Interview; Elo Zar – SA’s breath of fresh air part 1

5th May 2020 BY Ivis Ngwenya

There are so many things that I love about the woman that is Elo Zar, but I think the one thing that I love most about this beautiful soul is her personality! I wish personality could translate through words because I kid you not, never in this life have I ever felt so comfortable doing an interview – She just has this incredible aura about her and it honestly felt like I was catching up with an old friend!

Elo Zar encompasses the freedom to be, she makes her own rules and doesn’t care what anyone has to say about it – she just does her. This is translated through her style, the way she brands herself and of course the music she creates. She lives her life unapologetically and so she should! She is the woman that I one day aspire to be – a free spirit who lives life for herself.

This is not your average SA musician, she is an electro-pop musician. Tell me how many alternative musicians you know in South Africa right now? Well, I’d like to introduce you to my favourite! Her bright pink brand oozing of femininity and the celebration thereof, she is big on women taking their space and being comfortable in their own bodies. Playing small is not a concept Elo Zar knows anything about!

Firstly, who is Elo Zar and what exactly is your brand?

Elo Zar is basically just somebody who thinks out of the box and is quite creative, especially when it comes to the conventional items that make up creativity – so when it comes to music, I just don’t believe in doing things normally. When it comes to art, like fine arts, I’m just like somebody must do something different and when it comes to film it’s the same thing. I am somebody like that, I am also a person who believes in doing things differently- playing outside the boundaries you know? Especially as an African, doing it for Africans, because most of the time you find that when you tell people you’re going to be an electro-pop musician or an alternative musician, only Europe and America or whatever will get it – no one ever puts Africa as a thought for this genre of music but I’m like NO! I am going to start a revolution! They are going to like my song, at least one.

But that is me, that is my brand. As a brand, I stand for your self-journey. Fight to be different and fighting to stay different because that is what you are! That has also been the story of my own personal journey!

In one of your interviews, you spoke on how you went through an identity crisis growing up, can you tell us more about that and how/ when you finally discovered who you truly were? Any advice for anyone going through the same thing?

I mean, look, I did not like being a teenager. OMG. I had a lot of exes as a teenager trying to find love, trying to find acceptance because I was always the black sheep in my family – I never had anyone to relate to. In my family, I was almost perceived as a nerd, even though I wasn’t and I spoke better English which didn’t really work for me. I think I was also raised by a strict mom who was very hardworking and who didn’t allow us to do a lot of things so the rest of the family sort of treated her like the Hitler of the household and we got the back clash as her kids, especially me as the last born. I almost had to be the cushion for everyone else, I was that always that kid that made sure everyone in the house was okay when they would have arguments or when members of my family were going through something. The problem with that is that it became a default characteristic of mine. In retrospect I forgot me. I didn’t have a chance to figure out who I was because I was trying to manage the environment in the house so I ended up taking that into the world which is probably why I was an outcast in school. So with all of this, you’re trying to figure out who you are, constantly asking yourself questions like why am I like this? what’s wrong with me? Cause also I never liked peer pressure, I thought it was silly, especially with fashion – I never did what people were doing so that resulted in me not actually having a crew. I never just blindly followed people.

After all of that, I started to embark on that journey of self-acceptance and I had to. And even with people I thought were my friends at some point, I realised like “yo, guys, we’re not gelling as much as I thought – we just hang out together because we like the same music and that’s not enough for me.”

Once I got my degree and I decided that I am going to be a full-on artist and embrace my music side, that is when I had to face me. Whoever that was! And I am grateful for that because I had to look at the wounds and be like “yeah, this level of rejection still hurts” and it was painful. When you go through a lot of rejection you go through life with a lot of walls around you, trust becomes a huge issue. So then, I had to start working to kill that off because I wanted real love, I wanted authentic love – not just from somebody else but from me to myself. And because of that, I am in a much better place.

If I had to advise anybody, its that; at the end of the day when you go to bed you sleep alone, when you wake up they’re your eyes that you open. I think that everyone should learn and have the courage to ask questions, especially self questions and find self-love beyond family and beyond friends. Once you have that, you can share that because it is never going to run out!

What was it like singing back up for the iconic Vusi Nova and what did you learn from him in terms of being a musician and personal growth?

OMG. It was frightening. It was very scary because at that point I wasn’t even confident within myself, I didn’t know if I could pull through but he kept me around and I really appreciate that. I still do.

It was quite enlightening and with everything that I had gone through, clearly, that whole no peer pressure thing was a great skill that I had mastered. I learnt that just because you’re trying to figure out the industry, it doesn’t mean that you have to be like everybody else and do things the way everyone else is doing them. There are people that pay a high price to be popular, to stay popular and when I was in those scenes I was observing these lifestyle choices, asking why people wanted to do certain things. I was constantly asking myself “are these people actually happy?”

Being a backup vocalist for Vusi has honestly anchored me in the sense that I can be like “I’ve seen this before and that guy, he did not look happy!” But also I enjoyed being on stage, it was so beautiful to watch him perform, I mean he has this personality when he hits the stage and it still inspires me to this day.