If someone had said years back Tsonga was going to be part of mainstream rap in 2017, no one would have believed them.
That a woman would be at the forefront of the genre would have stirred debate. However, that’s what rapper, poet and actress Maya Wegerif, known as Sho Madjozi, has managed to do, shaking up the norms of the industry.
“It makes sense for me to rap in xiTsonga,” she says. “For me, it was an obvious thing - if you are Tswana, you rap in Tswana, if you are Zulu, you rap in Zulu. I thought it was the case, but actually I found out there are xiTsonga people in the industry who just don’t.
“I didn’t think it would be a big deal but it ended up having a much bigger impact than I ever thought.
“I thought maybe I would be famous in Limpopo, but I didn’t think it would reach national or international.”
Growing up, Sho Madjozi listened to Lauryn Hill, aka L-Boogie and the Fugees, whose work inspired her to put pen to paper.
“I listened a lot to Lauryn Hill at a time when my mind was very influenceable. She influenced me, not just for rap but even in my poetry. I don’t think I’m influenced by rappers more than I’ve been influenced by other thinkers or even musicians, in general.”
For Sho Madjozi, 24, the African continent is a melting pot of cultures and that’s what has inspired her to wear her culture every day with pride.
Having lived in Tanzania and Senegal, and visited many other African countries, where culture is the heartbeat of the cities, has encouraged her to be firmly rooted in being her true self.
“I’ve been inspired so much by the African countries I’ve been to. One of the big things that everyone could already see is I wear my traditional wear whenever I want to, whereas in South Africa we’ve been famous for wearing our traditional wear only at weddings and on public holidays.
“I lived in Senegal, where you will see village people wearing their traditional outfits every day because those are their clothes. Who else must they be, if not Senegalese? Who must I be the rest of the time, if I only get to be Xonga once a month?”
As a writer, there are a lot of topics that move her, one being “blackness” and her identity. When asked what blackness means to her today, she says: “It has to be not erasing everything that I am. I can never accept a form of beauty where it’s as far away from me as possible.
“I can’t accept the idea that Africans didn’t contribute in any way to global beauty or fashion.
A post shared by Maya (@shomadjozi) on Jun 5, 2017 at 1:28am PDT
“For me, I just need an everyday way of being; there needs to be an African input from us. If we are all going to dress the same, it’s okay, but what did Africa bring to the table? So, I want everyday African-ness.”
Sho Madjozi says she is in no hurry to release an album, but already has a title in mind - My Life is a Movie. It will be a rap record, she says.
“The thing is, I will always rap; I’m a rapper, I don’t always know how to sing. But I don’t rap on hip hop, that’s the difference.
“I do all sorts of genres - it could be me rapping on gqom, me rapping on afro beats and experimenting on new kinds of sound.”
Sho Madjozi is set to be among the performers at the four-day Rocking the Daisies music festival in October. The rapper will appear on a bill which includes heavyweights in the industry.
“Rocking the Daisies is one of the shows I’m looking forward to. I want people to know that I will be hanging out as well - just sitting around the festival after I’ve performed because I’m so excited to be there.
“It’s going to be a brand-new set and it’s going to be high energy and major vibes and crazy outfits - just doing the most.”