Sibusile Xaba is a talented jazz guitarist and vocalist who produces some of the most haunting, yet equally inspiring, music of the last few years.
Ahead of his maiden performance at the 24th instalment of the Oppikoppi Music Festival, taking place in Northam, Limpopo, I caught up with Xaba to find out how he’s dealing with loss, preparations for a new album and why he’s looking forward to #OK24.
You have mentioned before that one of your main mentors was the now late legend Philip Tabane. How are you now that he’s passed on?
It’s difficult for me because he was someone I really admired and, fortunately, I got the chance to spend some time with him through his son, Thabang. So it’s like losing someone who is a member of my family. It’s a great loss, but I think he saw that we are keeping the legacy of African music, Malombo music, alive. We’re following in their footsteps.
I feel like he opened paths for us in this space and realm, and he’s now doing the same in other realms. As much as he’s physically no longer with us, I feel that he’s just moved on to another realm to carry on the work on the other side.
That keeps me going, that philosophy that umoya awupheli (the spirit is infinite). It’s just the container of umzimba (the body) that gets tired after some time.
One thing we’ve come to realise is that performance to you is not just a simple thing. You give of yourself in those performances. Take us through what happens when you engage with your music on a stage in that way.
There are a few ways of looking at this. The one is that it’s not a mission that one thinks about. That I’m submitting myself to the audience. It’s the life that leads me to the performance. When I’m performing I have this feeling that I’m closer to the Almighty. And when I’m closer to the creator I have no fear.
Since this is your first Oppikoppi performance, what are you looking forward to the most?
Lots of music, good music. The festival has pushed itself from being what was essentially a rock festival, to growing into being a world music festival consisting of many different genres. That’s a good vibe for me. It’s really a great honour. I’m looking forward to being in that space and spreading the love.
What can festivalgoers expect from your set?
They can expect honest music, a message of unity, prosperity and a new world. That’s our vibe. They can just expect a good energy.
Let’s talk a little more about your current album, Open Letter to Adoniah. How did the album come about?
I’d sleep, dream of these songs, wake up, pick up my guitar and put the song down as though the dream was continuing. And the album was done just like that. So regarding my state of mind, I find that difficult to answer.
It didn’t take me long to put it together. I had like four consecutive dreams.
There were different images. Abogogo (grandmothers), omkhulu (grandfathers), gatherings of people singing this music. It didn’t feel anyhow, it was just these dreams that I enjoyed.
Where are you musically at the moment? Are you perhaps working on a new album or collaborating with other artists?
It continues. I can’t wait to share the new music because it’s clearer now, I know what it is. Or what my duty is. And I’m committed to it.
For now, I don’t have the actual time, but the music is ready. During Oppikoppi, we’ll be playing mostly new music.
* Oppikoppi 24 takes place from August 9 to 11 in Northam in Limpopo.
Open letters to Adoniah is available for download on all reputable digital streaming services.