Zan (pronounced “Zen”) is something beyond time, space and this world. She’s comfortable with her sexuality as a bisexual female. Zan is who she is, and at the same time who she wants to be, regardless of what people say or think. She dresses the way she feels, like her fashion icon Rihanna and Erykah Badu. Growing up she had severe depression after losing her grandmother who was her best friend and the only person who understood her condition in the family, which was being diagnosed with ADHD.
Zan went dark after her grandma’s passing and she started hurting herself by taking pills to ease the pain. She couldn’t understand nor know why she felt it but when she sang she felt free, when she listened to music she was lifted. She was in and out of hospitals for years until one day her brother asked her to accompany him to the studio. She went, and when they needed a hook, they asked her. She sang only for the artist and his manager before being recorded, as a way of testing her singing skills.
Zan didn’t believe in herself but when she started singing the whole room went insane. From that day she knew she had to pursue a career in music, so she made the decision to stop hurting herself and to never land in a hospital again because of self-harm. “Rumble On Venus” is her upcoming EP, and she plans on re-releasing her single “Last Time”, on all digital platforms soon as it was only released on Audiomack.
Can you tell us a little bit about where you come from and how you got started making music?
Zan: Well I’m originally from Durban South Africa I moved to Richard’s Bay where I was first introduced to upcoming artists and I instantly fell in love with music. I’ve always been shy about my vocals but I’ve been singing since the 4th grade. I started recording in 2019 when I moved to Ladysmith which is funny because I’ve always been the shy girl who sings for her family only but on another auspicious day my brother had to record a song. So I accompanied him and when we got to the studio we found another artist recording and he asked if I could sing for him. On that day I had to place my shy nature aside, so I did and he ended up deciding to put me on the track and that was my first time ever recording a song.
Have you had formal training or are you self-taught?
Zan: No I’ve never had any sort of training or education for music. I’m just a normal human being who was blessed with a majestic voice and musical skill.
Who were your first and strongest musical influences that you can remember?
Zan: Just to name a few! It’s Bryson Tiller, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Snoh Aalegra and Amy Winehouse.
What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners?
Zan: My sound is raw it’s just my vocals and there’s nothing added for example auto tune. I want my supporters to listen to my songs and relate and feel. As I write my music for the broken! You know, music that comes from the heart and soul. I write my stories and my truth and I’d love for my supporters to remember this whenever their listening to Zan. As she makes music for the soul! And we all know that a body is nothing without a soul! Therefore I take care of my supporters’ soul.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and music maker, and the transition towards your own style?
Zan: It was hard! I was often told I sound like “Tems” so I had to stop listening to her completely which is a shame because I love her music. I really had to practice a lot and I’m still practicing and working on producing, mastering my own sound and music. As a “Trap Soul” artist I’m transcending to what seems to be my full potential. The more I listen to my music and believe in myself, the more I feel the need to improve the first song which was just a taste of what I can do. If people think that’s all Zan’s got then they are in for a surprise. I’ve also developed an alter ego called “Astro Zanny” and Astro traps hard! My growth is visible to those around me and I’m only getting better and better! And maybe soon I might expose Astro.
What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, and/or social vehicles – and do you affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative and entertainment?
Zan: For me music is a spiritual healing! The history behind music is that “Hurrian Hymn No. 6” is considered the world’s earliest melody, but the oldest musical composition to have survived in its entirety is a first century A.D. Greek tune known as the “Seikilos Epitaph.” The song was found engraved on an ancient marble column used to mark a woman’s gravesite in Turkey. These songs came from a place of duress. For me music is therapeutic, it’s sort of like that feeling that you get when you’re sad, happy or just in a content moon, so music feels like the cherry on top of your day. Music has saved lives. Life without music is really pointless! I fear what the world would have been without music as for me music has been my therapy. I’m not doing this to entertain people or have my whole life watched. I just want to put my soul out there! My stories, my hurt and my happiness. I want people to listen to my songs and get goosebumps, I want them to feel my emotions through my music; and I really can’t see myself doing anything else besides music.
Could you describe your creative processes? How do you most often start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed musical piece? Do you usually start with a beat, a narrative in your head, or a melody?
Zan: I normally start with a short melody in my head and from there I get to the lyrics and they just come to me like an “old soul” has just possessed me because it all comes together so perfectly and it flows and the message is clear. I place emphasis on the flow a lot though as the flow has to be right. I normally write and sing it out loud for my producers and it’s always a debate after that on what sounds better and how the flow should go and sometimes if not all the times how I’m going to back up my vocals. It’s easy for my producers to make beats! I just rhyme the rhythm and it’s a track!
Has your sexuality in anyway been a hindrance or an advantage, in your quest to build a career? And do you think that society and the industry is progressing fast enough in the elimination of sexual discrimination?
Zan: I feel like it’s definitely an issue not a lot of females get recognized in the industry! And it’s sometime very hard for a female to get signed. As I believe that the South African music industry is against females. It doesn’t work in our favor and especially for me as a South African upcoming artists the game is rigged! it’s hard to make it out here as a female artist because most label executives sometimes have secret motives before they can sign you and most labels care about what’s popping during that point and time like trap, rap etc. I understand that every genre of music has its time to shine but labels shouldn’t ignore talented people who can create timeless music for one day wonders.
