Simphiwe Dana and her band will be performing at the #CTIJF on Saturday night from 7pm to 8pm

There's something earthy, emotional, powerful .... something that goes back decades but with an edgy contemporary note - music that finds its way into the hearts of the born-frees, the millennials; and reaches out strongly at the same time to older generations.

Traditional African music meets modern soul .
Meet Simphiwe Dana -  named as African Woman of the Year 2016; Best Newcomer 2005, Best Jazz Vocal Album for Zandisile at 11th SAMA awards; Best Female Artist at the 13th SAMAs; an activist; a one time global ambassador for Amnesty International, 21st Icon in season 3 of Icon South Africa.

Dana's  a songbird with an indescribably soulful voice; she's been called a voice to the voiceless;  a woman who is not scared to speak her mind.

When we chat just a week before the upcoming jazz fest, the conversation is frank and  reaches quite a lot below the surface. 

"I'm grateful you know. It's my 14th year in the industry - and for me to still be relevant and not have to worry about putting food on the table - that is for me an amazing achievement. My music is enduring; it keeps people aware and I like to see my music as a form of healing. I am my own first and best audience."

That voice and what and how she sings have been likened to other icons, namely Miriam Makeba and Dorothy Masuka. 

When I ask whether she's cool with that or likes to see herself as a woman in her own right she answers:

"You know it encompasses all of that. They and others have shaped my music and yes, I'm okay with the comparison, They're nostalgia and on the right track, yet what I do with music is based solely on my own talent - and it's quite amazing that people have recognised me - that I'm pretty much self taught and didn't walk away with a piece of paper from an institution - not that I am denouncing that," she says.  

 She hails from the Transkei and it's no secret that she was inspired by her mother's singing - in part gospel, in part purely traditional. It's what in the end put on the path to her star-studded career.  "But once upon a time I was in IT until I decided it was much more important to have integrity and go chasing after my real passion."

In the early days, back in 2002, she started off by singing in small clubs. People starting taking notice and wanted more of her. Two years later she released the well-loved Zandisile, which apart from its SAMA award also made it internationally on the Billboard charts. 

The Simphiwe Dana Symphony Experience saw her bring a nine-year dream to life in which she hosted a 60-piece orchestra and featured international acts the likes of Asa and Concha Buika.
Four albums down the line and countless awards have spurred her on, she says, to greater heights. "It's showed me I can achieve my dreams and that's a great thing." 
She comes back to the festival this year but with a difference - there's going to be a 13-piece all-women band.

"I've never done that before. Working with women, respect is a given; it's something quite profound,

"There are so few female instrumentalists in our industry and those who are there are under-utilised. I want to put a spotlight on how talented these women are and a bonus is how really good women look on stage."

She adds that the ladies will be playing on the drums, guitar, bass, piano, vocals... and more. "It's going to be quite spectacular. Would that we could live in a world like the one we are going to create! And I am so grateful, as ever, to be performing on the stage there - it's a massively big and important opportunity and showcase."

* Simphiwe Dana and her band will be performing on the Kippies stage on Saturday night from 7pm to 8pm. 

Go to for more and the rest of the line-up.