Johannesburg - Award-winning rapper Sho Madjozi says she thought of quitting her music career after her younger sister passed away.
“It was an incredibly dark time and I genuinely did not see a point in carrying on with my career,” says Madjozi, whose real name is Maya Wegerif.
This week, the rapper released her debut children's book, Shoma and the Stars.
She has written the book in tribute to her little sister, Makhanani ‘Nyeleti’ Maganye, who died in a tragic car accident in 2019.
“It was incredibly hard losing someone who brought me so much joy. I am not exaggerating when I say it was my little fans who lit up that December with colourful braids that saved me. She would be so proud of this book. She loved beautiful things.”
After several years of making waves globally as a multiple award-winning singer, songwriter and performing artist, Madjozi can now add the title of author to the list.
Shoma and the Stars is a unique South African tale with an important message and a touching backstory published by EthniKids Publishers.
The book is a relatable yet uniquely South African story about a little girl called Shoma who grows up in a beautiful South African village.
From her parents, to the way she dresses and likes to do her hair, it is clear that Shoma was always going to be a little bit different.
Luckily, she has a little sister, Nyeleti, who she does everything with, until the day Nyeleti, which means “star” in Xitsonga, disappears to become a star in the sky.
The book unfurls the tale of little Shoma learning to accept loss, navigating life as an outsider and eventually learning that her uniqueness is her power. By being herself, little Shoma saves the day and finds a new group of “sisters”.
Madjozi, who holds a degree in creative writing, wrote this story of celebrating one’s uniqueness and being courageous as a tribute to her younger sister.
“I was inspired by my young fans who became my little sisters when I lost mine,” says the singer and debut author as she reflects on the heartbreaking loss. My young fans, whom I call the “The Sho Madjozi Stars,” motivated me to keep going.
“It’s quite an amazing feeling. I’m proud of this and the best thing is starting to see people going to the stores and making it their own.”
She says she wanted to give something back to her young fans.
“I want to give something to my young fans who have been loving and loyal to me from the beginning.
“Young kids deserve really great local stories and colourful characters that look like them and that exist in worlds that look like theirs. I think it’s very detrimental to keep feeding kids these fantasy worlds in which all the heroes live somewhere else and look a certain way.”
While she is more used to writing lyrics and creating the best beats in the studio, she says she thoroughly enjoyed the process of writing a book.
“I found it both and challenging. I enjoy playing with words and rhyming but I also wanted to make something really beautiful and meaningful because I believe that little Shoma will be a household classic.”
She says it took a few months to write the book but that it was something that she enjoyed.
“I am absolutely in love with words. I enjoyed making everything rhyme and sound beautiful and fun. It took a few months to get it right but it was totally worth it.”
But she does admit it was an emotional process, having written it in tribute to her younger sister.
“It was almost part of the healing but it’s also so much light which is what she was.”
Madjozi also opened up on her love for writing, saying she had fallen in love with writing and reading since she was a young girl.
“My parents always encouraged me to read. And because I was quite a quiet child, I found it easier to express myself through writing. I have loved words all my life. I have been writing poems and stories since I was seven years old.”
Her most cherished gifts from her parents as a child were the many books her parents gave her. She credits this early proclivity to write for her subsequent interest and career in music.
“Even my introduction to music was through writing. The only difference is that now I’m writing lyrics,” she adds. “I am so glad I was a bookworm, or I wouldn’t be who I am today.”
Various pages of the book include 3D animation elements that can be accessed via a smart mobile device.
The typography and imagery of the book are beautiful and vibrant, aligned with the Sho Madjozi brand and illustrated by artist Katlego Keokgale.
Since Madjozi is a musician, after all, fans can expect music that goes along with this new extension of Sho Madjozi, Shoma and the stars.
Now that she has her first book under her belt, Madjozi says there are many more to come.
“People can definitely expect to see more adventures from little Shoma.”
For now, however, the singer is currently touring the world, and focused on her music career.
“I am currently on tour in the US and I have just released a single, toro. I’m looking to put out more new music next year.”
Shoma and the stars is available for purchase (R180) nationwide at all major South African book retailers.