe listens. The universe puts you where you need to be. Stay ready.”