Blessed with a phenomenal voice and noted for her captivating vocal improvisations, singer-songwriter Fikile Dladla has a unique ability to touch the heart with her emotional range. She’s using her music to raise consciousness in the youth and ignite positive change.
Influencing social change and raising consciousness through her music is all in a day’s work for the Swati songstress known as Floewe.
At 42, Fikile Dadla – her real name – is unapologetic about her views and loves random encounters with other Swatis, which, she says ignite a fire within her to tell their stories as well as her own.
“Through my music, I want to be the voice that speaks for those that cannot, either silenced or not brave enough to speak or share with the next person. As humans, we want and need to be heard or at least listen to someone or an experience we can all relate to,” she points out.
Inspired by South African music powerhouses such as Simphiwe Dana, Siphokazi, the late Miriam Makeba as well as US singer-songwriter Jill Scott, she possesses significant vocal prowess of her own.
Often described as an Afro-Soul singer, Floewe blends genres, incorporating jazz, and, with her latest album, elements of Urban, RnB and a touch of Latin – all firmly grounded in African beats.
Singing in siSwati, English and a mix of both, she enjoys the versatility of sounds that the different languages bring. While she sings about everyday life, her music offers the listener a lot more.
“Nobody’s perfect. You can never get everything right and we need to accept that, but we don’t have to go through stuff on our own. Even now, when I write songs, I’m still speaking messages of hope to myself!”
With a music career that spans over a decade, she has used the spotlight to address and raise awareness of social issues, in particular, gender-based violence (GBV) and women’s empowerment.
Floewe is both conscious and passionate about her art and states that she wants her songs to be celebrated for the thought-provoking and inspirational messages she creates.
“My role as an artist has always been to make a difference through my music, not only to make people dance and be happy, but to bring about change in people’s lives and the world at large,” she says.
She feels that women need more representation, need to tell their own stories and be non-apologetic about it.
“We go through a lot and our voices are not heard enough, and half the time we are afraid to speak about how we are subjected to a lot of things but we decide to be silent about them.”
She addressed gender-based violence in her first album, asking herself what would become of a society that allowed gender-based violence to continue. Yet, there is always hope in her music.
“Gender-based violence spoke to me as a woman because we have always been regarded as weaker. Yet, if you look at women today – in the corporate sector, in all these male-dominated industries – we thrive, we shine. I feel the coin has flipped and I feel that we need to celebrate this more, through our music. That’s what encourages me and inspires me to sing.”
She admits that the outbreak of the COVID 19 pandemic coupled with the current political climate in Eswatini and the rise in GBV cases in the kingdom has strained her capacity to deliver positive messages over the past two years.
“It became a mental battle. Learning to accept the things I cannot change and then get to survival mode. The realization of not making a sustainable income through my talent as a performer. It was a mental struggle I have to overcome every day. When the pandemic started, there were job losses hence the rise of domestic violence. It’s still on the rise, I applaud the Eswatini Action Group against Abuse (SWAGAA) for reaching out to support the women in the rural areas with the little resources they have,” she says.
SWAGAA is a non-governmental organization that has been working for almost 30 years to end gender-based violence (GBV), sexual abuse and human trafficking in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland).
Floewe opines that we are all ‘works in progress and her music not only raises awareness but is also therapeutic.
“We have overcome so much, we’ve lost loved ones in the process, so we need that pep talk once in a while,” she adds.
With three albums to her name – ‘Be My Friend’, ‘Mayibuye’, and more recently, ‘Colours of You’ – her latest album focuses on her personal and spiritual journey, her thoughts and her prayers.
Tracks include ‘Rise’ – an open letter to God, ‘Silver And Gold’ – a love song not necessarily to a lover but anyone that you express love to, ‘Ungakhali (Don’t Cry), a song of courage and hope for a better tomorrow, and ‘Umculo’ (Song) – which is a dedication to music.
“This album was prompted by the many questions I have about the society we have become. The demoralized values, the moral degeneration, the rape, the abuse. We do not feel safe as women anymore. We bear a heavy load in our existence. Who do we go to to be heard? These are songs I wrote out of frustration, as a woman who experienced a failed rape attempt at the age of 6 and the perpetrators are almost always people you know and trust in your community. As a mother, I tend to think a lot about the safety of our children at large,” she states.
She intends to be the change she wants to see by bringing hope to a world that has lost all hope. She credits her grandmother – a staunch Christian with strong family values and well-known for being a disciplinarian – for her solid upbringing.
She recalls a childhood filled with love and laughter, with children from the neighbourhood playing in their yard. She also remembers that her grandmother took the phrase ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ seriously – and never spared the rod.
Ranked among the kingdom of Eswatini’s very best musicians, Floewe’s musical journey began when she started composing and writing music at the age of 15. She credits participation in the school choir with sparking the career which would see her perform on stages far and wide. Her choral experience enabled her to train as a soloist which eventually earned her the 1995 Soloist of The Year award at Evelyn Baring High school.
That sparked something in her, she says. The moment she was announced as the winner, she realized it would be possible to make a career out of music. That she has done, and more.
Now she wants to make sure that her listeners feel as upbeat about the future as she does.
By:Nokukhanya Musi – Aimienoho/ Bird/ Eswatini.