‘Every time I sing that song, I am reminded of her’ - Singer Zuko Kupiso opens up about Nwabisa G’s death

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Zuko Kupisa and Nwabisa Gcilitshana had big plans before she died and he plans to carry those through as a tribute.
Zuko Kupisa and Nwabisa Gcilitshana had big plans before she died and he plans to carry those through as a tribute.

He currently has one of the biggest songs on the radio. With seven of his songs featured on the Showmax series Hlomu, The Wife, he is out to dominate as a newcomer.

Afro-soul singer and songwriter Zuko Kupisa (26) released his single Qhawe Lam in July 2021 featuring late singer Nwabisa Gcilitshana which has seen him perform on major stages across the country. But celebrating the great achievement has not been easy.

In February 2022, just as their music career was kicking off, Zuko lost Nwabisa after she drowned while swimming with some of her cousins.

“We were supposed to be celebrating the success of the song together,” he says.

“We had big plans and we had been working really hard.”

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Before his career blossomed, Zuko had been working as a sound engineer and producer for major and unknown artists before deciding to release an album titled No one Is Safe. Just when he thought things were coming together and he would get his big break, Covid-19 hit and he struggled to make an income.

“I used the lockdown time to make music, but something very unfortunate happened. Someone broke into my place, and I lost R50 000 worth of studio equipment – guitars, computers, you name them,” he says.

“I was forced to go back home and gather enough strength to be able to come back to Joburg and start the hustle gain.”

Upon his return to Joburg things started coming together. He created Qhawe Lam with singer and friend Nwabisa until another tragedy struck. He was informed about Nwabisa’s death in February.

“We had big plans together,” he says.

“We had both just left a record company where we were not happy and we were working independently to build our brand and then she died, and I had to learn to live with that,” he says.

Zuko is still struggling to come to terms with her untimely death.

“Every time I sing that song, I am reminded of her. I haven’t healed, to be honest. It has been very difficult to even open up and speak about her.”

When Nwabisa died, Zuko had also been producing her album.

“But he will continue her legacy. I have a good relationship with her family and I will make sure that she is not forgotten.”

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This month, Zuko prepares to host his very first live music concert named after his single Qhawe Wam at Leano Restaurant & Live Music on 16 July, featuring Brenda Mtambo, Putuma Tiso, 047 and Umhlobo Wenene presenter Amaza Ntshanga.

“I’ve always wanted to have a tour and perform with people. It was part of the plan. I was still saving up for the show,” he says.

“With every gig I got, I saved money towards the show. And we plan to take it to Cape Town and the Eastern Cape. My idea is to inspire someone who thinks it’s impossible to save up and do things independently,” he says.

“I met Putuma first in Joburg while playing piano for her, she inspired me a lot to do the show.

"She also advised me on how to go about doing a live show. I look up to Brenda. She reached out to me when she saw me perform at the SAMA nominations event. It’s a big deal having people who want to help young talent like myself. I have been working with 047 for a few years and we have a song together titled Xa Ungekho. So the artists on the line-up all add value to my life.”

The Dutywa-born rising star started playing the keyboard at church. He later joined his high school arts and culture group then travelled with them to the then Grahamstown Festival.

“I realised later, that I had a passion for production and learned to produce music on YouTube. I studied Sound Engineering but dropped out due to fees. But I met some amazing friends who assisted me in production. I would sit in their studios and watch them make music and produce and it was practical work. Today, I am where I am because of all the experiences I have gone through,” he says.

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