Upcoming reggae musician, Melinda Bepura (23) has revealed how gifted young female musicians, who could easily become household names, continue to explore other pursuits in life, as the music industry has not been kind to women.
BY SHADRECK MARIRIMBA
She told NewsDay Weekender in a wide-ranging interview that many male music producers and artistes often demanded sexual favours from their female counterparts to help buoy their music career.
Mel Bee — as Bepura is known in music circles — said being a female artiste was not a walk in the park.
“Most men find it difficult to accept that you are more talented than them. I believe there are more talented female artistes out there, but they afraid to come out because they are told otherwise,” she said.
“The music industry in Zimbabwe is dominated by men, so you get a lot of men wanting to abuse you in all kinds of ways.”
Mel Bee said the use of drugs was prevalent in the industry and confessed that she also waded in the murky world of drugs when she was still in high school.
“I was a drug addict from the time I was in Form One. I would bake weed cake, cocaine muffins and I became a favourite to many guys, who were drug peddlers,” she said, adding she was happy that she managed to break the addiction and has since straightened her life.
This was after her parents intervened following their discovery she was abusing drugs. They transferred her from a top girls’ school in Harare to a mission school in Mashonaland Central.
“At mission school, my life changed dramatically and I became a Christian. God took control of my life and my singing talent suddenly blossomed,” she said.
“I became a praise and worship leader at the school and from there, I have never looked back.”
Mel Bee, however, expressed concern that many local dancehall artistes were into drug abuse, which she said was bad, as they were regarded as role models by many youths.
The singer — who has often been mistaken for an urban groover — said the urban grooves genre was silenced by dancehall because it did not speak to the reality of life in the high density suburbs where the majority of Zimbabweans reside.
“Most urban grooves artistes lacked vision. Their music was not telling the real challenges the ghetto youths were facing. They were ‘salads’ who represented up-town type of life. Zimdancehall is real and most of those guys are inspired by what they see and do in their everyday lives,” she said.
A producer at Proskan Studio, Prosper Kandemiri, who has worked with many local and international artistes, admitted that some unscrupulous producers overstepped the bounds of professionalism.
“It’s true some producers ask for too much from young upcoming female artistes. I know colleagues in the industry known for doing such things, which tarnish the profession,” he said.
Mel Bee also bemoaned lack of financial support in the music industry.
“One has to be strong to rise to the top. Music is not taken seriously in Zimbabwe compared to other countries. People should understand that we are shaping the future of the nation through music, hence we need support,” she said.
The youthful singer, who has done backing vocals for some of the country’s top acts such as Jah Prayzah, Roki, Kudzai Sevenzo, Shinsoman, Tocky Vibes, Tanga Wekwa Sando and ZimPraise, said her dream was to own a record label in the future.
In 2009, she released an album titled Colour of Praise with Howard Mission High School choir.
In February 2015 she released another album titled Nyota, which carried seven tracks. This was followed by another one, Simbi Yedenga, in the same year.
Mel Bee, who plays the accoustic guitar, said her fans should expect new collaboration songs soon.