Making It Fire: Bhekiwé Q & A

I discovered this artist!

Words by Alex Gwaze (Researcher)
Questions by Alex Gwaze and Joanne Peters (Model Coach / Image Consultant)

No I didn’t discover Bhekiwé, but I want everyone else who hasn’t – to do so immediately. Why? Because the music scene has become so saturated with trends, videos, and marketing antics, it’s so hard to find something new within this surround-sound staleness. Nonetheless, every now and then a new artist emerges out this cacophony with something so box fresh, you can’t help but say, “Hmm, this is different”. That’s how I felt when I first heard Bhekiwé’s first single “Secret Feeling”. I remember thinking, to myself, who is Bhekiwé? What’s her story?

Bhekiwe Dube is a music student at the College of Creative Arts (CCA) in Bulawayo, and she is comedian Q Dube’s sister. She is also one of the most recognizable models in Bulawayo; but it’s not her pretty pictures that make her interesting (to me). According to local social and entertainment commentators, Three Men On A Boat (3-MOB), what makes Bhekiwé different is that “she delves into a sound many don’t really explore in Zimbabwe”. And, that fascinates me. Especially, since she flipped the script and had the girl ‘shooting her shot’ (that is, asking a guy out) in her second single, “Show Stopper”. However, despite the seemingly forward nature of the action – the combination of the vulnerable lead up to proposal plus the effortless confidence in her approach – signified to me (through her lyrics) that Bhekiwé has something to say with her music.

Music is an incredible platform for self-expression, but lately it’s become so saturated with singles it starting to feel like a monotonous vainglorious dictation, rather than an expression of self, one’s artistry, and emotions. Fortunately, with her novel approach in her first two singles, Bhekiwé reminded us that music can flip the script, break the mould, and be taken into a different direction. Thus, we had to have a chat with this new artist to get an idea of what trip her next single might take us on.

JP: You come from a family who has established a name for themselves in the entertainment industry. However, in Zimbabwe being an entertainer is not seen as a viable career path. Was it hard for you to get support from your family to pursue your dreams?

BD: Not at all. My family is a huge part of my music journey. They have always supported me since I was very young. My mother has always encouraged me to sing, be it at school, in church or at talent shows. Everyone in my family is very involved in my career. I’m incredibly lucky. And grateful for that.

AG: You are an established model. We have seen your face all over Empress Primy and you’ve modelled for other designers, and campaigns. But, now you’re venturing into music. What’s your earliest musical memory? That moment that made you believe you could sing?

BD: I’ve been very fortunate to work with such an amazing designers like Empress Primy, but I’ve always been a musician first and foremost. With modelling, I’m just really comfortable in front of the camera. So modelling was inevitable (laughs). You know, one of my favourite musical memories is being alone in the car. I used to lock myself in the car at night, while everyone else was in the house. And, I would play my mom’s CDs and sing along. I liked John Legend. So, I would sing his music and I would hit certain notes, and surprise myself – a bit (laughs). His music has played an incredible role in the artist I am today. We spent a lot of time together, singing in that car (laughs).

AG: Your music deals with intimacy and ‘feelings’. Is there a particular film or song that never fails to touch you emotionally?

BD: Ummm. Okay. This may seem like a cliché but Titanic definitely brings out a few emotions in me. It’s a story about true, selfless, and unfiltered love – with Celine Dion singing a classic in the back of my mind. How can it not make me emotional! In regards to just songs, we’ll be here all day, so let’s not get into that playlist.

JP: So, you are now two singles into the Zim music scene and people are talking nothing but good things for you and your future. What are some of the biggest differences you’ve seen in the business from how you imagined it?

BD: The music industry has its ups and downs, just like any other industry. Personally, for me, what stood out is how people – despite showing you some support before – underestimate you when you finally start. For me, that’s okay! It just pushes me more. Makes me work twice as hard. Which I’m okay with. Nothing compares to stepping into the real world, putting in the work – and getting down and dirty. At the end of the day I benefit from the work, right? (laughs). I think that’s the biggest difference. I hope that makes sense.

AG: Yes, the entertainment industry is very competitive and it can get really dirty. But, there are those who take their time to school others. What’s the best piece of advice another musician has given you?

BD: My producer Larynx shared something with me that I’ll carry with me throughout my journey. I had just finished recording my second single, “Show Stopper”. Before I walked out the studio he said to me: “No matter what or whoever you play this for, don’t listen to any negative thing anyone may have to say about this, because this is fire”. His words stuck with me because I regard myself as different. Different from what is typically heard on radio here. As a result, there are negative comments sometimes. People trying to fit you into their mould or dismiss you or just hate what they can’t understand. So, I always block out the negativity and focus on the “fire” that I’m making.

JP: These days every artist is has to deal with so much negativity on social media. And, push their personal brand and content. And, in the age of “cancel culture” it’s very easy to say something that might be offensive to some people – unintentionally. How, do you interact with fans online?

BD: I’ve been told I need to interact more online. But social media gives me anxiety attacks. I prefer to stay off it. Funny how my line of work requires the opposite (laughs). I’m still learning how to find the perfect balance to interact with people online because there’s a very thin line between over-sharing and holding back. Sometimes I wish we were in the 80s, when Instagram and Facebook wasn’t a thing. And it was all about the music and videos.

AG: So it would be safe to assume that since you are off social media, you draw most of your song writing inspiration from your real life, and those around you?

BD: Writing music to me isn’t about writing something catchy but more so about connecting with ‘life’ and real people. Relaying their stories through my voice. Their joy, their sadness, their heartbreak, their love, their sassiness etc. I’ve written so many songs which touch on all these aspects. Most of them are yet to be heard, or not, we’ll see (laughs).

JP: Sticking to the whole inspiration theme. People always talk about your very unique look and style. I’ve always wanted to know – where do you get your fashion sense from? Who’s your inspiration?

BD: My daily fashion sense is really inspired by how I feel when I wake up, I wish there was more to it (laughs). I just throw on whatever works and go about my day. In regards to what I wear in music videos or photo shoots, that’s where things change. I go for big, extra, over the top, because – why not, you know? It’s where I get to fully express my fashion sense and play around with different ideas in my head. I always turn to a lot of Beyoncé videos when referencing certain looks or styles. She inspires me so much. It’s crazy!

AG: Speaking of going big and putting the ideas in your head out there. The singles you have released deal with you asking a guy out, in some manner. So, did “he” who inspired the music (but shall not be mentioned) finally get the message. Did “he” say yes to the “show stopper” now that the “secret feelings” are on record?

BD: (laugh) You know what. I saw this question coming, hmmmm your guess is as good as mine. Did he get the message?  Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

AG: Check your DMs (laughs). But for real, let me end this off on a more serious note. I know you are relatively new to the game. But, we read so many stories of artists starting off well – and then … Every generation is different, so if you could think of one habit that could possibly ruin or stall a person’s career and you wanna give them some advice, what would it be?

BD: Firstly, I’m grateful that I have a family that keeps me grounded and makes sure I steer clear of bad habits that could not only tarnish my reputation but ruin my life. Secondly, in this generation, just like the previous ones, substance abuse has been the major downfall of a lot of great people. So, my advice is more of ‘a hope’ that my generation sees how drugs and alcohol can have a negative effect on their life. They should by all means, stay clear of them. Do to not fall victim to the stereotype people!

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