by Nilabjo Banerjee

South African-Canadian singer/songwriter Zaki Ibrahim plays Day 2 of Field Trip this weekend. If you are the kind who likes their R&B fused with jazz and soul and everything else, give her Polaris nominated debut Every Opposite a listen before the show.

For now, check out my chat with Zaki as we talked about being the new kid in high school, performing while pregnant and photobombing Rob Ford.

So, you moved around in high school between Cape Town and Nanaimo. That had to be daunting as being the new kid all the time.
Yeah! I always felt like a new kid actually. You know like, I had a weird accent and weird clothes. I was already kind of a weirdo. I might have played off that a lot. I might have tried to use it for my advantage

You were that exotic girl from South Africa like Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls
Exactly! It was always something. Sometimes I felt I was socially incompetent and then other times my people skills were amazing. Being a teenager is hard enough. This could have been a nightmare or could be an adventure.

Being a different kid could work both ways. Perhaps sometimes you exaggerate your accent a bit more to sound exotic.
[laughs] Yeah and talk about traditional rituals, that don’t actually exist. There are stories you can tell, and people are like ‘Wow’ and you play it off a little bit more.

This is a tough segue but you lost your dad recently. Condolences on the loss. But, he left quiet a legacy with Bush Radio. Would you say he was a source of inspiration in making you want to craft your own space in the world, similar to what he did with building something from scratch?
It’s interesting that you say that. In mourning him, my process has been giving thanks and being very thankful in describing him. He went against the grain, carved out his own space like how you say it. I haven’t consciously thought about the co-relation to me, but he has been a huge inspiration.

You have said that for you feeling home is being in your own skin. That sounds like evolution or self-discovery. How has that been for you?
It’s an ongoing process. For me, I like to challenge myself with new environments. Once you are comfortable in your own skin, doesn’t mean you can say ‘I’ve made it and I can run around naked’. You always have to check in to make sure your feet are on the ground or you are operating from a centered place. That’s constant homework! When you are on tour in different countries, it is easy to lose track of who you really are or what you are going for.

Another quote of yours that I like is ‘if you can go through success without being a douche about it, then that’s good’. That needs to be a bumper sticker. If no one else does it, I will get on that. 
[laughs] You have my permission. I said that?

Yeah! C’mon Zaki you gotta remember your quotes. 
Why would I remember that? I dont even remember what I said 2 minutes ago. I am also 6 and half months pregnant.

What?! Congratulations
.. and it was my birthday yesterday! So, my brain is kind of fried right now. It’s all kind of exciting and start of a new era

That’s insane! So, 6 months pregnant means a possible August baby. I was born in August as well. 
Really? Feels like it could pop any day now!

I don’t know how some women play shows while pregnant. For me, performing alone is nerve-wracking. but doing it while you are dealing with the emotions and physicality of pregnancy is unimaginable.
I had no idea what to expect or how to act. I don’t know what I would be able to do if I can’t do music or perform. The exercises that I have been given are dance and basically do what my body is used to. When I am singing my heart out and dancing around, its not jarring to my body. I can tell it’s a happy feeling. I don’t know what will happen in couple of months. So far, it feels great and I’m not stretching myself beyond what I can handle. The healthiest thing to do is what brings you to joy.

I love your approach to life. If you could write a self help book, what would be the title?
‘Fuck’em if they cant take a joke!’ That’s a quote my dad used to say. Sometimes when he would offend people, he would backpedal and say, ‘screw ‘em if they cant take a joke.’ It just means not to take yourself too seriously.

I’d buy that! If you could take a selfie with someone, who would it be?
A selfie? With anyone? Umm I like to photobomb. It would be really cool to go to Queen’s Park and photobomb Rob Ford. It would be like a ‘reach around selfie’. You have the camera, and I am off to the side. Or I could slide in at the exact time they are taking the photo and pretend like we are all best friends.