Zaki Ibrahim is probably one of those names you've heard somewhere and associate with something good but might not be too sure what she does yet...even some of those who are supposed to know seem to have drawn a blank and stick her somewhere in the unhelpful "Urban" no mans land. The title of her latest release Eclectica (Episodes in Purple) is perfect - the diversity of sounds it features is united by its deeply soulful feel - it might be quirky but it's very easy to listen to. The daughter of a black South African and an English teacher from the UK, Zaki grew up in Canada, and has already supported The Roots - who knows where she'll be next...
You're one of those artists people seem to have trouble defining - for anyone who hasn't heard your music yet how would you describe your sound in a few words?
A mosaic of melodies, evolving from a whole lotta stuff into a whole lot more...stuff. Aaaah. Still too many words! I think I should maybe just call it a melodic mosaic.
What does the title of your latest project "Eclectica" mean to you?
The word “eclectic” has always been a funny word to me. Almost sounding like “eccentric” but with a little more “click” to it.. Something that is, in fact, unique and distinct but has not been named yet, will sometimes be called eclectic, or essentric, only because it is irregular and not easy to label. Exotic is another word I’ve been called as a complement as well, when someone can’t place my race…I feel it’s best to just say thank you and be on my way. Eclectica, in a way is my way of owning a word, but flipping it and poking fun at tittles. The “Purple Episodes” of eclectica are about standing strong in a title of my own.
You have a very interesting background - how much does this influence you in your writing, and what else inspires you to pick up a pen?
Hunger. An empty fridge. A shopping list. Playing…I feel like my background is everyday that is behind me and at the same time, generations and generations in every-which direction and in each of those life-times, they were all trying to figure out what their purpose was. Somewhere, sometime in Africa, a lover and dreamer of a woman had to sacrifice her sense of joy for the sake of honoring her tribe and on the other side of the world, a wild eyed Scotsman sacrificed his life to keep his land and bloodline…During the Dutch East India slave trade en route from Malaysia to the Southern-most Tip of the African continent, there was a blind singer that refused to be a slave… centuries later this mixed up female, living in Canada started to sing about it.
I read that you lived and worked in South Africa a few years ago, where your father is from originally - what was that like?
Living there has had different outcomes every time. As a child it was surreal and confusing, at times, traumatic, but some of the most joyous of moments at the same time are still remembered. Living and working there as an adult I have been able to start seeing where some of the sources of a lot of the confusion come from, yet still a confused and damaged place, I’ve been able to put some of the pain in context in a strange way, still a process and long way to go... One year I got to experience working within the community for a moment at a radio station and learning institute, Bush Radio. I was also exposed to the prison system through a childhood friend that somehow convinced me to put together a workshop program on “self expression” for young women awaiting trial…this was by-far the thing that stayed with me the most. I think I’m learning that a woman with a voice, a means to express, in whatever circumstance you are in, is a reason to use what you have to make your ripples in the world.
What can we expect from your forthcoming album and when can we get our hands on it?
There are a few actual songs this time. Still a few “things” but definitely trying my hand at real song writing. There is always a child-like approach to making music for me that can be both a blessing and a curse. I sometimes like to create a fantastical world within a song, live in it and mature in it for a while and then let it go into the digital and physical word. Other times, I make songs by mistake and show my tumble scars that very day. This Album is a mixture of mistakes and careful crafting of compositions and word play. When? When I’m done. Haha. I’ve decided to not have a release date until the master-master mix is out of my hands. And speaking of mixes: this album is for the remixers of the world to interpret what they will.
If you could collaborate with any other artists you haven't yet who would you choose?
Could you recommend some music or artists that you love for our readers to check out?
Little Dragon. Simply mesmerizing. www.myspace.com/yourlittledragon
TV on the Radio. Dope. www.myspace.com/tvotr
Muhsinah. Sweet intricate angel songs. www.myspace.com/muhsinah
Tumi. MC for the “whole worlds”. Or www.myspace.com/tatv
What's next for you and will you be coming to the UK any time soon?
I’m sitting on this egg in the studio at the moment and don’t know exactly which way it will roll yet. But I hope the UK is in the nearest future, I’ve been receiving some really dope letters from that side and would love to connect the feeling to a sea of faces.