Written by Calla Camero
Photography by Jonathan Ferreira
Johannesburg, South Africa. When Angela Weickl and I finally connect on a call together after 30 minutes of picking up, dropped calls, and a few back and forth “I’m having connectivity issues!” emails, we realize that we have something in common straightaway: we’re both hungover. Angela is in South Africa, so she’s had a few hours ahead of me to sweat it out at the gym. I, on the other hand, am in pretty rough shape. But it only takes moments for my body to trick itself into recovery, once I begin talking to Angela and feed off her confident energy that emanates from her speaking to me through the phone, even though were thousands of miles apart.
We delve right into her life. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Angela grew up certain she would become a Marine Biologist. But at 18, when in a twisted turn of fate, she found herself at a sound college studying music instead, she gave up dolphins and whales and fell in love with the music industry. In the years to follow, Angela found herself working in just about every aspect of the music industry that she could- sound engineering, at an event hiring company for music festivals, she managed a live venue and nightclub, hosted a radio show, and all the while DJing on the side. Angela took what the universe presented to her at 18, and perfected her craft, learning everything that she could about music.
This deep-seated understanding of music, and the culture and community that surrounds it, was exactly what Andreea Magdalina, Founder & Director of shesaid.so, was looking for in the next head of the South African division of shesaid.so- a nonprofit, curated network of women with active roles in the music industry, set out to create an environment that supports collaboration, creativity and positive values.
What's the music scene like in South Africa? How has it evolved from when you first started working in music?
The music industry trends in undulating waves where for brief periods of time either live music is in favour or electronic music is more popular.
When I first entered the industry my life and work revolved around bands, and at the time the live music scene was thriving. I was a live sound engineer and had the opportunity to engineer for a lot of the artists whom I had spent my teen years listening to on the radio or via local mix CD compilations. That was a wild experience for me. A few years into the game I discovered DJ culture when I was managing a club in Cape Town. That was also the period in which I met producers who were performing their music live, and sparked my interest in South African electronic music. Around this time I started teaching myself how to DJ. This was between 2003 and 2006.
The one defining characteristic of that time was the passionate investment artists made in themselves and in their audience. During this period social media was not a tool being utilized to market your brand, you were dropping flyers on cars and pasting posters all over town. You were flogging merchandise at every show. Your fans were queuing outside the venue before the door opened because there were no pre-sale tickets and they needed to guarantee their spot in the club.
From my teens until around 2012 we still had rockstar-level bands in SA. We'd hitchhike to shows at the club I would one day end up managing. We would follow bands around the country. Sold out shows were the norm. But while we were all investing in the legends, the younger generation of artists were struggling to find venues to play or opportunities to make an income to continue pursuing their music dreams. This led to a massive slump in the live music scene, which led to a few institutions closing their doors - venues and festivals. This downturn led to the resurgence of DJ culture and electronic music became the new darling again. The difference this time round was that we were being introduced to kids who has spent their teens in their bedrooms creating weird magic and were now being let loose into the world.
In 2018, I feel like we are experiencing more of a balance than I have witnessed in the last decade. Electronic music is now live performance. Live bands are embracing the punk DIY morale that will guarantee them longevity. Niche genres and subcultures from around the country are thriving, pushing their unique sounds to the foreground. The culture of collaboration and upliftment is at an unprecedented level, with some of the most exciting young artists constantly featuring on each other's work and playing shows together. I feel a new energy that is no longer about scene rivalry but about congruent goals.
Do you feel like there’s a lot of up-and-coming artists, coming out of South Africa?
If you don’t understand the need for there to be as many artists as possible, then you might think it’s a lot, but I think that the only way that we are going to be competitive on a global spectrum, is if every new artist gets their fair chance to thrive, because they’re going to be thrown into an even bigger pool. If we’re only offering 5 options for something that goes into 5,000. It would kinda be better if we have like 15-20 or 50 options that gets thrown into the pool of 5,000 competing. It ups their chances of getting noticed.
And also as long as you’re not pushing artists for the sake of being local, but understanding that they are creating a quality product and the music is good and the artistry is good, and you can be honest about that then it doesn’t really matter how many there are. If we have all of the great artists we should be pushing all of them.
Can you tell me about shesaid.so?
shesaid.so is a curated network of women with active roles in the music industry. The vision of the network is to create an environment that supports collaboration, creativity and positive value. The global network was established in 2014 and has grown rapidly over the past 4 years, with divisions in most of major cities. The brand hosts workshops, meetups, collaborates with festivals and events, hosts radio shows etc all with aim of creating awareness and promoting diversity and equality for women in the music industry.
How did the South African division of shesaid.so begin?
