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Black brings the Power

Weekend Argus logo Weekend Argus 2019-11-01 Lukhanyo Mtuta
a person wearing a hat: South African singer-songwriter and recording artist Amanda Black. Picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA). © Provided by Independent Media South African singer-songwriter and recording artist Amanda Black. Picture: Ian Landsberg/African News Agency (ANA).

“Afro Rockstar” sensation Amanda Black is back with a story of triumph.

Black, who dropped her latest album, Power, last Friday is performing at the V&A Waterfront on Friday.

Her sophomore album comes after a three-year hiatus. She said the past three years have been a difficult journey and this album is a reflection of that experience.

“Power is based on my experience in the industry for the past three years. For a while I couldn’t even write because emotionally I was going through a lot. So I was also going through a creative block,” said Black.

“I was healing and I wanted to move on and be powerful. I wanted to take back my birth-given right to do music because I fought so hard for it. It’s a story of triumph, it’s a story of rising up and that’s why the intro talks about what the entire album is about.”

Following the success of her first album Amazulu, which went platinum, she said she felt a bit of pressure.

“Making the album I had to forget that pressure because making it was about me. It was about my emotional well-being and I just wanted to sing these songs. I grew so much as an artist, so for me I think it might be better. I was 23 and now I’m 26 so there must be a difference. I think the music is more mature now.”

On the 18-track Power she worked with American RnB star Anthony Hamilton, the Grammy award-winning Soweto Gospel Choir, Nigerian musician Adekunle Gold, Ami Faku and poet Kush Mahleka.

Black said she met Hamilton in a show he was headlining in Mahikeng.

“On his set, he mentioned all the South African artists he loved and I happened to be one of them. I told him I would love you on a song and we had to decide which song would like him on and I chose Vuka.

“I thought he would scratch out the part I worked on but he sang the verse that I wrote. I didn’t even coach him and he self-taught himself isiXhosa and pronounced those words. Everyone I have collaborated with has been in good spirit and everything came together easily.”

The arts and film industry has been under the spotlight in recent times and Black opened up about her experience.

“This industry wasn’t designed for the artist, it was designed for the exploitation of artists, be it in a positive or a negative form. That’s why now we find that artist dying broke and that’s not to take the responsibility away from the artist, but at the same time, artists are getting ripped off in the contracts.”

“It’s very easy to say “you must read the contract” but you can’t really read something you don’t understand. At the point when you start your career you don’t have access to lawyers and you don’t even have the money to pay them. At that moment, you don’t even know what you would be getting lawyers for,” she explained.

She said as much as her issues with former record label Ambitiouz Entertainment sent her into a depressive state, she was lucky to have dealt with it sooner.

Other artists she couldn’t mention remain in these contracts for a long time. Black said the problem with independent record labels is that decisions lie with the owner and there is no structure or board that he/she has to answer to.

Black now owns her own record label Afro Rockstar.

“AfroRockstar is my baby, my own label. I have a business partnership with Sony, a JV (joint-venture). Sony deals with the back-end and AfroRockstar deals with me, the artist, the product. I decided that I don’t have the experience, resources and money to push my brand. So for me this was the best deal right now,” said Black.

She provided advice to young artists who are at the entry level of their careers in similar positions.

“Suss out the people you want to work with. Ask everybody and take your time because there is no negotiating when you’re an unknown artist because chances are that it will be a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’  kind of thing. At the end of the day, you can try to negotiate but they have the money and they’ll say they can easily look for some else so “do you want to take it or not?” and most of the time we take it. So don't be desperate."

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