Sjava, Big Zulu take the music scene by surprise with new collaboration

Sjava and Big Zulu’s collaboration came as a surprise to the music scene. Picture: Supplied

Sjava and Big Zulu’s collaboration came as a surprise to the music scene. Picture: Supplied

Published Apr 11, 2023


Johannesburg - Two weeks after releasing their single “Umbayimbayi”, the newly formed music duo topped the charts of online music streaming platforms. The pair are set to drop their collaborative album next month.

The pair’s collaboration came as a surprise to the music scene. Inkabi Zezwe, as they call themselves, is a music duo formed by Sjava, whose real name is Jabulani Hadebe and Siyabonga Nene, affectionately known as Big Zulu in the music industry.

The award-winning artists said the phrase “Inkabi Zezwe” represents unity and brotherhood. “In everything we do as Inkabi Zezwe, we do it with love, honour, unity and respect. The Inkabi Zezwe is a popular phrase in the Zulu language that represents workers, hustlers, and brotherhood,” said Big Zulu.

The artists said they loved and appreciated how local music lovers and radio stations showered them with love and support on their joint project when they released their single on March 24.

The song has rapidly increased its monthly listenership of 39 000 and had 5.3 million radio impressions nationwide three days after its release. On March 27, the single took the number-one spot on Spotify’s Bhinca Nation playlist.

“The love and support we receive from the people on this project mean a lot because it reassures us as artists that we are creating music that people love. Things are happening as we had hoped and anticipated for the collaboration. Seeing the single dominate the charts in the last two weeks has been exciting,” Big Zulu said.

The twosome is expected to release an album titled “Ukhamba” on May 12 under one of South Africa’s big recording labels, Warner Music Africa (WMA). “Ukhamba” in Zulu means calabash, symbolising unity, teamwork, replenishment, knowledge, wisdom, self-sacrifice, experience, storage, change, protection, and value.

They will go on a national tour shortly after the album is released. Tickets to the shows are already available on Computicket.

These artists individually represent two music genres, and Big Zulu loudly proclaims through hip hop as Sjava navigates African trap and Afrosoul. The Bergville-born artists have a connection that runs deeper than music, which is their roots.

They both share a respect for love, hope and family in the Zulu culture, which is evident in their careers and may explain why their single has topped the charts, specifically the Bhinca Playlist. This playlist has an effective presentation.

It represents artists who practise their traditional Zulu culture, even through music. A Bhinca man always dresses in his Brentwood pants, a fedora hat, sandals and a small towel around his shoulders.

According to WMA, a collaborative album between Sjava and Big Zulu could only highlight the rich tapestry of complex Zulu identities, people, and ambition. The recording label added that this collaboration was a new horizon for all three parties.

“This idea started to percolate to bring Sjava and Big Zulu together for a one-time project. We wanted to do something extraordinary. Things did not fall into place, meeting after meeting, but we came to a meeting of the minds, and everything clicked,” said WMA’s MD Temi Adeniji.

Sjava said music has a spiritual element, and one should never have to rush it when explaining why they did not collaborate sooner.

“Music requires a lot of time and dedication. We have always wanted to work together but waited for the right time. Had we rushed to work together, we might not have yielded the results we have now,” Sjava said.

Since the project was not rushed, it made the recording and brainstorming sessions seamless with no pressure. Sjava said every minute he spent in the studio with Big Zulu was a great experience and motivational.

“If I tell you that we had no unpleasant moments in the studio or when we were discussing the project, you would say I’m lying. It was such an honour working with Big Zulu on this album. This is the first of many collaborations we will do together,” he said.

Concurring with Sjava, Big Zulu said: “The time and our readiness for the collaboration influenced the smooth sailing. I’m glad that we waited and created a masterpiece.”

The pair spoke about how every song on the album was close to their hearts and could not say which was their favourite.