We chat to the Afrocentric Msaki


When I heard the soulful, Afrocentric sounds of the song Imfama Ziyabona, my mind said it must be Zonke. No, wait, Lira. 

But no, it’s neither. There’s something unique about this voice. Msaki is an authentic musician in her own right.

Whether she features on songs by Mobi Dixon or Revolution, you cannot escape her voice. Msaki has been charting on Metro FM’s Top 30 for 17 weeks and is steadily appearing in local newspapers and on TV.

East London has given the nation the biggest thing since Zahara. We had some questions for her.

You once received a call from a well-known DJ and label owner, but turned down his offer. Was discovering yourself more important than a record deal?

I had a plan to grow my independent company, One Shushu Day Artistry, and share my music and art through that. I was busy cultivating my sound and was in no hurry. I felt it was a time to travel my province and play as much as I could to grow a strong foundation.

I have since had to decline other offers, as I believe a premature launch without a good understanding of the sound and the vision of the artist is dangerous. We are building a musical community here in the Eastern Cape.

There’s something about your music that touches emotions and takes one to a place of hope...

I’m not sure what it does for others, but I wrote many of the songs to strengthen myself. When I felt ready to give them away, I shared them.

It’s truly a humbling experience to hear that my music touches people, but that is a by-product of something deeper that I try not to understand. It is a mystery to me and it gives life to me too.

How did the production process on your debut album, Zaneliza: How the Water Moves, work?

I had two sets of semi-live recording sessions in Johannesburg and the main one in the Eastern Cape. I worked with close to 20 musicians to achieve the final sound. I play live with many of them now while promoting the album.

I wrote, composed and arranged all the songs on Zaneliza. Nduduzo Makhathini and Cobus van Dyk were my co-producers. Some of the ideas and phrases in the songs came from the musicians themselves. Featured on the album are Umle Sounds and Xolani Faku. It was a really beautiful and collaborative process, and I believe the sound captures this generous music community well.

Catch Msaki live at the Cape Town Fringe Festival. She’ll be playing Diva Night on 8, October at 21:00 at the City Hall Auditorium.