Soul sisters

2013-12-25 05:59

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Christmas is a bittersweet time for the Dikana family. Sisters Lulu and Zonke tell us why this time of year is as much about remembrance as it is about celebration

Christmas was a joyous occasion in their childhood hometown of Kwazakhele in Port Elizabeth. It was all about tables groaning under plates of food, new clothes, sweets from the neighbours, singing and dancing.

They love looking back on that time, Lulu (35) says. ‘At my maternal grandmother’s house Christmas was a big deal.

There would be lights and everyone would dress up. At my paternal grandmother’s there wouldn’t be any decorations but there was lots of food. There was something so beautiful and innocent about that time – a real sense of unity that Christmas took to another level.’

Their mom would make Lulu, Zonke and their other sisters – big sis Busisiwe and younger siblings Asanda and Naledi – dress up for the occasion and everyone fussed over the little girls.

But Christmas is tinged with sadness now. Their grandparents and parents have all passed away – and earlier this year their beloved sister Busisiwe died suddenly at the age of 37, causing a grief-stricken Zonke to cancel some of her concerts.

‘It was another huge loss for the family,’ Lulu says. ‘Christmas is sometimes a painful reminder of the people we have lost along the way.’

Zonke says if she knew that last Christmas would be their final one with Busi they would have made more of it.

‘We spent the holiday together with our kids,’ recalls the 33-year-old songbird, who is a mom of two –11-year-old daughter Milani and 22-month-old son Noah. Lulu has a 15-year-old son, Luhle.

They always go the extra mile at this time of year, Zonke adds, and last year was no exception. ‘We had lots of food and loads of laughter. It was a real bonding experience for us and we got the chance to get over some of our silly squabbles – the kind that all sisters have. I wish

I had known it would be my last Christmas with Busisiwe – I would have hugged her tighter and for longer. I am very grateful for the memory of that last time, though.’

Lulu and Zonke will be together this year too – which is why we decided to test their knowledge of each about matters festive…

Zonke vs Lulu

What’s you sister’s favourite Christmas food?

Zonke on Lulu: Hmmm … it’s hard to say as we don’t have specific Christmas food. But she loves crispy food so I’ll say extra-crispy chicken.

Lulu on Zonke: Salmon – or any sea- food actually. I would have said chilli mince in the past but she doesn’t eat meat anymore.

Were they right...?

Zonke: I’m a healthy eater so as long it’s healthy, I’m happy. I also love seafood – so I’d be perfectly content with that too.

Lulu: It might not be all that exciting but I suppose I’d have to say chicken. I love crispy chicken.

What’s the best gift you’ve ever bought her? 

Zonke on Lulu: I got her a bottle of Guess perfume a few years ago and sheloved that. I think she’s a bit like Kim Kardashian in the sense that she loves collecting fragrances.

Lulu on Zonke: I think she really liked the Joyce Meyer book I bought her last year. We both love Christian books. While we do buy each other gifts it’s not a big deal in our family – so I could be wrong.

Were they right...?

Zonke: I don’t care much for gifts to be honest but she did buy me lovely cushions one year.

I had just bought a new lounge suit and mentioned I was going to buy cushions. She beat me to it and surprised me with the gift. That’s Lulu for you – she’s so thoughtful.

Lulu: She’s bought me quite a few good ones. One year I saw an amazing yellow dress and mentioned it to her in passing. Coincidentally, she’d already bought me a similar – but nicer – yellow dress.

I was so surprised and I loved that she’d read my mind.

Looking back at 2013 …

(Zonke) The biggest lesson I learnt this year… was how to be patient. I have always struggled with my temper and I couldn’t understand why people didn’t do things my way. This year I learnt the gift of patience and accepted that all people are different. This has helped me to enjoy all my relationships more.

My biggest treat this year… was two new cars I bought myself. I’d rather not say what make they are but I love cars so I decided to treat myself.

It was an extravagance but I think I deserved it. I feel almost guilty when I buy things for myself and I struggle with that. But I work hard so I thought why not…

My favourite memory of the year… is shooting my new DVD, Give and Take: Live. I recorded it in July at the Lyric Theatre in Joburg and it was an amazing experience. To have all those people singing along to my songs brought me to tears. I will never forget that feeling.

(Lulu) The biggest lesson I learnt this year… was how to love more. The passing of our sister made me realise how short life is. I’m doing more of the things I love now, and I’m more loving and accepting of myself because of that too.

My biggest treat this year… was perfume, perfume and more perfume! I absolutely love smelling good and buying fragrance is my main indulgence. I can’t even tell you what my favourite one is – I just can’t choose. I love so many too much.

My favourite memory of the year… was performing with Zonke at the Macufe Cultural Festival in Bloemfontein. It was wonderful – everyone had been on about us singing together and it was a great surprise for our fans when we finally did.

More about the Dikana sisters

Zonke and Lulu help each other cope in all areas of life – including in the tough music world. Zonke says she was thrilled when Lulu moved up to Joburg from the Eastern Cape in the early 2000s as she knew she would have an ally.

Zonke moved to the big city in the late 1990s, signed to Kalawa Jazmee records, and wrote for artists such as Theo Kgonsinkwe and Winnie Khumalo.

Although she was initially known for house music, she quickly turned to the genre she was passionate about – Afro soul.

It was a good move: her album Ina Ethe became a hit and songs such as Viva – a tribute to her late father, drummer Viva Dikana – received plenty of airtime.

Zonke received a South African Music Award (SAMA) for Best African Adult Album and a Metro FM Award for Best Female Artist in 2012.

Lulu has followed in his sister’s footsteps when it comes to making soulful music. She’s recorded two albums – My Diary, My Thoughts and This Is The Life, which was released in 2011 and nominated for three Metro FM Awards and two SAMAs.

Being in the same industry has major perks for the sisters.

‘I often wonder what it’s like for people who don’t have family in the industry,’ Zonke says.

‘Lulu has my back and I have hers and we understand each other’s realities very well. I find it comforting to speak to her because she knows how the industry works – trying to explain it to someone who doesn’t know the business is impossible. I’m so grateful to have her.’

It’s a sentiment Lulu echoes. ‘Zonke has been in the business for longer and seeing her success motivates me.

I know I can go to her for advice and I love having that support. The only downside to having a sister in the industry is that comparisons are inevitable. But that’s something we can generally ignore.’

One negative amid all the positives – not bad at all.

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