Backing vocalists' poor pay spurs Chaka Chaka into action
“As a young 20-something, I was in the studio and they needed someone to put a guitar and a saxophone on a track. Themba came and played the guitar and the one I remember very well is the song From Me to You - a guy called Teaspoon came and put a beautiful saxophone on the song and he was paid R150.
“I thought to myself ‘wow, is that it?’ So Yvonne will go on to sell 100000 copies and this guy has no recourse. It was on that day I appreciated these people.”
Chaka Chaka, a world renowned musician and humanitarian, is proud of the work backing vocalists and session musicians do.
“They enhance my talent. They bring out the good in me and how I sound and it is something that has always been at the back of my mind.”
In 2009, she put up a proposal and took it to various potential sponsors, but no one wanted to help with funds.
“In 2013 I went to Tshwane and Seputla (then mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa) loved the project and in 2015 we had the very first awards.”
The Backing Vocalists and Session Musicians Awards (BVSM) are the brainchild of Chaka Chaka, who through the biannual event is helping to change the fortunes of these often forgotten stars.
“These are the people who the Miriams (Makeba) and Yvonnes would not have made it without. It is good to have a front liner but the people at the back will always be there and they add so much to the music. Most of these musicians take their children to school with the money they get from going to a session and nothing else. So why don’t we do something for them to show them we appreciate them?”
Chaka Chaka said awards like these were important because not everyone could be a Zahara or a Brenda (Fassie) but they were stars in their own right.
“This time we are giving prize money of R25000, R5000 to take instantly and the rest will be put in an investment for them. No one has ever done that. I want to encourage them to save some of the extra money they earn (at sessions) and add it to the investment.”
This year’s awards will take place at the Soweto Theatre on March 15.