What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your musical career, or life, so far? And how did you overcome that event?
Zan: Not being able to record when I want and not having the right support system when it comes to my career. My friends have become my family they support me motivate me to do better and work harder! Without them I fear I would’ve given up on music. Music had helped me a hella lot and I overcame depression and anxiety through music. Whenever I felt sad I couldn’t stop thinking about taking my life! I’d just listen to music and write and that would feel like some weight has been removed off my shoulders after I write and sing my emotions. In simple terms music has helped me overcome demons!
On the other hand what would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your life or career so far?
Zan: That’s when I first released my first single and I actually got great reviews about it from people and they genuinely loved it to the point that they wanted me to post it on YouTube too. To actually post a music video for it was insane for me! Like I couldn’t believe that my first ever song was getting so much great reviews! I felt like a future superstar! That was a great moment for me!
With social media having a heavy impact on our lives and the music business in general, how do you handle criticism, haters and/or naysayers in general? Is it something you pay attention to, or simply ignore?
Zan: I simply ignore it because God has given me a gift. Who are they to judge what God has given me? I’m not the type of girl that entertains haters/naysayers. I do me and as long as there are people who are surfing on the Zan Wave! I have no need to entertain the haters. But may God bless them too though mwah!
Putting aside the accolades or criticisms that fans or the media may afford your music or persona, what’s the one thing about you or your music, you think people may overlook or misinterpret most often?
Zan: My sound and persona don’t match and also I don’t want people thinking I’m doing what Summer Walker is doing or trying to copy her style! Because everyone is entitled to their own opinions! So I don’t want people assuming or comparing nor judging me without listening to what I have to offer.
What is idea and inspiration behind your EP “Rumble On Venus”, and is there an overarching theme and message you’re trying to send out via this project?
Zan: My inspiration for this Ep has to be my current relationship and past hurt. I’m such an emotionally sensitive person and I take pain/heartbreak/hurt differently, because basically in this Ep I’m telling my story on how we met, how he screwed me over and how we got back together. Why I decided to name my EP “Rumble On Venus” is because I am a libra and my ruling planet is Venus, so well basically “Rumble” as in Venus is shook! Who did it? Who just arrived on Venus? My heart basically! And the theme is out of this world love! I’m a sci-fi geek, so that’s my theme for this EP. But one day I will let you guys in on Astro Zanny by doing a song even though I don’t normally let her come out. She ain’t wild or anything but she can be a menace!
Which in your opinion are the highlights to watch out for on “Rumble On Venus”, and will your single “Last Time” be included on the EP?
Zan: “Matters Of The Heart” is definitely one to watch out for in my opinion. That song is for the broken hearts and grieving hearts. “Last time” will be included in the Ep as it is a part of my story which I hope my fellow broke souls will understand.
Do you think is it important for fans of your music to understand the real story and message driving each of your songs, or do you think everyone should be free to interpret your songs in their own way?
Zan: Personally I want my supporters to understand the message driving these songs. But my supporters are still free to relate or interpret my songs in their own way.
Do you have a favorite motto, phrase or piece of advice, you try to live or inspire yourself by?
Zan: I live by “success is inevitable” “keep doing what you are doing and keep trying and don’t let anxiety or fear hold you back! Don’t let it keep you from reaching your destiny. Your talent is way enough!”
Studio work and music creation, or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer, and why?
Zan: Definitely! I love being in the studio! I feel most alive and happy when we’re in the studio making hits after hit! It’s honestly the best feeling! I whole heartedly love being in studio. That might just be the place I was born in, who knows! (laughs)
What’s the most exciting part of being an independent music artist for you, and which is the part you like least?
Zan: Well firstly when I make it I want to be able to say that I did it independently with no help from a record label. But given a deal that is fair and lets me own my creative rights I’d consider signing it. But so far the least I can say is that all things are good.
Do you ever collaborate with other artists? And if you could work with any international music star right now, who would that be, and why?
Zan: I do collaborate with other artists. I try to be exposed to various styles of music so I try to be diverse in the game. I would really love to work with “iamddb” well I love her and her music honestly! And I’d love to make a song with her because I know it’d be a hit! Just imagine two baddies on a track, with spectacular voices! I mean really! It’s an absolute double platinum certification. I also love her because she is a bisexual artist and as a bisexual artist myself I feel it would be a big thing for girls who are afraid of coming out and showing that being bisexual is not a crime, shame nor a sin.
What do you find most rewarding about what you do? And do you have a specific vision or goal set in your mind that you would like to achieve in the near future?
Zan: The feeling of finishing a song and listening to it. I really can’t believe that it’s me on it, it’s really surreal. But my goal is to make music, get myself out there and build my fan base. I’d love to get some recognition from one of the labels in America to make it big in the US and try to put Africa and my country South Africa on the map by being the first female South African artist to go global and be Grammy nominated and win it!