Sjava's fans finally have something new to sink their teeth into as the muso has released a full-length project. It comes five years after the release of his last full-length project, Umqhele, in 2018.
Born Jabulani Hadebe in Bergville, KwaZulu-Natal, Sjava spent his childhood in the rural outskirts of Okhahlamba (Drakensburg). His move to Johannesburg as a teenager shaped him as an artist and surprisingly jumpstarted his career as an actor in local films and series, including Zone 14.
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His successful career took shape with the release of his debut album Isina Muva in 2016. The album introduced the country to a more experimental African sound. In 2020, he released Umsebenzi, an EP that was just enough to keep his fans on their toes.
Now, his fans have another offering, Isibuko, which translates to mirror. After the controversy that followed the muso and his past relationships, this album exposes some deep and introspective raw emotions.
The album is a thoughtful reflection of his journey within the last few years and even showcases how his vocal ability has evolved since his last release. In February 2022, Sjava went on a two-week album retreat, which became the catalyst for Isibuko. During this time, he laid some necessary vocals in the mountains of KwaZulu-Natal and give birth to Isibuko and its signature sound.
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With the same experimental nature, Isibuko is filled with different sounds and musical influences that you can hear within the layers of the tracks.
Isoka, which features Q Twins and Mzukulu, uses an Afrobeats influence, while the song Kube Ngangazi is softer in its approach, and uses indie influences with a brilliant African blend.
Sjava employed the knowledge of his long-time friend and producer Vuyo Manyike, also known as Ruff. Ruff has worked with Sjava since the release of his first project in 2016, so, this wonderful addition also shows Ruff’s own evolution on his production sound and value.
Sjava upped the ante with some well-thought-out international talents, including Zambian superstar Sampa the Great (Sampa Tembo) and local musician Saudi, who featured on the song Ungavumi, which gave the album a great R&B flavour.
Other featured artists included Roll Up hitmaker Emtee, maskandi heavyweights Shwi on the song Ithuna and Mzukulu on the songs Isoka and Akabuye. The Qwabe Twins and vocal heavyweight Mzulu Phaqa also gave the album a little flair.
With themes of self-doubt and self-sabotage explored in Amavaka and haunting prayers and pleas to God in Thixo, Sjava takes us into his own mind and the things that have tormented him.
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Happier songs, such as My Life and Isoka, round the album up well as they employ positive and feel-good messages, and almost show a kind of self-actualisation on his journey.
Isibuko seems rub Sjava's fans the right way, as it feels like he was never gone, making him a good contender for a few awards this year.