Local musician, his inspirations

2008-04-04 00:00

There is an evening of songs with Joel Zuma and friends at Madlula’s Place in the city tomorrow.

Zuma grew up in Pietermaritzburg and went to Alexandra High School, but is based in Johannesburg. He is presenting a night of soul with songs made famous by Luther Vandross, Marvin Gaye, Barry White, Lionel Ritchie and Stimela.

Did you grow up listening to the songs of Luther Vandross and Marvin Gaye?

Not at all! I grew up listening to local gospel — traditional, Zion, choral and commercial — as is befitting the son of a bishop in the Holy Banner Church eMpendle. I listened to Derrick Nzimande, Rebecca Malope and later Vuyo Mokwena and groups such as the Pongola Gospel Wagon, Holy Cross Choir and Galathia. Now and then I heard some American gospel. It wasn’t until 1994 that I was introduced to soul and R&B. Now I listen to all types of music. I love Afro-jazz, Afro-soul, R&B and some Afro-pop.

What or who has been your biggest influence in the entertainment industry?

Many artists have influenced my sound. I worked in musical theatre where we sang everything from Louis Armstrong and Joe Cocker to Robbie Williams and Boyz II Men... and I liked Boyz II Men. But when I heard Luther Vandross’s rendition of Always and Forever, Hello and many others on his album Songs, I fell in love with the man’s voice, his vocal delivery, precision, articulation and his ease. He made it sound easy, but it wasn’t, so for a while I wanted to be like him. I later realised that I have a unique sound that happens to be influenced by Luther’s musical ethos, among others.

What are your best memories from Alexandra High School?

My best memories from Alex are performing in a school supper theatre co-ordinated by Mrs Meyer, where I sang a song from My Fair Lady — On the Street Where You Live. That and being awarded the “most spirited performance” trophy after leading the debating team to win against Girls’ High. Thanks to Mrs Mathfield for believing in me.

How would you describe South Africa at the moment?

Alive with all sorts of possibilities. In SA you can become anything you want to be. We may have challenges, but we will overcome this like other countries that have overcome their growing pains. SA is a beautiful country and a resilient nation.

Who are the “friends” you are performing with?

Surprise guests from Pietermartizburg and Johannesburg.

What are your future plans?

I am finalising a recording deal and I have been writing a musical, which will showcase at the Grahamstown festival this year. If I can get enough financial support, I will bring it to Pietermaritzburg either before or after its run at the Market Theatre at the beginning of next year.

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