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Johannesburg - Anyone who knows Simphiwe Dana’s craft also knows that she is a refreshing oddball among her peers. Nothing is obvious about her – whether it be the eccentric music or the quaint yet classy dressing.
Her videos are groundbreaking and they more often than not offer different meanings from the lyrics of the given song.
She is to South Africa what Erykah Badu is to America. Although her music is primarily jazz, she fuses it with traditional African sounds, bits of hip hop and subtle poetry.
Fans who have been waiting for Dana’s music since her last release, Kulture Noir, in 2010, will be happy to know that something is in the works in her creative laboratory.
“I’m putting the finishing touches on a new single I’ve been working on,” she says.
“It’s called Nzima and I think it’s going to rock this summer. It’s a heavy song and yet it has some spiritual elements that I think my fans will find interesting.”
The creation of Nzima and other new material comes as refreshing news to Dana’s fans after her three-year hiatus from music writing. Granted, after Kulture Noir she released a live album, An Evening With Simphiwe Dana Live In Concert, which featured an orchestra, but that project consisted of the songbird’s greatest hits from the past.
So, after almost three years, the woman who some have referred to as the new Miriam Makeba returns to the microphone with even more sophisticated ideas on what her next project should be about.
“The new project is still untitled but it will be themed around nostalgia and memory,” she says dreamily.
“I’m hoping to take us back to a place where we were great. With the elections just round the corner, I’m urging people to unite and remember who we are and what we need from the system.”
But before you get any more excited about a new Dana album coming out soon, being the ever-unpredictable one, the artist says she is going to do things a little differently this time.
“I don’t think the old model of releasing a full CD at one go still works. I believe if you release an album only 20 percent of the songs will really get the fans fully paying attention to them. So much of the material will get lost in oblivion.
“I think for this album I want to release a lot of the material as singles and then the rest of the album at a later stage. Nzima should be ready and available on iTunes, MTN, some time next month. Then other material will come in the near future.”
Although she has been silent on the creative front until now, Dana has been touring extensively.
“I am due to go to Los Angeles at the end of the month to perform at Sheryl Lee Ralph’s Divas Simply Singing, which is an awareness concert for HIV/Aids. The concert has been going on for 22 years and it has some of the international names performing there too, so I’m humbled to be included in the line-up. Especially because Jill Scott endorsed me – that is really encouraging.”
To make sure her new music appeals in other African territories, Dana plans to do collaborations with some established musicians.
“I’m going to Nigeria as soon as I return from LA to do a song with Asa,”she says.
“It’s a done deal and I’m so excited to see what comes out of it.”
Having been in the industry since 2005 – and picked up plenty of accolades along the way – Dana says now is a good time for her to experiment.
“I don’t have anything to prove any more, so I’m going to be very experimental on this next project.
“My previous work speaks for me and I don’t think anyone doubts my capabilities, so I think it’s time for me to try out something I’ve never done before as far as the sound is concerned.”
But since she has been involved with everything from CD sleeve design to the concepts of her videos, which were all a success, Dana can afford to experiment all she wants.
“On my first album I designed all the artwork. I’m not a film-maker but even in my videos I’m heavily involved in the concept, and luckily my team always understands what I’m looking for.
“With Nzima coming out next month, we’re hoping to release the video at the same time as we are currently shooting it,” she says.