Meet S’phiwe Moya (affectionately known as uMzulu Phaqa), one of the two singers who was selected by J’Something (from Mi Casa) to be part of Converse’s #CreateAtHome campaign.
By: Blacklight writer
Main image: Supplied
The KwaZulu-Natal-born and raised social media singing sensation enraptured the hearts of South Africans when she was chosen by J’Something (real name Joao da Fonseca) from a pool of 1000 entries to be part of Converse’s #CreateAtHome social media campaign.
As part of the campaign, Something hand-selected S’phiwe and Aidan Jon Fraser to collaborate and create a song inspired by the (COVID-19) lockdown, titled Wish You Were Here.
The production process was done over the phone, via voice notes, to adhere to the social distancing regulations.
“I wanted to plug into my favourite creative output, which is music, and I partnered with Converse to create an opportunity that will inspire individuals to push creativity within the music avenue,” said Something about the campaign.
Blacklight had a chat with S’phiwe (uMzulu Phaqa) – from Manderston – about her creative journey.
Blacklight: What inspired you to enter the competition?
S’phiwe: The way the whole thing happened is quite weird. My one friend, Zazi Kunene, sent me the IG Live (Instagram Live) video of J’Something announcing the campaign. I ignore it. The very same day, two other people sent me the same thing and that’s when I started entertaining the idea. I thought that maybe God was trying to tell me something.
However, I decide not to create something new, but to rather tag him on my previous (singing) videos I had posted on social media. I did not think I stood a chance. I was very intimidated by the talented musicians who had entered. I was surprised that I was one of the chosen ones and when he told me that he thought I was a great singer.
BL: Why the name uMzulu Phaqa?
S: It was by sheer accident. When I first arrived at varsity (Wits University) people would always say, “Ah man, you’re so Zulu”, because of the way I spoke Zulu. I generally speak Zulu, deep Zulu, throughout my days. I decided to use the term “uMzulu Phaqa” as my social media handle, and overtime, the name started to be popular amongst people. It all works out, because I use Zulu as medium throughout my art.
BL: And what do you think makes you so special?
S: My work is original, it’s not covers. I may sample the instrumentals but I use my (own) lyrics. I believe that brings across the element of storytelling, which plays a major part in music being impactful. With my style, I write quite literally about my life – there are characters and day to day events. So I would say the storytelling element may have struck a chord with him (J’Something) and listeners.
BL: What has #CreateAtHome sparked in you as an artist?
S: This has made me realise what direction I want to take as an artist. I am clearer about the kind of music I want to create. There is more passion and desire to do music now – on my side. Seeing the impact of my music or singing has had on people motivates me.
BL: How did you fall in love with creating music?
S: I have been singing for most of my life, but I never took it very seriously. With the lockdown, a lot of things in my life were taken away or suspended. I thought about how I could use this time to express and to better myself, or rekindle the things I felt I neglected over time. Music was one of those things I had neglected because I was focused on school, being an adult, and trying to navigate the world. So the lockdown and being in quarantined pushed me to be creative again.
BL: When you are not caught up with music, what is the normal, day to day stuff that you are busy with?
S: I am an aspiring theatre practitioner. I am currently doing my second year at Wits University. So, I am always busy with theatre plays and acting. I am also part of an acapella group, called Gasmic Vocals. So my days revolve around being or meeting other people, so this (lockdown) was a great way to reconnect with myself.
BL: What made you take the creative route?
S: When you have a passion for something, you cannot force yourself to ignore it otherwise you will be unhappy. You will constantly feel like something is missing. I could have tried to explore things that were on the academic side, but my true being truly comes alive when I create. That is why I chose the creative route.
BL: When did you discover that you had the gift of singing?
S: As ingane ekhulele esontweni (As a child who grew up in the church), kuyaculwa vele emakhaya (there is a lot of singing at home). Masihlangene sisonke siyahlabelela (when we come together we sing). So, I would say my love for music stems from constantly being in such an environment. Music was engrained in me from an early age. But with growing up, exploring, finding things that I like (musically), I was able to discover my musical taste.
BL: What inspires you?
S: Life inspires me. There are a lot of things we take for granted as human beings. For an example, you were able to wake up today, but someone else didn’t. I always have to remind myself to be grateful for even the smallest things. And I always want to capture that in my storytelling and music.
BL: What did you learn from working with J’Something?
S: J’Something is such a genuine soul. Throughout the whole process, he was like a big brother to us. It felt as if we had known each other for years, yet we had only just met over the phone. For someone who has never met you to treat you like family is quite surprising and a blessing. I am so grateful that he chose to affirm and validate us as young creatives. Because of how he treated us, he taught me to have more confidence in myself.
BL: This is a very confusing time, what could artists take away from such initiatives, such as #CreateAthome?
S: What this teaches us is the art of consistency and discipline, because if you are not disciplined enough to remain creative even when you are not in a creative setting, then it’s going to be hard to for you to remain active even when there is no lockdown. Sometimes you just have to be disciplined enough to push through even when life appears to be at a standstill. As an artist, consistency is key.
BL: What is your intention as a creative?
S: I want to create generational wealth using my art. I want to be able to financially support myself, my family, and everybody that will come after me. My priority in life is to not leave anyone behind. I am not looking for fame, success is what excites me. Success means growing my artistic business, and that includes theatre. I want to touch people’s hearts simply by staying authentic, no matter what.
For more on S’phiwe: