Local female artists slowly break musical barriers

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Pinehas Nakaziko

Windhoek-Being a female artist in Namibia is not as easy as it seems, because it’s difficult and at many points very challenging. Most Namibian female artists also find they do not receive a fair shake because men dominate the industry, and they mostly look down on them.

However, for a female artist to move forward it also requires a lot of energy and dedication, as many believe that some music promoters and producers take advantage of them by different favours, such as sex.

Daphne Willbard, also known as Oteya, an award-winning singer and one of the most prominent local female artists, has been making music for her fans as a solo singer for the past three years, while signed to the Ogopa/Butterfly label.

She has released two albums, Ethimbo and Ondeya, but she says it’s tough to be a female musician, not only in Namibia but also around the globe because unfortunately, the world looks at them very differently.

“We usually need to work twice as hard as our male counterparts. Due to traditions, society rejects us very easily because we are perceived as mothers who are there to bear children and raise them,” she says.

Oteya adds that it’s very difficult for female artists to get gigs because if an artist is not under any management, organisers, mostly men, usually want sexual favours in return.
“We are seen as sexual objects, so it’s difficult for us to get work without being harassed for sex,” Oteya observes furiously.

She adds that on the other hand, women in general don’t support each other but look down on one another. Therefore, it’s a challenge to get a gig because women on events committees tend to select male artists over female artists, just for the sake of looking down on them.

“So lack of female to female support is one big challenge in our country.”
For Oteya, the way forward for female artists to advance in this male dominated industry is to stay united

“We need to form a work bond, support and speak well of each other and stop looking down on each other,” she says.

Esmeralda Katjikuru, popularly known as Esme, is a local singer, composer, conductor and songwriter, involved in a number of genres such as jazz, gospel, blues and soul.

She says that although the industry is somehow male dominated, she believes that there is room to fit the ladies in there as long as the ‘female artists’ work hard, are passionate and business-like.

Katjikuru says that for her, funds can be a challenge, especially when it comes to maintaining the quality of her brand.

Some of the challenges they face are to headline events, record with the best producers; take their music outside the borders of Namibia and to keep up with the pace.

“Composing your own music is also one of the challenges I have experienced. To write songs on current affairs or issues relating to the people, and songs that can give answers to social matters is also a challenge for most female artists.  We need more songwriters,” she says.

Commenting on sexual favours, she says it’s disgusting and shows how narrow-mindedness is taking over.

“Being in a better or powerful position doesn’t give anybody the right to sexually abuse someone younger,” Esme says.

She adds that some of the initiatives started to uplift women in music include the ‘My Ongoma Project’ with the aim of uniting female artists.

The only way forward for female artists is if they can stop with negative competitive attitudes and unite in the spirit of good will to play their part to better the lives of Namibians through song. “If we can stand together, we will win together,” Esme advises.

Monika Jona, who is known as Dama Monique in the industry, is one of the rising stars in the Kizomba genre.

She says being a female musician is very tough because male musicians dominate the local music industry, and one really needs to be good or work extra hard to achieve recognition.

She adds that some producers want to take advantage of them by keeping their beats that they have already paid for.

Monique kindly asks those who demand sexual favours from artists to stop doing it because they don’t know how many of their fellow musicians have given up on their talent just because of such behaviour.

“The way forward is for us to really work hard; make good music and work together to show our people that we have what it takes so they start taking us seriously,” Monique says.

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