JOHANNESBURG, (The Southern African Times) – Three years ago she was toiling in virtual anonymity. Now she has got a Zim Achievers Award on her mantelpiece, can claim royalties from streaming giants, and is about to release a body of work in the form of an album. But she is aware that this is where the danger lurks too – so she has managed to stay adrift of controversy and working on her brand. She does know that there is a hierarchy, and is wise enough to appreciate she is not at the top of it, yet! Leo Muzivoreva caught up with Valee Music, who identifies as a creator, a daughter, a visionary and a lover.
Born Valerie Menyiwe Sibanda in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, Valee Music draws inspiration from hopeand from strength. Valee Music was inspired by watching herwidowed maternal grandmother raising her children and her grandchildren alone. Her inspiration is drawn from the hope and desire of seeing a young black Zimbabwean girl prosper on the world stage. Here is the in-depth conversation that Leo Muzivoreva had with Valee Music on behalf of The Southern African Times.
L.M: How and when did your journey as a musician begin?
Music is my life! I have been singing from the age of 6. My parents would tell me that I started dancing before I could even walk! You know what they say, we got rhythm. I joined choirs, entered music competitions, before I sought out a path of my own. I used YouTube as a tool, did free open mic nights and as many music competitions as I could get into in the UK… just for someone to see my talent. I eventually made the decision to become an independent artist, developed my sound, found a vocal coach and my own producers and that’s when I started to really build the Valee Music Brand. I’d say that’s when things really began to happen for me.
L.M: The industry has many challenges, have you faced any so far?
Self belief and self motivation is the biggest obstacle I believe you have to overcome before you can even do anything. For me this was the main struggle, after a major setback. I remember being down and out after spending so much money on my music career. I needed my confidence back and deep down I was praying to God to open doors for me. Then I remember waking up the next day to find out my Music Video was playing on MTV. That was a major highlight, it reminded me why I’m still in this game and that I just need to keep pushing.
L.M : Music also comes with perks, which ones are the best for you?
I love the freedom music gives you. I am a creator; I don’t feel restricted in my creativity. I don’t even believe I have even begun to push the boundaries of my creativity but everyday I do music I push myself a little further to do something I have never done before. I love making new music with some of my favourite producers and bringing those visuals to life with video directors I hold in high regard. Shout out to my whole team and everyone thus far who has helped to make my dream a reality.
The final part of the process is the stage when I give myself to my fans in my most authentic form. I love everything that being an artist does for me. I have a platform to share a message and for me that’s usually a message of empowerment and hope to young people but especially to young girls.
L.M: You are based in the UK, how has that contributed to your career given the demand that comes with it ?
Being based in the UK is only part of my journey. I don’t believe my success has anything to do with my location. I was still this hungry as a child in Zimbabwe. I’m hungry when I travel around the world to South Africa, to Sweden to pursue my music, if anything being in the UK also threw me some curveballs but the blessing is once you overcome the challenges you have an opportunity to be on the World Stage, doing what I love! I’ve had my music playing on top radio stations which include BBC 1Xtra in London, WBLS in NYC, Metro FM in South Africa and more! I’m really blessed and I believe the way that the UK has contributed to my career is exposing me to a global sound and quickly made me an international act as I grow and touch so many across the globe.
L.M: The grapevine says you are currently touring South Africa, tell us more about that, any shows lined up? Any potential collaboration opportunities?
Yes I’ve been in South Africa for a month! I’m working on my album, music videos, radio tours. It’s an exciting time for me. Something I’ve never done but I’m so grateful. I had to come to South Africa, it’s the land that birthed the sound of Amapiano which I love so much, and as a Nguni woman from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe – South Africa is the land of my forefathers, I understand the language, the people and I live the culture, it’s part of my identity. Africa as a whole is very important in my story. I am proudly Pan African and this is why the story of the global sound I’m tapping into and creating starts in the Motherland.
L.M: Your name suggests Nguni descent, and your music sounds heavily influenced by South African music trends. Tell us about your typical music creation process, the influences and inspirations.
Yes, I am Valerie Menyiwe Sibanda. My Middle name means “invited/ called” and it’s a Nguni name that I took from my “Koko” (Paternal Great Grand Mother) – Menyiwe Ncube. My mum is a Shangaan woman and my dad is Mixed Sotho and Northern Ndebele heritage. So as I mentioned before I identify so much with Nguni Culture. I was influenced heavily by Busi Mhlongo. Her voice really mesmerized me. But also the sounds of Oliver Mtukudzi were so beautiful to me. Then Icons like Lebo Mathosa and Boom Shaka as a duo – these pioneers were just so daring!! I’m lucky to have influences and inspiration from people from the same part of the world I come from. That means a lot for a young girl; it makes everything possible. Overseas my main influences were the sexy Donna Summers, the powerhouse Whitney Houston and the Legend – Bob Marley to name a few.
L.M: What are your long term goals now that your brand is becoming more visible?
My long term goals are to impact change. I want to get involved with Business more, acting and I want to be a positive role model and Ambassador for the Zim Brand. I can only hope that the gatekeepers of our country can see the opportunity to partner with young and innovative voices and creatives like myself in order to build a better Zimbabwe!
L.M: Zim Achievers Award, tell us if and how that recognition assisted your music career.
I can confidently say I am Zimbabwe Achievers Awards, “People’s Choice Winner of 2021”! Thank you to everyone who voted for me, it was such a moment to be recognised by my own country. I was in a room with dignitaries and Zimbabweans who have achieved the most amazing things in the Diaspora and to know these are my peers in terms of some of the people achieving excellency- that means a lot! I believe it’s time for us as Zimbabweans to partner with each other as I alluded to earlier. I know this first Award win, only opens doors. There are no limitations to what I can achieve on the global stage.
L.M: Any new projects in the pipeline? Album? EP
We’re working. I’m very busy at the moment. My music video for my latest single Mali will be coming out very soon – so please keep an eye out! Also there is a current Tik Tok challenge going on #MaliChallenge make sure you’re joining in whether you’re dancing, working out, cooking, travelling please join in with my song Mali featuring Unlimited Soul and tag me! Let us have fun. My music is also available on all Digital platforms.