Last week Friday, Sjava and Big Zulu announced a joint project as Inkabi Zezwe, which is the name of their duo. The project’s first single, ‘Umbayimbayi’, is slated for a March 24 release, and an album will follow in May. It will be released under Warner Music Africa (WMA).
“Inkabi Zezwe” is an isiZulu phrase of endearment that, when used in the context of music, describes a unified brotherhood that is representative and reflective of the nation. The name bears a similarity to legendary Maskandi super group Izingqulungqulu Zomhlaba which consisted of Hhashi Elimhlophe, Phuzekhemisi and the late Mfaz’Omnyama. The duo take a lot of inspiration from the genre which they both grew up on and still continue to immerse themselves in.
Sjava in an interview during the duo’s media launch, mentioned that Maskandi, Isicathamiya and Hip-Hop are genres that made him realise the importance of taking pride in where they come from and their language. “They would use their own language but they performed all over the world. Ubab’ uShabalala (from Ladysmith Black Mambas) would win a GRAMMY and still return to herd his cattle,” Sjava said. “Both Big Zulu and I have awards we won for using our language in our music.”
The backdrop of this creative exploit was Bergville, which is the birthplace and home to both musicians. This proximity to home meant that the music would be poignant and would carry fragments of the pair’s intimate world, the people that raised them, and the green hills that raise them. “We always make music that speak to the people. We’ve made songs about love, about struggle. So, it will touch people according to where they are.” On the importance of singing and rapping in their mothers tongue, he said, “We are from the rural areas so if we don’t use our language, who will?”
The collaboration with WMA on this project has been well in the works and marks a new horizon for both the label and the artists. WMA, MD Temi Adeniji recalls:
“This idea started to percolate of bringing Sjava and Big Zulu together for a one-time project. We wanted to do something really, special. Things didn’t immediately fall into place – meeting after meeting, putting all the pieces together, and coming up with a structure that worked for all parties. After a few months, we came to a meeting of the minds, and it was like everything clicked. For me, this project signifies so much. It’s the first really big project Warner has done since I came in and given our intention to transform our business and really bring it to the centre of the culture here in the country, it couldn’t be more perfect in my opinion”.
“As much as it may seem like an unexpected collaboration, it also feels so natural. It just makes sense considering who, what, and where both artists represent. An unsurprising surprise. Really excited to witness how South Africa responds to this project” says 1020 Cartel Co-Director, Nothando Migogo.
“When our ancestors speak our duty is to listen and respond. This collaboration was orchestrated in the spiritual realm. It was supposed to happen and to give healing to our people. This project speaks of everything that affects the lives of our people, it will resonate and connect with people on a higher level. This is the coming together of two spiritual and gifted individuals” echoes Leroy Khoza, Co-Founder of Nkabi Records.
The duo will reveal details of their nationwide tour and merch soon.