Zaki Ibrahim - Artist
Where were you at in your music career when you had your first child?
I had just been nominated for a South African Music award (SAMA) and shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize with my first, full-length Album. I was travelling with music pretty frequently with and had just signed with management in Germany. Being especially nomadic at the time, I was mainly performing between Toronto and Johannesburg, South Africa but didn’t have an actual home address. Having a child at that time, was a conscious decision that I was wildly sure about. During that period I had an increased and consistent feeling of flow and creativity. It may have seemed counter-intuitive to choose such a curious time in my career but it was loud and clear to me. I felt safe in my skin, strong(-willed), confident and capable of navigating whatever challenges came (our) way.
Was there much discussion about how that life choice would affect your career within the music/entertainment industry?
I don’t believe I was open to extensive discussion around my choice, prior to conceiving, however when the reality hit, at about 4 months pregnant, I felt nervous when it was time to break the news to my global team. The nervousness didn’t last, as most seemed to be thrilled and supportive. I was able to tour all the way through most of my pregnancy and probably had more energy than I ever did. I was back doing shows, pretty soon after birthing, when my son was about 4 months old. I didn’t know exactly what to expect in the way of energy and mobility, but it was an adventure I welcomed and decided to just roll with… quite literally.
As a working parent in the music industry, what are some of the biggest challenges you are facing?
Now that Za’ir is in school and unable to be part of the crew, my time away from home is never more than a week or two. My focus has shifted to creating a flow with him, which is still directly related to my creative output and collaboration. The challenge I most face in creating this flow is that I often feel the burnout at both ends of the candle. This affects everything, to the point where I’ll find myself on the edge of leaving music, (or at least the industry of it), behind, every other day. This has created longer periods of pause in my output and, at times, an uphill battle to keep momentum. I find that leaning into self care, spirituality and overall well-being awareness has been the new priority, especially since Covid hit, replacing the rat race and online anxiety around staying relevant. Intuitively, I feel this is more a blessing than a challenge. This is not to say that it’s easy, by any means. Going inward, paying attention and honouring my self care and energetic capacity has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Mothering my child is probably the easiest and certainly, the most rewarding part.
What is one small change within the industry that could make a positive impact for working parents?
Perhaps representation of more mothers in management, booking agencies and labels. I believe this is what has saved my career, since being a mom. I’ve been extremely lucky in this regard, however I see far too many musician mothers in situations that are far less empathetic to what this reality entails. I’ve seen clearly how a solid crew of mothers, with no-bullshit placating and a radically forward thinking crew gunning for you, can be fiercely powerful.
How do you find support and community with other working parents in or out of the music industry?
There are periods where I, personally, have isolated myself but I’ve been blessed and always seem to have strong support close by. It may be a matter of coming out of my post-pandemic, post traumatic bubble, reconnecting, socializing, collaborating… not just in music but in the sharing of information, resources and wisdom. There is an incredible group of women artists called Mother Artist Society, founded by my dear friend and fellow musician, Janisa Weeks. The group is connected, mainly through whatsapp and email, sharing information such funding resources, artist grants, career advancement, tax and business advice, advice, career advancement courses, sharing parenting tips, wellness and so much more. Reaching out and speaking to other parents that are outside the music community is also very important, I feel. Socializing with only artists or industry folks can feel too separate and I don’t like my child to feel separated from friends at school or in the neighbourhood because of the differences in lifestyle.
Can you shout out another music mama doing great things?
I can shout out so many, however, I want to give huge respect to Sate. She’s a powerhouse and a (largely unsung), Canadian rock legend. She has blazed a trail as a mother, black woman in a very white washed genre. In the twenty years I’ve been lucky enough to know her, she has been a humble and selfless community leader. She’s been generous with not only her music but, continually shares with her wisdom, fitness training, providing safe space, positive energy and is just a just a beautiful soul. She’s not only remained steadfast to her own creative growth and expression, but she’s always shown up genuinely as a strong example of an artist, musician mother and friend to me and many others.
Learn more about Zaki Ibrahim HERE.