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The hits just keep on coming from Kalawa Jazmee. Known more for their testosterone stars like Trompies and Uhuru, the record label is releasing its first big solo female artist since Candy.
Nokwazi’s new album, Ilambu, is her first full-length offering with this trend-setting independent label and she is very excited. Her music is dance-infused, Maskandi-influenced beauty which sees Kalawa again re-adjusting the bar of creativity.
“I am very traditional and spiritual,” says the bubbly Zulu (pictured). “I love my culture and it has influenced my music so much. My spirituality has also influenced my music.”
Nokwazi’s musical journey began at age 17. Having always enjoyed singing at school, and harbouring aspirations to sing like Rebecca Malope, the plucky young lass contacted the gospel goddess’ manager, Sizwe Zako. She told him she wanted to be a singer and gave him an impromptu performance over the phone. He was so impressed he told the CCP Record Company’s director, Harvey Roberts, about her.
Roberts then flew to Nokwazi’s home town of Pietermaritzburg and promptly signed her after hearing her voice. What followed were two marginally successful gospel albums.
Nokwazi then took time off to be a mother. On her return to Joburg and the industry she ended up as a backing singer for everyone from Busi Mhlongo to Thandiswa Mazwai to Brenda Fassie.
“I remember Brenda told me that one day I would be a star,” recalls Nokwazi. “She told me to be versatile and never be boring.”
Working with Fassie also saw her act in a few Chicco Twala films: “I’d love to do acting one day,” she says.
Meanwhile, she is concentrating on her singing career. An invitation by close friend Mazwai to go to Oskido’s house led to her working on a track with him. A few weeks later he called her to record more material.
“I’ve always wanted to work with Oskido. I’d been praying for someone to take care of me, not financially, but to teach me the ropes.”
Again, her plucky side made her ask Oskido if she could work with Kalawa full-time: “I was a freelance singer at the time and Jozi life is so expensive. I bumped into Oskido on the Jam Alley set and asked for help.”
He agreed. However, Kalawa will sign an artist immediately, but not record them straight away: “You have to prove yourself to the directors,” Nokwazi explains.
They set her up to do live shows with the other three Kalawa chikitas – Busiswa, Candy and Miss Pru. When it finally came time to record an album, she used the production skills of Uhuru, Oskido and Bruce Dope.
“Bruce is a genius. I loved the way he mixed my vocals. I also enjoyed working with Oskido. We had two love songs and wanted a male voice so Oskido suggested Dr Malinga. He did the vocals in one take. He is that good.
“On the day of the release of Ilambu Oskido phoned to tell me to go to the studio and collect my copies. I phoned my mother, crying. I can see God is working. Before the release I had sleepless nights wondering if it was going to work. I am agoraphobic so I panic easily. I realised I had done my best and must just relax.
“I think I have a genius album. I went into this album free-falling, but it’s worked out. It’s traditional. I’m all about Maskandi guitar and harmony.
“Ilambu is a paraffin lamp and my great-grandmother used to love a song called Ilambu. The name fits the album because I wanted lightness in my music.”