Njabulo Seh has been a well hidden musical treasure but now his ready to mesmerise soul lovers with his debut single, Gcwal’ibhavu.
By:Thanduxolo “Thandz” Buti
It was in 2013 at the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz that my musical taste buds were tantalised by an undiscovered soul singer known by his moniker, Njabulo Seh. He was performing at Sophia Town as part of the lucky upcoming musicians chosen to showcase their talent that year. I knew then that I had uncovered a rare jewel that would redefine soul music in Mzansi. It was no surprise that after the show I joined his Facebook followers in creating a coupe that screeched at him to release an album. It looks like we are about to taste victory.
“Oh Man! Its long over-due,” he said with an infectious excitement after announcing that he is preparing to drop his first single “Gcwal’ibhavu” on 29 February.
“The delay was mainly because of my unhappiness with what the labels were offering and I wasn’t prepared to settle for less than I know I deserve. Them not allowing me to be my authentic self made me work hard to craft my own sound which is Mzansi Soul.”
Despite not having an album, Njabulo has amassed quite a following in the underground music scene in Johannesburg. He has been doing small gigs and has also shared the stage with celebrated singers like Swazi Dlamini and Kabomo. Apart from singing he is also an accomplished songwriter, penning tunes for the likes of Maleh and Aya Mpama.
“Maleh was one of the very first artists to give me a break as a songwriter. Her song “Under My Skin” (from her debut Step Child) was the very first song with my penmanship to go on radio and I am forever grateful for that.”
“Everything people will here on “Brand New Old Skool” is my exact creative intention as a singer/songwriter stated with pure artistic display.
Despite earning some cred as a songwriter on the soul music scene, Njabulo says that it is not commercially viable. He explains that with some artists and record labels so intent on hogging royalties songwriters are starved of opportunities.
“If we had more artists who were brave enough to say: ‘I need a certain songwriter to work with me because I am not a strong writer and I need a fresh perspective,’then we would see a sea of talented songwriters finally get a break.”
Music industry politics aside, Njabulo has been stuck in his musical lab for years creating magic. He has been ready to release an album since the age of 21 and along the way has been generating the work anticipating his turn.
“I want to give people a dose of Mzansi soul music that is untainted by corporate or commercial interests.”
“By now I thought I would be on my third or fourth album,” he says with a tinge of disappointment.
Finally, Njabulo will be releasing an album under his label, Funked records. He pats himself on the back for passing the strenuous mechanics that come with being an independent artist, and credits them for teaching him about the notoriously overlooked business side of music.
Njabulo and his producer, Nduduzo Makhathini (Standard Bank Award Young Artist Award winner in music for 2015) have been working on the pre-production of the album since 2013.
The album took time because the singer was intent on flexing his artistry to the best of his ability.
“I want to give people a dose of Mzansi soul music that is untainted by corporate or commercial interests,” he explains. “Everything people will here on “Brand New Old Skool” is my exact creative intention as a singer/songwriter stated with pure artistic display. It’s completely self-indulgent and every decision was not influenced by outside forces.”
The proud single father of a 12-year-old is intent on making his moment count, especially for his daughter. But mostly he wants to prove to musicians that it’s possible and it starts with you.
“The only person you need, to make it happen, is you . You don’t have to wait for the big guys to do it for you, you can do it yourself,” he advises young musicians.