In this exclusive interview with SA_Rifa, we talk about her new single, 'Two Eyes', music, and the current state of affairs in South Africa.
Nice to have you here, SA_Rifa. How do you feel being on this platform; having your song reviewed on the UbuntuFMHipHop website and your music aired to our listening audience?
It feels absolutely amazing. I mean, any and every chance I get of having my song played on the radio always means a lot to me and so I'm really excited. And thank you for your positive and heartfelt review of my song. I shared it on my social media platforms and kept on bragging about it for some time. This was important for me as it came from people who didn’t know me at all, so it wasn’t a matter of making me feel good but rather honest feedback.
SA_Rifa sounds unique for a stage name. What does it stand for?
Thank you. Uhm ... well, my real name is Sarifa. Sarifa is Arabic and it means “the honorable one”. It’s a name that used to be given to girl children from a royal family. SA_Rifa is creatively derived from my real name. But in general, SA_Rifa stands for the real South African_Rifa, because I love my country. Yea, it’s also part of my real name.
We do love your song, 'Two Eyes'. Its lyrical honesty and musical appeal quite pull the listener in. We see the song as a personal expression of yourself through music. What was the inspiration for the song?
I won't lie, I wrote the song when I was bored, and so at the time it was about just writing. But as the song evolved, it became more about the journey I'm embarking on now with my music career and the direction that I'm taking. I see myself making it big, ‘hence "two eyes". This song is about focus in life; never getting things twisted, always being alert and assertive. It is about disallowing the opinions of people to derail me in my journey. Opinions remain what they are, opinions. Opinions more often than not, carry lies aimed at hurting an individual and derailing someone from the path of their destiny.
How has the reception been for the song? Have there been remarkable experiences in the course of reaching across audiences?
The reception has been amazing, I won't lie. I've received nothing but positive and encouraging feedback. People really like the song. Although it's not at the point I want it to be at just yet, I think it's doing pretty well. The song is currently play-listed on more than 50 radio stations nationwide. My music video has been play-listed on Channel O, Cape Town TV, and Bay TV. I’m still awaiting feedback from other music television stations. The song has also been play-listed by two of the online radio stations in Nigeria, in Ibadan, and Zimbabwe, and the feedback from the station were amazing. The radio station in Zimbabwe first played it on August 9th and I thought to myself “what an amazing way of celebrating women’s day”.
Musical artists perceive art differently in terms of purpose; some see art as a medium for self-expression; others for activism; and some others for other purposes or as a combination of many other purposes. What is your take on the issue? What does musical art mean for you?
Just like other artists, I also see music as a form of self-expression. It's all about what I'm feeling and sometimes what I'm going through. And sometimes it's also about what other people are going through as well. I see music as a platform to talk about issues that I've gone through and also issues that other people have gone through as well.
Considering the distance you have covered so far; if you were asked to do things differently, what would you change?
Absolutely nothing. I love how things have happened, even the things that haven't gone according to plan because I've learned from them and I've managed to grow from each and every experience. I believe that significant milestones have been achieved, especially taking into account that I am an independent artist; the project is self-funded from recording to marketing. Shout out to my parents, siblings, uncles, and aunties for financial, technical and emotional support.
Let's talk about the music industry in South Africa: would you say that the industry in South Africa is positioned to take advantage of digitization as is the current trend of the global music industry?
Yes and no.
I feel like inasmuch as everything is moving digitally, we still struggle with data prices in this country and so it's not that easy for everyone to stream music or whatnot. Only a few artists in this country have achieved a certain amount of digital success, but I feel like later on in the future, we might be a force to be reckoned with when it comes to digitization.
To audiences outside Africa, Afropop coming from Nigeria often comes to mind when African music is mentioned. Is this some sort of continental dominance? Does the Nigerian brand of hip-hop influence music that comes out of South Africa and other parts of Africa?
