The Umkhele hitmaker was set to perform a remix version of All the Stars at the event, but no longer, thanks to no-shows by SZA and Kendrick Lamar
It will be up to Trevor Noah and Charlize Theron to represent South Africa at the 91st Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday night, after Umqhele hitmaker Sjava had his dreams dashed.
Sjava had already booked a plane ticket and had written a new verse for Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s Oscar-nominated track, All the Stars – from the blockbuster movie, Black Panther – when he was told that he would no longer be performing a special version of the song.
He told City Press: “Kendrick and I have never met, but he is always trying to put me on. I had been invited by him to perform at the ceremony, but then we got word that they had decided to pull out because of other commitments and logistics.”
Sjava says his label, Ambitiouz Records, received word from Top Dawg Entertainment, which Lamar and SZA are signed to, about the decision to cancel on Wednesday.
All the Stars, which was the lead single off the Black Panther soundtrack, has been nominated for Best Original Song. It is up against the favourite, Shallow, sung by Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga from the film A Star is Born.
Although Sjava does not appear in the original song, he says he had written a verse specifically for the performance and it would have been a special premiere of the remix version of the song.
“I was going to replace Kendrick and do my verse along with SZA,” he says. “It is a beautiful song and I was really excited to be a part of that moment.”
It is unclear whether another artist was asked to perform All the Stars, as is the case with The Place Where Lost Things Go from the Mary Poppins Returns movie soundtrack, where Emily Blunt will be replaced by Bette Midler.
The absence of Lamar and SZA is the latest in a string of debacles surrounding the organisation of the Oscars this year.
Host Kevin Hart stepped down amid a homophobia controversy and has not been replaced. A month ago, the academy confirmed that, out of the five nominated songs, only All the Stars and Shallow would be part of the live telecast in a bid to streamline the show.
The academy later retracted and said all five songs would be part of the broadcast, in 90-second truncated versions.
This week, it was announced that funnyman Noah would be helping to introduce the Best Picture contenders, joining actress Theron, who was announced as a presenter earlier.
Will Spike Lee finally win?
Punters remain divided on whether there will be an upset this year in the Best Picture and Best Director categories, with many hoping that Black Panther and Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman will lift gold.
Lee’s depiction of race and black history in the US makes him one of today’s most important film makers. But while he received an honorary Oscar in 2015, he has never earned a competitive trophy in more than three decades of making movies.
His crime drama has been nominated in three categories – Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.
It is for his screenplay that Lee is being touted as the favourite, while most critics believe Alfonso Cuarón will beat him to win the top director Oscar for Roma.
Lee, who many believe should have won years ago for films such as Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, 25th Hour or She’s Gotta Have It, has a contentious relationship with the awards show. In 2016 he boycotted attending the event, citing the lack of black nominees.