About a year ago I saw her on Be Talent stage in Fumba Town Zanzibar. She was among 88 participants who were registered in the first edition of Be Talent competition.
Meet Aisha Bakary, 23, a radio presenter, master of ceremony (MC) as well as the first female DJ in Zanzibar with her stage name Hijab DJ.
Her DJ career has catapulted her to win the 2019 Woman of the Year Award organized by Women Future with the aim of promoting women achievements.
Available information from www.womenfuture.org shows that, their vision is to make the prize widely known in Zanzibar as an important annual event with the objective of highlighting female role models in Zanzibar and inspire other women to become entrepreneurs, to start businesses, to become leaders, or to lead ways in fields mostly dominated by men.
On the Be Talent competition day, she showed her talent as a radio presenter. Her voice was sharp, she pronounced well the words and she made a good flow of news. From 88 participants, 20 semi-finalists and 10 final participants she was announced as the second winner of Be Talent competition in 2019.
Sharing her career life with Woman she says, behind her stage name, there is a message she is carrying to her Muslim community in connection to the work she does and her being a female DJ in a Muslim community.
Hijab is defined as a head covering worn in public by some Muslim women. With Aisha she does most of her work in the creative industry wearing the Hijab.
She says, she wants her community to understand that there is nothing wrong with a woman being in the entertainment industry especially in music as majority consider being in music as being an evil person.
In 2012, she completed her Secondary education at Kidongo Chekundu Secondary School and then joined Zanzibar University in 2014 for her Certificate course in Information Technology and a Diploma in Computer Science in 2015-2017.
“Soon after I completed my diploma I decided to look for job as the support from my family was not enough following the death of my father who was the sole provider. So I had to stop with my Diploma and start looking for jobs,” says Aisha.
She says, in February 2017 she started her first job at different Radio and TV stations but there were no payments given at a fixed time. And sometimes she was never paid.
“I worked for four different radio and TV stations but I was never paid enough money to sustain me and my family. I only ended up getting work experience. This killed my zeal to work as my mother was also against my job choice due to our religious background,” says Aisha.
Adding to that she says, she respects Zanzibar culture as a Zanzibari, but this does not stop her from being a DJ. She plays in different places like Fumba Town, I also once played at Nafasi Art Space in Dar Es Salaam, different hotels in Zanzibar and in the weddings.
She says, it is very difficult for people to understand her as her job requires her to come home late. This is still a challenge until today but she thank God that winning in some entertainment events has helped her family understand what she does as a positive thing given that some of the media houses have interviewed her at home.
Aisha says, in order to make a good DJ one has to learn from others and has to like every kind of music since a DJ has to give the best to her clients. However, not being accepted easily as a female DJ contributes a lot to her not excelling in her career easily.
She calls upon parents and the community in Zanzibar to open doors for girls in different careers as a way of utilising talents that girls have.
“Majority of lives of women in Zanzibar is very limited from being born, go to school up to O-levels get married and take care of the families. This is very much unfair as majority of women in Zanzibar die with their talents,” she adds.
“My job came from the love of music since my childhood.” Listening to music helps her to calm down even when she is stressed. Through the love of music I developed the urge to learn more about music and I would search from the internet to see how other DJs are playing music.
In 2018 during Clouds Plus Presenters Search, she emerged the winner and got an opportunity to come to Dar es Salaam to participate in the hosting course for seven days which brought together six participants from six different regions of Arusha, Morogoro, Dodoma, Mwanza, Zanzibar and Dar es Salaam.
The competition by Clouds Plus brought about 400 participants but they only wanted one person and I was the only one who won. It was a very nice experience as it gave us an opportunity to meet famous radio presenters in the country and other trainers who trained us on skills to become good presenters,” she says.
Be Talent competition is a platform for various kinds of talents from Zanzibar and given an opportunity to educate the best of them in valuable skills that contributes towards a professional career.
Speaking to Woman, Stone Town Records Manager Lorenz Herrmann says, Be Talent competition is a platform for revealing and nurturing various kinds of talents from Zanzibar and educating the best of them in valuable skills that will contribute towards a professional career. She says, the only iconic female musicians who managed to stand up for their career are Siti binti Saad and Bi Kidude.
The two females remain as great examples until today in the history of music in East Africa and the World in general.
“Siti binti Saad was a pioneering artist in the times which male singers dominated. She was in a Taarab genre and was the first woman to record an album in East Africa. Until her death Bi. Kidude was crowned as the queen of Unyago and Taarab music. She was inspired by Siti Binti Saad,” says Aisha. Adding to that she says, if the two women made it back in their days it is now for female artists in Zanzibar to struggle and pave a way for the coming talents among young girls in their community.
She acknowledged two female singers Amina and Rahma from Siti and The Band in Zanzibar. However she thinks a lot of work needs to be done to support female artists.
We need more giant females in the creative industry as Zanzibar is full of talents. Let us not stand as one and educate our society through our career that women has a special chance in our community, she adds.
Be Talent competition is organized by Stone Town Records in collaboration with Creative and Education Empowerment in Zanzibar. (CEEZ). CEEZ is a umbrella organisation and all for profit company based in Zanzibar with the mission is to support creative entrepreneurs and projects from East Africa providing education, mentorship, equipment, facilities and finances to promote social and environmental change.
He says, Be Talent’s vision is to empower the creative industry in Zanzibar so that talented youth can pursue careers in the creative sector and compete with international standards.