Yes. Well, in a way, I do think the Nigerian brand does have a huge influence, but I also think other parts of Africa also have an influence as well. It's not just Nigeria. But I believe that since Nigeria is big musically, it has the largest influence. I also think that the unity that Nigerian artists have is what also makes them such a big brand and very influential to the other parts of Africa.
Beyoncé released the album ‘The Lion King: The Gift’ featuring a selection of leading African hip-hop artists, from Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa, and having indigenous African lyrics and chants interwoven into the album’s composition. How do you rate the album and what it stands for?
For someone who hasn't had the time to listen to the album, I can only rate it in terms of reception because I feel like the album has a positive response and everyone from different parts of the world seems to be liking it just as much as they like the movie and I just love the unity it brought amongst African artists.
News makes the rounds of a recent spate of xenophobic attacks targeted at other African nationals resident in South Africa. What could be the reason behind this incident that has been recurrent over the years?
I honestly do not know the reasons behind these incidents and I think the country needs to create a platform for dialogue to deal with the root causes of these incidents. But I am convinced that violence and killing of people are evil regardless of validity and invalidity of reasons. If some South Africans feel aggrieved in one way or the other, there is a way of reporting any unlawful behavior whether you are a South African or not.
I just believe the moral fiber of some South Africans, especially men, is decaying at a fast pace.
For instance, women experience these kinds of brutality in the country almost on a daily basis and these women are South Africans and are not even the so-called "foreigners". I believe people who attack our brothers and sisters from other countries do not formally represent who we are and how we feel as South Africans and therefore need to be treated as criminals.
I also believe music has a massive role to play in the promotion of peace within our continent. For instance in the recent past and currently, we have seen a lot of collaboration between South African and Nigerian artists and I believe that brought us together. We, therefore, cannot and should not afford and allow some ‘hooligan behavior’ to steal that away from us. I like Wizkid’s response to social media when artists and celebrities were playing the blame game and making comments that somehow had the potential to fuel the situation. I subscribed to his views.
In my school my principal is Nigerian and some of my teachers are Zimbabweans and yet we live in peace and I have never looked at them as foreigners. I see them as my teachers and that's all. Again, my single ‘Two Eyes’ was produced by a Zambian, mixed and mastered by a Tanzanian and I featured a Zimbabwean artist. I do not understand why we can't live together and just get along. I think it is in the midst of adversity that our ability to love gets tested. God's given kind of love is patient and is not easily angered; it does not dishonor others; it is not self-seeking; it does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth; it always protects trusts, hopes, and perseveres; it does not envy and boast. That is the kind of environment and atmosphere I hope we could plant and water as Africans. Condolences to all the Nigerian and South African families who lost loved ones through these incidents.
Do you have any new projects you are working on?
Yes, I have a lot of new music in store. I go to the studio during the school holidays to make more music but I don't wanna rush anything. For now, I just wanna push my single up until I'm satisfied enough to drop another one. My plan is to drop singles even in 2019.
Once again, we are glad to have you on UbuntuFM. Before we wrap up, do you have something to say in parting to your fans and our audiences?
I want to say that my single titled ‘Two Eyes’ is out on all digital platforms and the music video is up on YouTube as well. I also wanna thank everyone who supported me thus far in South Africa. I honestly wouldn't be where I am without you guys.
I also want to extend my shout-out to my producer Andy Beats; Dean Denarro who is featured in my song and Africa Unit crew whom I worked within the making of the song. I also want to appreciate the love and support I received outside the borders of South Africa especially in Bujumbura, Dar es Salaam, Lusaka, Komasi, Erongo, Kampala, Oshana, Singida, Bulawayo, and other African regions I could not mention. I also wish to extend my gratitude to Renualt East London, Natures Rest, East London Airport, the community of Egoli and eLusikisiki for making my video a reality. People can also find me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
We wish you the best in your musical pursuits even as we look forward to hearing more from you.
Thank you so much for everything and your contribution to pushing and advancing my music and my career.