Zimbabwean house vocalist and songwriter, Jackie Queens is unapologetically disrupting the status quo of women’s role in the music industry.
We spoke Queens about all things music and claiming her rightful space in the music industry ahead of her Beyond The Sound series episode, airing on Channel O (DSTV 320), March 21 at 21:00 CAT.
Queens undeniable presence and command in both artistry and business has her firmly placed as the doyen of African female voices in electronica and the house music scene.
Queens describes her sound as Afro-house music but refuses to be boxed and have a set parameter about the music she makes. “House is what my heart gravitated towards, it’s a genre I can express myself to the fullest. House music has a healing component to it, can dance, house music can take you places and really elevate yourself from whatever you’re going,” she said.
“When I was a teenager I listened to a lot of R&B and lots of South African music that filtered through to Zimbabwe, that’s where my love for house music started. My love for vocals, harmony, music with meaning. Grew up listening to local music too, it helped be open-minded with what I can explore sonically,” Queens said nostalgically.
The talented songstress started #WomenOfHouse, to correct the stereotypical narrative of women in music. “It started with myself where I was doing work but not being acknowledged and I was being marginalised. On the business side of it, house vocalists are sometimes taken for a ride and not taken seriously especially featuring on a song,” she said.
“I would love to go to house music events and see more women. #WomenOfHouse has grown into a community, women connecting with each other. We need to seriously leverage off each others capital to help each other and build our visibility instead of operating in silos,” Queens added.
Queens started her own record label after she grew tired of always being at the mercy of the record labels; when you get royalties, how they will promote your music and when. “Starting the label was about empowering myself, know how to negotiate terms, decipher contracts, create music whenever I wanted to. It’s important that I own whatever I create. License it, release it. At every step of the way, I own my music. Also it’s an opportunity for me to create spaces and platforms for other women because we are excluded from the dance music scene, which effects your income as a vocalist,” she said.
Although Queens has achieved a lot in her career and overcome many barriers, she notes that her greatest challenge is building a sustainable and good network of people and still having to prove herself. “People don’t take you seriously, like you don’t know your stuff, as a feature artist they believe there are things you shouldn’t be able to demand and dealing with harassment. There are a lot of late nights but they are worth it. I always ask myself what is the priority now, to stay sane,” she said.
Queens advises upcoming artists, especially women to stick to their agenda and keeping your eye trained on what you want to achieve. “Don’t be preoccupied by what other people are not doing or should be doing. Educate yourself, the more you know the better you can protect yourself and make better decisions – become an expert. Know what you’re signing, what you’re getting yourself into. Treat yourself as a business, with care. Find people who think the way you do. And network network network!” she concluded.