Simphiwe Dana looks forward to blessing our ears

Simphiwe Dana
Simphiwe Dana

What inspires your music? I’m inspired by the human condition, my own humanity and that of people around me, self-improvement, healing as well as generational trauma. Some artists are social observers – they find enough time to discover what will make society better. For me, it’s quite a privilege to have that opportunity, and to earn a living out of it.

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What was the inspiration behind your new single Usikhonzile? It was my way of crying out for more empathetic leadership; the kind that prioritises the well-being of its people. The term usikhonzile means, “You hold us dear or in high regard”. The general intent was more political, but it can also be romantic. I don’t like over-explaining my songs because I don’t want to dictate what meaning people should take away from them. I would love to see them own the meaning of the song in whatever way they choose to interpret or experience it.

Tell us about your new album. The title is Bamako – the capital city of Mali. I added the final touches during my month-long stay in Mali where I worked with a local producer and musicians.

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You’ve resisted the pressure of releasing music to stay relevant. What is your process when making music? It’s great to receive recognition for your work. But, I don’t do music for stardom or adulation when I walk down the street. I’m a very private homebody who only goes out when there’s a very good reason to do so. I really enjoy what I do. I feel incredibly blessed to have this gift, and to know that it doesn’t only enrich me, but also the world around. For me, music is a form of healing. When everything around me gets a bit too much, I know that it is time to offload, and I do so by going into studio and writing music. I can only write and record once I’ve reached a certain pressure point, that is why I don’t release music all the time.

What else do you get up to when you’re not making music? Like I said, I’m a homebody of note [chuckles]. I spend time with my children, I read, cook, play music and drink wine with friends. They know that they need to come knocking on my door when they haven’t seen me in a while. I’m a loner by nature, and socially awkward. I think it is because I spend a lot of time alone.

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If time, resources and parental commitments weren’t an issue, where would you love to escape to? An island with a lot of half-naked men serving me – going hunting and cooking on the beach, so they can feed me fresh food. I would be on a completely different planet all together [chuckles]!