In this week’s Weekend Turn Up, we have some soul-stirring smooth R&B jams heading your way as we spend some time with South African born singer-songwriter, Gemma Fassie. We got the opportunity to discuss her debut album After Hours, her signing to Retro Records, the challenges that come with being a woman in the music industry, and whether there’s more to her ‘Fassie’ surname.
How did your background help ignite your passion for music?
I grew up in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town. I would attribute my interest in becoming a singer to the areas that I grew up in. From the age of six, I can remember being asked to sing at local fashion shows. I come from a very musical family. There’s always been exposure to different music genres and styles, which helped to ignite my passion for music and to shape my sound from Jazz to R&B, and even Hip Hop.
What inspired you while you were growing up?
My brother has been a massive inspiration to me growing up and I will always look up to him. We grew up in the hood, and he used his passion for music to help him break free from the area we were living in. He worked every day to understand music theory and this put him in a position where he got the opportunity to study music at university level. To be able to look at him, see all the places around the world where his music has taken him, and to know that we come from the same household is always very inspiring to me.
How has your journey with Retro Records been?
When I dropped my EP, After Hours, it consisted of just three songs. I felt very confused with what I had to do after the release. I had beats but nothing came out of me, I felt blocked. One day my friend invited me to a boot camp where I performed and as a result, got exposed to Retro Records, which took an interest in me. We had a connection from the start and it’s really felt as if the people from the label genuinely care about me and the music I create.
Tell us a bit more about the name ‘Fassie’.
The question that I always get asked a lot would be, “Are you related to Brenda Fassie?” The answer is actually, “Yes, I am.” She is an aunt of mine. Unfortunately, I never really got the opportunity to meet her as she’d already passed away when I was only about five or six years old. I remember seeing my Dad on TV with her but it only really clicked with me in the past year since I’ve started being involved in the music industry. One of my close friends told me to change my name to ‘Gemma Fassie’ because it would gain more traction, and that it could be my ‘Sasha Fierce’ moment by stepping into this new persona and making it my own.
Has there been any challenges being in the industry as a female artist?
Some of the challenges that I’ve faced as a female artist in the industry has to do with trying to make males understand that this industry is saturated with a majority of males. One thing which I’ve made clear from the start is that I’m just here to create music and nothing else.
Do you have any specific goals for 2021?
One of my main goals this year is to explore ‘Gemma Fassie’ and stepping into who I am as an artist. It’s important for me to find my place within the industry. Another goal is to release a new tape with Retro Records. And lastly, I would love to perform on a massive stage in the near future.
With our weekly Weekend Turn Up feature, in collaboration with adidas Originals, we provide South African musicians and artists with a platform to share their stories.