Relationships – Making music together
How do our fave muso couples ride the somewhat tricky tide of the music industry and stay the course?
When music moguls Jay Z and Beyoncé tied the knot in 2008, the world held its breath in anticipation for the lowkey lovers to collaborate on more smash hits, as they had in the past. Almost a decade (and multiple chart toppers) later, it seems the power couple has figured out how to set the stage and studio alight with their passion, while dealing with the occupational hazards of touring, sleep exhaustion and sound check struggles. Why else would they wake up each day ready to do it all over again – and look their happiest doing it? (Let’s forget Lemonade for a bit – they seem to have moved on from it!) Meanwhile, local sweetheart Nandi Madida and her musician husband Zakes Bantwini are media moguls in their own right. Madida’s clothing line, Colour, in addition to her musical prowess, and Zakes’ musical genius and position as executive head of A&R for Sony Music Africa puts the couple in local royalty territory “I have a very supportive husband. He’s the brains behind a lot of what I do,” gushes Nandi. “He has pushed me to do things that I never thought I could.” It’s all about balance. “Occasionally, the lack of personal space strains the relationship between the couple as they see each other both at home and in studio,” explains psychologist Lisa Zondo. “A married couple should spend their free time together, but there are situations where being in each other’s company all the time can negatively impact the quality of time spent.”
Zondo adds that sharing a workplace or having the same occupation as your spouse can come with risks. “Work discussions can intrude on family time, and vice versa,
and it may be hard to draw boundaries between work and home life.”
Despite that, a recent study shows that spouses connected by work can provide each other with a unique form of support, making them happier at home and more productive on the job. Just ask the legendary Caiphus Semenya and Letta Mbulu who’ve been making music since before their half-century long marriage. They’ve overcome challenges such as apartheid, their exile in the US and keeping a marriage together under the spotlight of their music.
The secret, says Caiphus, is sticking to and remembering the fundamentals – the reasons you got married. “There’s more to our marriage than just the two of us. We have children and businesses together and many other things in common,” he adds. “If you have differing reasons for marrying, such as career advancement, money or beauty, then it won’t last.”
Professor Meredith Ferguson explains the appeal of sharing a career and workspace with your significant other. “When people understand their spouse’s work life and challenges, it helps the spouse feel understood. This support may help the spouse see things in a different way and have positive effects both at work and home.”
Mafikizolo’s Nhlanhla Nciza is flourishing in the music industry with fans all over Africa, while her husband TK used to run a successful record label. The couple, who’ve been married for 13 years, don’t mind sharing the stage, as Nhlanhla proved when she announced the launch of her own record label in 2015, praising the support of her dreams by her family. Studies show that couples who share the same occupation or workplace are likely to have a better understanding of the stresses of their spouse’s job because they’re under similar pressure themselves. They may also be able to share specialised knowledge to help with work-related problems.
“It’s nice to have someone who’s always in your corner,” Caiphus continues. “We have been in many difficult situations where others may have cracked and looked elsewhere for greener pastures. We’ve never lost faith in each other, and have always encouraged each other.”
Letta speaks just as highly of her husband and business partner: “He’s a good person, kind-hearted and very well rounded. He’s loving, caring, and temperamental sometimes but a good artist, songwriter and singer. It’s because we’re in the public eye that people notice how long we’ve been married. There are so many others, we aren’t the only ones.”
A couple works in the same office puts in a significant amount of time and energy into each other’s work, and contribute to the growth of their respective careers and are able to help each other, both at a professional and personal level.
“Those who’ve been married and have worked in the same space over a long period of time respect their spouse’s contributions, both at the office and home, better than couples who don’t,” says relationship coach Mimi Mofokeng.
She says it’s due to the fact that some aspects of a partner’s character can only be assessed when working together. “For instance, it’s only possible to know whether your partner possesses work ethic or earns money fraudulently if you work together. A few meetings or occasional dates aren’t enough to assess whether your partner is a person of great principles.” Multi-award-winning singer Alicia Keys is currently married to hiphop producer Kasseem Dean, better known as Swizz Beatz. The couple got married in 2010, and have two children together. While Alicia has earned many awards for her musical efforts, her hubby has worked with the best in the business. How do they keep it professional? Nqubeko Mbatha and Ntokozo Mbambo Mbatha say they never let music come between them, despite both having successful gospel careers. “This relationship is the most important thing – without it everything else will collapse,” says Ntokozo. “She’s the reason I go home. We base our love on respecting and being honest with one another,” adds Nqubeko.
Mofokeng warns to not let success get to you. That’s exactly what Lira and her husband, Robin Kohl – who manages the singer – says works for them. “We’re human beings and we do reach boiling point. The good thing is that, when we do have those blow outs, we sort them out within an hour or two. We’re too close to let stuff fester. I think we have a system that works,” reveals Lira. Mofokeng concludes: “If a couple disagrees at work they can also clash at home, although personal and professional environments are different. If they fail to separate their work and family life, their marriage may eventually break down.”