Viva Msimang: Inspiring Collective Leadership Through Music

Episode 8: Sassy Souls with Bx Sassy and Viva Msimang




Viva Msimang is a musical force of motivation. Having developed a name for herself on the London Latin music scene, Viva's skills as a trombonist and multi-instrumentalist have led her to play across multiple genres and continents. With a back-catalogue of performing, collaborating, and recording with world-class artists, Viva's intentions are deeply rooted in encouraging further inclusion of marginalised genders and ethnicities within the music industry.


Investing in these ideas, Viva founded COLECTIVA; a collective of musicians bringing feminist Afro Latin Music and Jazz vibes to the stage. Known for their fiery energy and exceptional standard of musicianship, COLECTIVA is built around a philosophy of anti-hierarchical sistership. By facilitating one another's growth, Viva talks to us about actively dismantling patriarchal structures through collective creative development.


Tune in to the full interview and hear our Sassy host, Bethany Burgoyne, ask Viva about the multiple avenues her work journeys down. She discusses her latest position behind the decks, playing out at parties and radio shows under her DJ name, AUKA, (also Viva's middle name meaning warrior woman). In this way, Viva is leaning into more electronic aspects of making music, as well celebrarting her sonic inspirations. In true AUKA style, Viva plays us 5 tunes spotlighting fellow musicians surfing a fresh wave of creation. We hear COLECTIVA's debut single 'Under The', a track from Chelsea Carmichael's solo album as well as unreleased music from Eliane Correa and saxophonist Allexa Nava, before playing us out with a tune from margomool.


 


Growing up in South London, Viva Msimang's childhood was a valuable soundscape of music from around the world. Ever grateful to her parents for their excellent taste in music, Viva reminises on how dub, jazz, salsa and hiphop all formed a backdrop to her upbringing. Her parents own involvement with the music scene led to her mum working as a backing vocalist, singing on the London African scene in the 80s. "I'm so proud of her. She held down a job in law as a barristers clerk and at the weekend she'd be out gigging." This ethos of hard work is something we see inspiring Viva's ambitious direction today, alongside the influence of London's cosmopolitan environment. "That's the beauty of the diversity here; growing up you hear all kinds of music and [are] inspired by the richness of the culture we have." As a profressional musician and DJ, Viva forever celebrates this abundance of sound, embedding herself in amongst an array of live, electronic, and instrumental movements.


I could never shout as loud as I can play my trombone. It gives voice to a lot of emotions that I might struggle to express otherwise


Becoming known for playing her trombone on stages across the world, Viva first picked up the instrument when she was 10 years old. After seeing a brassband performing in the park, Viva became intrigued explaining how "I'd never seen a trombone before and it looked like a lot of fun. I think somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew it would be slightly subversive but I was quite an eccentric kid so I was into that!" This rebellious streak is something that continues to shine through in Viva's personality as she uses the loud grandeur of her instrument to hold space for fresh perspectives to be shared. In this way, Viva credits the trombone for helping her embody a new found confidence both in her career and her stage presence.

Viva exapands on this by explaining how "Music provides me with everything I need at this stage. Not only financially, but I'd say spiritually, physically, socially... and I'm just so grateful to be able to live my life in this way. To be a musician is a calling but it's a lifestyle as well. To have peace in what you're doing (because it's a really precarious existence) you have to really embrace the fullness of it and I feel that's the position I'm in now." In balance with this, Viva expresses how the cathartic nature of playing helps her vocalise emotions through her instrument. "I could never shout as loud as I can play my trombone. It gives voice to a lot of emotions that I might struggle to express otherwise". Reflecting on how society can shape and hold us back from voicing an opinion or emotion, Viva tells us how "British culture especially can be very prone to encouraging us to bottle things up and think that certain emotions are bad. And they're not, every emotion is natural, human, and healthy. It's just about finding where you're going to put it and making sure you find somewhere to release it." For Viva, this has been something the stage has really allowed her to explore further.


Every emotion is natural, human, and healthy. It's just about finding where you're going to put it and making sure you find somewhere to release it


A joyful result of Viva's progress as a professional musician has been the creation of COLECTIVA; a sisterhood of feminist musicality. COLECTIVA channels a firey combination of Afro Latin Music and Jazz through rhythmically eclectic compositions and melodic arrangements. On stage, they completely reinvent the male-dominated space and show just how wild women can be when making music together. Describing COLECTIVA as an outlet for her fight for equality, Viva founded the project "to try and create a more active form of feminism in the way that I can, a format that I can as a musician and female instrumentalist.". Despite the diversity of their political opinions and views, COLECTIVA prides itself on respecting one another and fostering their commonalities. Viva links this back to sisterhood and continually recentring oneself around the question of acting in solidarity with each other as women.


COLECTIVA by Natalja Safronova

Sisterhood is a central pillar to my conception of feminism and I always try to bring myself back to that - Am I acting in solidarity with this woman as a sister?


This considerate approach consciously orientates COLECTIVA around an antihierarchial system. Viva descibes how this was the result of "wanting to create something that doesn't have one bandleader but a collective where we are all leaders." In this way, COLECTIVA sets out to empower eachother through every step of the creative process. Fluidly moving between logistics to musical composition, leading rehearsals to managing social media, each member shares the responsibility and supports eachother as they progress collaboratively. Viva explains how, "in that way, we all have become more empowered as women and musicians because we've had the space to grow into leaders together." With this goal, Viva explains how it's about "always checking for ourselves that we're not dominating. It's kind of a form of anarchist thinking - that what needs to be done will be done. We have that trust and respect for one another." This mindset is one that we appreciate hearing, feeling encouraged by the level headed approach to collaborative work.



When asking Viva about her Sassy side, she shares how "performance in and of itself, the physical side of preparing yourself, adorning yourself, learning how you want to hold yourself on stage" all plays a part in uplifting ones spirits and liberating the