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Anjii Greenland - feeling wonderful
Zanele Manhenga,
September 21, 2009

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Read Inside/Out with Anjii Greenland

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What is it that young artists have, that you didn't have when you were coming up?
The main thing that you guys have that we didn't have is this wealth of knowledge and access to knowledge by way of things like the internet. This has been a big thing for the industry although you wouldn't see it immediately, but it has. When we were growing up what we were exposed to was very much defined by the radio djs. If the radio dj made a song popular that's what the record company would import into the country. And when I was growing up we were a country at war. Listen Listen

How did you start singing?
It started at school, you get called to other schools for their variety concerts and you gain a little bit of social fame within the confines of your community. I just wanted to get up on stage and sing music that I loved.

What music genre did you sing back then?
I have performed in many different genres. I started with a contemporary outfit and we were very much what you would call the gig band. We were funky, cool and we were rocking. Then I went into a heavy rock band environment.

How has your musical journey been?
The musical journey has been interesting. I came back home to Africa and I joined a jazz band. Everybody had been telling me from when I was young, oh you must do jazz, you must do jazz but as a genre it never called me. I think I had to reach a certain emotional maturity because I believe very much that every song is a story and it's your job to tell the story. So if you can't relate then you can't tell the story. I was with a band that comprised musicians like Philbert Marova, Sam Mataure, Brian Paul and Richie Lopez -some of Zimbabwe's top musicians. I have been lucky to work with the some of our best musicians. I mean best in terms of their dedication and love for art.

How has the economy affected your career?
Due to the economic crisis in Zimbabwe I had to start working with a machine. Although the machine is limiting in that it curbs spontaneous creativity it's very liberating. Finally as singer you are not just visually the frontline of the band but you are also are in charge of everything. I learnt a lot about marketing, who I am as a product and who do I appeal to and how do I market myself.

What's your favourite music?
I don't have a favourite music. I think it's impossible as a musician to say that I only love gospel for example. Music is music; you may not agree with lyrical content or you may not like a certain bit but all music has got its place. I have been lucky to perform and work in a variety of genres of music. I have performed for five people at a private party and for 15,000 and people and it's been wonderful. I teach in my workshops, that as a musician, our job is to make sure that the people paying us are going have a good time. We get up on stage to make sure people are having a good time and we put our talent on the line. There should be no difference in the quality of performance for an audience of two, or 20,000. Listen Listen

Are you an established artist?
This is a very interesting question. I prefer the term professional. I prefer it because for 25 years now I have made my living playing music. In that sense I am professional because the thing that pays my bills is music. Now, on the established artist question, it's a funny thing. I came from South Africa on Monday and that bus got me to the border 3 hours late. But just before that on Saturday night I was on stage, the star attraction at a fancy hotel in South Africa.48 hours later I was on the side of the road in Zimbabwe. The trailer of the bus had flipped over and I was sitting on my luggage with my thumb out. I was just another Zimbabwean trying to catch a ride. I am an established artist yes, in the sense that I have done my homework, I have pounded the pavement, and I have paid my dues. I have established myself in terms of reliability, level of execution, my commitment and my attitude. Listen Listen

How do you know you are now established?
You know that you are established when you have done time on the block, when you have built up a network of people, when you have an understanding of how the business works and where you fit in the business.

After 25 years in the industry is it worth it?
Everything worth anything in my life has come to me through music so I would have to say yes. It hasn't brought me a Grammy yet, it hasn't brought me international fame and acclaim but my voice has paid for every plane ticket or bus ticket in and out of this country. My voice has taken me to places like Copenhagen, England, South Africa, Botswana. I have lived all over Zimbabwe and I have paid for it with my voice. It's the ultimate passport of good will. You can sit with strangers and sing them a song, people who can't even speak your language. And you sing them a song that they know and it creates a bond between you. And it's the most wonderful feeling as an artist. Listen Listen

Why is it you don't have an album after 25 years?
When I was emerging I had a fundamental issue with the recording contract I was initially offered and the three subsequent ones I was offered. I didn't have a compelling drive to do my own music. I was quite happy to sing good music and service the community on that level. When I realised that the route to the Grammys, fame and stardom was through a recording contract, I found that was basically unfair. I am in the middle of a project but I don't want to talk too much about it. There might just be a recording coming from Anjii!

What advice would you give to an upcoming artist?
My advice to anybody in any industry is visualize, focus and achieve. You must have a picture of what you want your life to be and what you are trying to achieve. You visualize that thing and it becomes a priority and you put aside the stuff that is not conducive to what you are trying to achieve. Nobody can understand your dream, or drive, or your end gain like you can understand it. So if you are working in a situation with no visualization of what you want to achieve you are never going to get what you are looking for. The other piece of advice I would give is never let anybody else to set your retail value. You must know your value; you must know who you are and you must work constantly to add value to your life and to the lives of those around you. The second you give someone the power to define you then you have lost half the battle. Listen Listen

At such a young age how did you survive in the music industry?
The only reason that I wasn't a casualty of the business is because my first bandleader, Boykie Moore, was an exceptional man and he had already been in the industry a good 15-16 years by then. He knew full well the pit falls that awaited a young girl and he had no intention at all of sacrificing his artists to the business. I would have him on one side and his son on the other side and I would get fast track information as the evening unfolded. I would get it in my ear, don't talk to that guy, don't go there they are doing drugs, don't drink that. And my father instilled in me a sense of pride as a young woman so it was very difficult for any predatory individuals to make head way because I was confident.

What would you change in the industry given the chance?
The thing that I wanted to change and was committed to changing from the very first recording contract I turned down was the violation of the rights of artists. Many of those entry-level contracts are a blatant violation of people's human and commercial rights. Some of the biggest names in the industry have had serious battles with their recording companies for this very reason. I would like to see some legislation that protects the rights of female artists in as far as things like maternity leave are concerned. I think we need to go back to the basics. We have these young women in our bands, we rely on them just like in any other business and they get pregnant and they have kids and they don't have a job to come back to because who wants a wife and a mother in their band?

Where to now? What's the future like?
The future is bright. A couple of years ago I had a life changing experience and I decided after that, that I needed to do more travelling and I needed to move out of my comfort zone and hit the pavement again. So the next 24 months are going to see a lot of travel for Anjii in sub Saharan Africa. And most definitely there is a recording plan. Where from here? I am going forward!

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