Former Abashante singer Nestum on making a music comeback - ‘I’m still relevant’

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Kwaito rapper Zanele Nyakale-Peterson known by her stage name Nestum says people can expect a big comeback.
Kwaito rapper Zanele Nyakale-Peterson known by her stage name Nestum says people can expect a big comeback.

When she got on stage, the audience couldn't help but sing and dance along with her. With hits like Girls and Vula Masango, she often had fans eating out of her hands. 

Then she disappeared off the limelight. But she never really left, she just moved into life behind the scenes. 

Nestum, real name Zanele Nyakale-Peterson, was 15 when she first gained popularity as part of the Abashante group. They were known for their dancing and kwaito raps. 

Now 42, she's ready to make a comeback. Nestum, who was also known as DJ Nesty, believes it's never too late to do what you love. 

She left the limelight in 2005 and started a career in radio. 

She currently hosts the Party Time 2 am until 6 am graveyard shift on Lesedi FM every Saturday and Sunday where she has worked for 12 years. 

“When I decided to leave 999 music, I went into radio,” she tells Drum.

“I believed radio would still keep me in the industry, but I needed a break from the limelight, it had started to become draining and took so much from me,” she adds.

In between music and radio, she worked on television as a presenter on the talent search show Jam Ally alongside the late Vinolia Mashego before moving to present Please Call Me for a year before it was taken over by the late Bob Mabena and Thembi Seete.

“Had I not taken a break, I don’t believe I would still be standing and still relevant, but by the grace of God, I am here,” she says. “Many of the people I sang with back then have passed on, some are ill and some are going through financial difficulties. But I have been so blessed to still look young and be relevant and do what I love because stars are born every day and the old ones vanish,” she says.

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Nestum’s music career started at 15 years old after she was discovered by music mogul Arthur Mafokate at 999 Music.

“I was very young when I joined 999,” she says.

“People made all sorts of comments saying I would never amount to anything. That I would probably drop out of school and become a junky. They shamed my parents for letting me do music at such a young age, but I proved them wrong,” she says. 

“I went to school. I did a few diplomas and I never experimented with drugs, I stayed clean.”

What kept her strong was never forgetting her family values.

“If you are not content and don’t know who you are, then the industry will destroy you,” she says.

“I also knew myself and lived by the principal instilled in me by my parents and grandmother who taught me about God. I pray a lot. I kept my circle small. I didn’t party without a reason. I used to drink alcohol, but I decided to stop. I am already energetic, and alcohol made me tired and didn’t give me any positive vibes. I ate well and took care of myself. If something doesn’t benefit my life then I will not go,” she says. 

“That has shielded me from the demons of the industry. But I’ve kept my ear to the ground to know what is current and trendy.”

Nestum says people believe that when you are no longer in the limelight, you can be easily forgotten.

“People forget you and they think you are irrelevant. But you are busy working in the background.”

Through the years, Nestum has learned that laying low keeps one away from the politics of the entertainment industry.

“Taking a break is always important. It helped me to rediscover myself, disappearing worked for me. Marriage also helped,” she says.

“People like to say bawile (The mighty have fallen). But that’s not the case for me. My kids gave me a reason to fight, to stay alive, and to remain young. I still get booked for MC gigs and staying relevant was never an issue.”

While focusing on building her radio career, she also enjoyed being a mom to her two boys 18 years old and 7 years old and dedicated more time to her marriage.

“My husband has been very supportive in all my decisions. He has assisted me with my radio show throughout the years."

Although she was away, she is still friends with her Kwaito counterparts from the early 2000s. They recently had a Kwaito reunion honouring the stars. 

“I met up with all the guys, Mdu, Trompies, Joe Nina and it was such a pleasure seeing everyone looking happy and healthy.”

Read more l Gauteng Sports Awards announce the nominees Nestum says she is now ready to make her come back into the music industry. Still looking beautiful and full of energy, not much has changed for the 42-year-old.

“I am planning a very big comeback,” she says. 

The last album she released was in 1999 with Arthur All-Stars featuring Queen Iyaya, Zobo, Power, and Stitch.

She tried to make a return in 2018 when she released the single Sgubhu but that did not work out. 

“We were just playing around. It was a good song, but we didn’t get much airplay. We were just testing the waters. But I am in the process of going back to the studio to record my EP which will be out in 2022.”

Nestum loves Amapiano music and plans to mix her Kwaito with Amapiano for her album.

“I love Amapiano. It is the birth child of Kwaito music, and we need to work with Amapiano artists. We are living in an amapiano era. It is an evolution of Kwaito music, and I can’t wait for people to see that I still have my dance moves even at this age,” she says.

Nestum would have loved to feature the late Mpura and Killer Kau on her album.

“They were such raw and hardcore talent. But I would love to do something with Maphorisa and Kabza De Small and include veteran artists.” Last year Nestum also took a three-month course at Star quality Performing Arts college.

“I was brushing up my acting skills and people can expect to see me on the small screens. But everything I do will always revolve around music.”

She has no regrets about the decisions she made when she was young.

“Everything I do was planned by God. I have lived unapologetically.”

Nestum says she was never in competition with anyone and that is how she wants to keep things.

“I have always lived a minimalistic kasi chick. I have never been a people pleaser. I sometimes use public transport because I do what makes me happy. I try to live by God’s rules.”

Being away meant focusing on her other interests. “I like to help the upcoming artist by giving them opportunities. In my radio show, I play a lot of unknown and upcoming artists. I give DJs a chance to play their mixes for an hour.” 

Nestum is also working on grooming and supporting upcoming female DJs.

“The industry is flooded by male DJs. Since being at Lesedi, I have mastered my DJing and I want to help more female DJs.”

Every Sunday, Nestum and her DJ husband Bilal Petersen host Sunday Soul Sessions at their family business carwash which has been running for 15 years in Mapetla Soweto. 

“The carwash has always supported male DJs. I have introduced an only female set and we are launching it on 31 October.”

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