The SA division of shesaid.so was started by another member who then approached me around October 2017 and asked if I would want to take over the responsibility. At this point I had been a member of the global network for about 1 year. Once the transition was approved I had to define what our goals would be and create a plan around how we will achieve them.
This network is based on individuals volunteering their time which means we grow together at the pace that works for us as a unit. We are in our infancy but I know we will achieve great things long term.
When you took over the division, what was your goal for yourself and for the organization?
The thing that Andrea says, which is great, as the global leader, she can’t dictate what the needs are of the regions that get their division, because she’s not from that region. So as long as you stick to the original ideas and the ethos of shesaid.so, you are welcome to interpret that and use that to suit the needs of your region.
South Africa is still a developing country, it will be for a very very long time, we are by no means anywhere near to being a first world country, a huge thing that we need in this country is mentorship and supporting underprivileged people and just creating supported safe networks, so I put a lot of focus on that.
And then I also said to her, something that’s important to me is that firstly, this is not just going to be a network for women only because in this country that’s quite divisive. I wanted to include femme and gender nonconforming individuals as well, because they make up a huge part of the industry that we work in, and are as segregated and as oppressed as women are. And then because we’re not such a big country, it’s better for all of us to band together. And she was super supportive of that which is great. I was like, I can’t really be here and only push their agenda for women because our paths cross too much and our struggles are too similar to not be more inclusive.
And then I asked to make it across all creative industries. So film, photography, design, and all of that. Because they interlink so deeply in this country. Photographers are also DOP’s for music videos and designers are dressing artists, and that kind of stuff. And it doesn’t feel right to go, okay, I’m just here to offer support if you work in the music industry, but you over there photographer, I’m not going to help you because you’re not as important. It just didn’t feel right.
Our industry will only grow at the pace that it needs to when everyone is given a fair chance.
Why is shesaid.so, so important? Not only just for female, femme, and gender nonconforming persons within various creative industries, but for the world?
It’s important to know that you're not alone. That the daily struggles you experience in your work or part of your career is relatable to your peers. And that together we can overcome anything, affect change and grow together to nurture a better future. Our unity will help rectify the imbalance we experience globally, which will contribute to normalizing the inclusion of women, femme and GNC individuals rather than as a novelty or token act.
How has shesaid.so affected your life, personally?
I always knew that the fight I have inside me would find its place of worth. Over the last 8 months of building the network and hosting workshops I have met people who have stories I cannot imagine living, but I learned from them. I have been asked questions I have never had to answer before, and found answers within myself that I didn't know I had. I have experienced gratitude on a level I still don't believe I deserve, because this work is not about me. But I am motivated to keep pushing, breaking boundaries and fighting for what we need so we can create opportunities for ourselves and future generations.
What’s next for shesaid.so?
I’m very vocal on social media about pretty much everything that’s an issue that I have an opinion on. Where I like to add perspective of how an issue has affected me in my life, in order to have the opinion that I have. And what that has resulted in, is there’s a lot of people who have come to me when they’re having issues with people harassing them and having bad experiences in the industry. As women, everyone needs that. Obviously, there’s a massive global movement, like #MeToo, where women are starting to collect their stories and look for support and that sort of thing. You know, whether it’s toxic male artists who behave in a certain way, and you are still expecting to have a safe club space even though you know that the headliner is a known abuser. But also how do we let people know that we know that this person behaves this way, without legal implications for us, like defamation of character because we don’t have enough proof. You know, what is the legal recourse?
So based on that, I’m currently working on a campaign called shesaid.no, which is me building a network outside of the shesaid.so network, that is made up of counselors and lawyers and all of those kind of resources. Then shesaid.so, with this campaign, is going to act as the administrative middle man for helping people get the resources that they need. If someone contacts us and goes, ‘I need help. I need to find a lawyer.’ I’ll be like, ‘I have A, B, and C available.’ I’ll contact them and ask who can take on this case? And then we kind of link them.
The biggest thing, again, it’s about resources. When you’re in you're most vulnerable state, you’re very closed off from outside perspective. Which means that you really don’t know who to ask for help, or where to go. The last thing you want to do is go on Google trying to find someone and then like, cold calling people to ask for help to get out of something like this.
So I want to just close that gap and build a strong network of these resources.
What is your long term goal for shesaid.so?
The goal that I have now is for the network to be a really effective resource for the women in the industry, and to have a strong standing within the different industries to where we can be opinion leaders and be able to have a say in really important things. So establish the brand to be trusted and to be effective. If you don’t really want to exist where, in a few months time, you’re just a watered down version of something that could’ve been amazing because no one took it seriously enough. You never want to get everyone excited and then it’s bad and then it be really disappointing because someone lost interest.
Just be effective. I think that’s what anyone, who’s trying to achieve some sort of change, you just need to know that you’re absolutely making a difference. That’s the big picture right now is just to make a difference.