Jerusalema co-songwriter launches her own foundation
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While for many superstars, doing humanitarian work is part of building a favourable brand in the eyes of the public, for Nomcebo Zikode, it is personal.
The global superstar this past week unveiled the Nomcebo Zikode Foundation where she is determined to focus on aiding on a variety of social ills like the devastating gender-based violence pandemic that has gripped South Africa, while also raising funds for the less privileged and offering aid to women and children in the process.
Although she does admit to being unsure of whether this was the right step to take in fulfilling her deepest desires of giving back, with the foundation now fully established with its various partners, Nomcebo says she is excited.
Born and raised in Hammarsdale township in KwaZulu-Natal, Nomcebo paints a grim picture of her own upbringing, describing the experience as “tough”. It is from that memory that she was inspired to make life a little easier for others, “to be a blessing to others while God has blessed me,” she said.
“I know what poverty is like just as much as I know what not having can do to a growing child,” she said, opening up at the launch of the foundation.
“I know what not having school shoes feels like. Going to school on an empty stomach, then you see other kids buying but you can’t afford to share in those little pleasures, so instead you go home hoping to find yesterday’s leftovers.
“I would get home, whether I find pap soaked in water or not, I would drain it and eat because at that time that is all I had. And because I know the face of poverty, I have lived that reality, I want to restore to people, especially children, the dignity they deserve that I know poverty strips away from you,” she said.
The 35-year-old singer/songwriter whose fame went global with the worldwide hit Jerusalema, says her situation at home was so dire that she would sleep at churches because home was not a conducive place to live in.
“It was tough.. Poverty will make you feel isolated. It will strip you of your identity and make one stop believing in their dreams. My story runs as deep as knowing what it’s like to go to school with no sanitary pads and lacking the basic human rights, which is the gap that I hope my foundation bridges.
“The Nomcebo Zikode Foundation is so dear to me because apart from my own life story, I was inspired to establish this foundation out of wanting to do more than just giving off a few clothes here and there.
“Yes, I will admit that for the longest time I used to be fearful of how I should approach people to give the little that I have without dehumanising them or seeming like I am taking advantage of their struggles,” she said, adding that these fears almost completely stopped her from taking the necessary steps to help society.
Until one day when the urge was too loud.
“I want kids to go to school on a full stomach and maybe that will help them perform better. I want kids to be supported right through their schooling life, right into tertiary until a time when they too can do something for the next person. And that is the legacy I want to build,” she said.
The Foundation’s wide focus will also include early childhood development, women and child protection and will also help empower musicians with skills and knowledge that she believes will help grow their careers.
In 2023, she hopes to build the Nomcebo Zikode Centre of the Arts, Music, Dance and Creative Technology – as a support institution for those who seek a career in the arts.
To kick start her journey of making a difference, she plans to start in her hometown, and aims to impact more lives on the continent of Africa.
Nomcebo matriculated from Ukusa High School and from there got the opportunity to pursue her singing career, trying her luck at various auditions including auditioning for local gospel producer Tshepo Nzimande, which led to the beginning of her career as a backing vocalist, singing behind big stars such as the late Sifiso Ncwane, Lundi, Deborah Fraser, Nhlanhla Nciza and Zahara, among many others.
She spent 15 years of that career as a backing vocalist before she ventured out as a songwriter and solo vocalist – featuring on various songs such as DJ Ganyani’s Emazulwini before co-writing the groundbreaking Jerusalema.
“I didn’t really realise my writing talent until I started writing. What carried me through the 15 years is patience and never giving up, hoping that one day my time will come and that when it does come, I will be ready,” she said.
Breaking into song from time to time, Nomcebo explains that through music she has found her purpose. And that is to uplift and encourage those who are listening, just as she and Master KG did with the hit Jerusalema right through the toughest times around the globe.
“For the longest time I was in awe of this song Jerusalema, and I think I still am... Of how big and how important this song became all over the world, it is mind-blowing.
“So much so that in the beginning I used to question why God would give me such a powerful song that has helped people through so much. When you read the messages of testimonies that I receive daily from people across the world about what this song has seen them through, it made me realise that my purpose in life through music is to inspire and give hope. There are messages that I need to relay to the people and for as long as I have a voice to do so, I will continue to,” she said.
Although mum about her upcoming musical projects, she does hint that her upcoming music will feature the best of best on the continent and abroad.
“I am truly excited with what is to come,” she said.