After her lengthy musical haitus, Zamajobe Sithole is back with new music and she boasts a fresh attitude.
By: Thanduxolo “Thandz” Buti
Zamajobe is infamous for taking long breaks in between her records. Since her last album, Thula Mntwana (2013), she reveals that she went on a musical hiatus to reconnect with herself.
On 27 June, she surprised everyone when she re-emerged with a new single, Sobabili.
The new single, from her upcoming album, is the quintessential Zamajobe sound; it sees her return to that soulful and jazzy sound that catapulted her to stardom. And fans have praised it, calling it a great comeback.
The singer is elated that her fans are falling in love with the track. “It’s super great,” she tells Blacklight, during a telephonic conversation.
“I had so many tracks that are a bit different musically, and represent a grown version of me. I wanted to release those tracks first, but eventually, I just went for that standard Zamajobe track.”
“I wanted the first single to be that song that comes on and automatically people know it’s a Zama track.”
Speaking to her, the singer pulsates with positive energy. She explains that her break really helped her get a deeper insight into her career.
“I moved to Polokwane for a couple of years and I had an ‘Eat, Pray, Love‘ moment,” adds the multi-SAMA (South African Music Awards) nominee.
“Relaxing was good, because as soon as I came back to Johannesburg, I just went into work mode.
“I feel like it really benefited me because I just started writing all these songs, and even though I didn’t like some of them, I carried on.
“I got into a space of creating and seeing the process through even when I did not like what I was doing.”
While away, Zamajobe also decided to take full control of her career and go independent. She cut ties with Sony Music (which also released her albums, Ndawo Yami & Ndoni Yamanzi) and established her own imprint, Afrofunk.
“I had a seven-year contract with Sony and it came to an end, but I stayed an extra two or three years, anyway.
“On the last album I did with them, I feel like I had a lot of limitations. I wanted to try new things, but I wasn’t given much freedom to do so. That is the reason I decided not to renew – there were no hard feelings.”
The singer says she did go into talks with a few labels, but most of the deals were not in line with her current vision.
Refusing to be held back, Zamajobe says she put money aside from gigs and went back into the studio.
“I found myself almost done with the album, and I realised that I was doing what I needed the label to do for me on my own.
“I learnt the spirit of moving forward no matter the odds, and the importance of self-reliance,” she explains.
With a newfound vision for her career, the singer says going independent proved to be a seamless transition. But she also cites her strong attitude of never letting anything deter her from accomplishing her goals.
“I am the type of person who never lets things get to me. If there is a challenge, I find a way to get over it. I see the challenges as things I need to solve and get over. There is nothing that would challenge me to a point where I would want to quit.”
Zamajobe’s debut album, Ndawo Yami – released in 2004 at the age of 19 – is still widely popular and considered a masterpiece. Her afro-jazz sound also influenced many young afro soul/jazz female singers, including new singer Zoë Modiga.
“It feels good to know that I influenced a few singers, because sometimes I feel like I have done a lot and I am the least acknowledged,” she shares.
“It’s not nice to know that you played an important hand in pushing the movement forward, and not get any credit for it.”
With more than a decade in the industry, Zamajobe says she is still intent on carving her own unique musical path. While many categorise her as just an afro soul/jazz artist, she has explored many genres, like reggae, funk, dance and afro-pop. A move which led to a few misunderstanding her, as an artist.
“I feel like being misunderstood creates a lot of misconceptions, and you can only avoid that by understanding yourself and being clear about who you are,” she explains.
“Now I really want to solidify my musical identity. I want to have that signature that even when others do the same thing, people will recognise it as a Zama’s thing. If I achieve that there won’t be any misconceptions about me.”
As for what to expect from the upcoming album – which still does not have a release date -, Zamajobe says people can expect a “grown-up” version of her.
“The album will be more energetic,” she says. “I know that I have a laid-back approach musically, but I also want to groove without losing my temperament.”
Zamajobe’s new single Sobabili is available on iTunes.