The last time someone tried to bring Lebo Mathosa back to life, it was a bit of a disaster.
But Zaki Ibrahim insists the songs she will perform with Mathosa’s Boom Shaka bandmates on Saturday are a tribute – not an attempt to mimic the late singer.
Neo-soul singer Ibrahim, who is the Canadian-born child of South African parents, will front Boom Shaka at Saturday’s Hansa Festival of Legends in Johannesburg.
In an interview with City Press, Ibrahim said: “People are going to compare (me to Mathosa) because that’s what people do, also because people want to see what they know or what they are able to compare.”
She’s a little unnerved by the potential for criticism, of course.
Sello Maake Ka Ncube’s play Drama Queen, which told Mathosa’s life story, became famous instead for in-house drama and was slated by critics and fans alike.
Khanyi Mbau, who played the raunchy, sexy first lady of kwaito, disappointed audiences and Boom Shaka rapper Thembi Seete, who was also Mathosa’s best friend, stormed out in anger.
Mathosa died in a car crash in 2006.
She was just 29.
Ibrahim, though, is not expected to be an actress when she takes to the stage in Newtown on Saturday.
“It was explained to me that I was not playing a role – ‘You are Zaki and you are going to be singing songs that will be paying tribute to Lebo.”
In rehearsal, Ibrahim’s version of Mathosa’s solo hit Free proved that she’s not interested in imitation.
One thing the young singer has done to prepare for the gig is to dye her curly black hair blonde and have it braided, in a style similar to Mathosa’s.
“Our mannerism and looks are not the same but these songs are powerful songs that people are drawn to. It’s nostalgia, it’s her energy and her spirit and in my way, how it has influenced me. I would like to put them out.”
Asked if she might struggle with some of the vernacular lyrics – Ibrahim, who grew up in Canada, though she has settled as an adult in Cape Town – laughed.
“Lebo twanged her way through. She was twanging, bowing and yawing. I’m not about mimicking Lebo. There is no comparison and that’s not how I want to pay tribute to her.”