Thandiswa Mazwai talks music

Thandiswa Mazwai

By Bridgette Matjuda Pictures Andile Mthembu

The award-winning music legend, who is also our December cover star, chats to us about her sisterhood with the late kwaito singer Lebo Mathosa. She also lets us in on other music stars she would love to work with and all things music. Allow her to usher you into her world…

What does music mean to you?
It is my sanctuary, salvation, playground and life’s fascination.

Who influenced your sound and impressions of music as a child?
Like every kid growing up in the 80s, I loved Brenda Fassie, Whitney Houston, Anita Baker and all American 70s funky bands. Mostly, my impression of music was formed around memories. And, every memory, good and bad, has a sound. Even silence has a hum and is often filled with the voices in our head.

Thandiswa Mazwai

WATCH: BHS with Thandiswa Mazwai

Which musos are you currently obsessed with?
I’ve been listening to a lot of old school jazz, including music by Lee Morgan, Johnny Dyani, Ayinde Barrister and Hugh Masekela. Also, there’s no escaping the Nigerian party sound, so Tekno Miles, Wizkid and Davido are always blasting in my radio.

On a good day, which feel-good music do you listen to?
Dancehall (Vybz Kartel, Mavado and Buju Banton), Afrobeat (Fela Kuti, Seun Kuti, Ebo Taylor and the Lijadu Sisters) as well as hip hop (Killer Priest, Homeboy Sandman and Kendrick Lamar).

On a challenging day, which song speaks to you the most?
These days, Mama by Hugh Masekela licks my wounds. But when I die, Philip Tabane’s Ngwana o ya lela must be on the playlist.

Thandiswa Mazwai

Your music is timeless, relatable and unites people from all backgrounds. What is your end goal with it?
I make music to soothe my pain and crystallise the memory of my mother. It’s also to engage subjects of interest and have a conversation with my generation.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
Life, as well as its challenges and beauty. I’m also inspired by my love for Africa.

You consider the late Lebo Mathosa your dear friend and sister in kwaito. Can you paint a picture on the kind of sisterhood you had?
I was a huge fan of Lebo, and I looked up to her in order to soak in her magic. She loved singing and often sung for us when we visited her. She was incredibly generous and fun. I adored her and was broken by her passing. We were so different, yet so similar – kasi girls with a destiny that nobody could stop. I have her autograph!

Thandiswa Mazwai

You’ve collaborated with legendary musicians, both locally and internationally. Which other music legends would you still like to work with?
I would love to work with ntate Caiphus Semenya, Erykah Badu, Georgia Anne Muldrow and Salif Keita.

You have mentioned before that you’re interested in exploring electronic music, dub, funk and punk. When can your fans expect an offering with different sounds of music?
You can come to my punk collaboration with BLK JKS at the AFROPUNK Fest at Constitution Hill on 31 December. We go by the name KingTha vs BLKJKS, and we are working on an album that will come out early next year.

What legacy do you wish to leave behind and how do you want to be remembered by your fans and loved ones?
I never know how to answer this question. Argentinian poet Antonio Porchia once said “One lives in the hope of becoming a memory.”