PORTRAYAL OF WOMEN IN MUSIC
By: Khethukuthula Lembethe
Music was an instrument that many used to escape their sad and complicated reality. It was used mainly for entertainment and enjoyment or rather to give praise or voice out opinion. For some, it was the only way they could express themselves.
JournalismIziko had a chat with musicians Lungelo Ngcobo and Mthokozisi “MT” Mkhathini about the portrayal of women in music where both musicians shared their enlightening as well as interesting thoughts about the matter.
Lungelo Ngcobo is a musician, pianist and organist as well as music student at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal. He has worked closely with jazz artists such as Swazi Dlamini and gospel group Vuka Africa.
MT is a hip hop entertainer, part of the hip hop group Dream Team, and was one of the contestants on MTV Base VJ search in 2012.
There are eras in our history that forced people to use music to escape to an unknown world that they created in their own minds because they couldn’t change or control what was happening around them.
These eras include that of slavery, apartheid, cold wars, genocides and dictatorship. Musicians also used this platform to protest and express their views about the rulers. Artists such as Hugh Masikela, Leta Mbuli, Miriam Makeba and Sipho Mabuza just to name a few, became the voice of the people. Some turned to religion for strength, and gospel music was popular.
Now, in the new generation and society, things have taken a rather interesting twist. Artists of particular genres are using egos and girls as a marketing strategy- sexy women in videos, lyrics to mainly make them seem like mere objects, and we even see half naked women on music album covers. Matthew Alexandra, a student, feels that women are capable of being more than just video girls- they can make it big in the industry.
“With South African music, the women are portrayed in different ways according to genre,” Ngcobo said as he continued to explain.
“You’ll find dignity and class in classical and jazz.”
The genre itself dictates the message and the venues where these two types of music are found, would also contribute to the aesthetics of the music.
MT feels that women play a huge role in gospel music as vocalists contradictory to how they are portrayed in the bible. “The bible puts men above women,” said MT. Ngcobo agrees with him, “Gospel music portrays women in an emotional and sensitive manner; they show emotion to the music they sing which I personally think is a good thing.
“Pop is similar to gospel in a sense,” Ngcobo added. “The women in pop show emotions and it seems the men are dominating and above the female artists.”
Even when some artists of today write to express themselves or protest about the government, it is done in a way that shows lack of respect. Lyrics sometimes just degrade women and make them feel less than what they really are. They hardly encourage women to better themselves, but encourage them to be fake and to look more like celebrities.
According to Ngcobo, Hip hop, house and kwaito all portray women as women who just don’t want to be left behind.
” …always revealing and always seductive. It seems as if, if it doesn’t have a sexy girl on it, it won’t sell,” Ngcobo explains.
Women want to feel special, loved cherished, honoured and most of all they want to be acknowledged for who they really are and what they are capable of.
“In kwaito you have for example Chomie and Mshoza who at first looked like girls who tagged along or a groupie but now have careers of their own in this male-dominated kwaito industry,” states MT.
“It would actually be nice to see a hip hop or kwaito music video that has women that are fully clothed, a music video that talks about a woman’s inner beauty and has nothing to do with how large her buttocks are or how round her breasts are,” says Nompilo Mncube, a music and journalist. “I would appreciate hip hop and kwaito lyrics that spoke about “faith” and respect, and women taking up leads for example the lead singer from Freshly Ground, Lira, Zonke,” she adds.
The youth need more young artists whom they can relate to and who can encourage them in being positive role players in society. And, women themselves need to take a stand and show the world how they want to be treated.