Shekhinah dances to her own different sound

Shekhinah Thandi Donnell is riding the wave of success and has released a new single.
Shekhinah Thandi Donnell is riding the wave of success and has released a new single.

From a certified gold album, performing at the SA Music Awards and taking home three awards on the night, including the coveted album of the year, Shekhinah is the girl of the moment.

The 23-year-old star has only been in the industry for three years as a recording artist after South Africans were introduced to her as a teen in the singing reality show Idols SA.

She didn't win the contest but took her time to strategise her comeback, and the rewards have been mind-blowing.

"I feel like all these awards and achievements are something you should work towards throughout a longer period in your career, so I think it's pushing me to move at a different speed and pace, which is exciting," she says.

Born Shekhinah Thandi Donnell, the laid-back vocalist who is known for her unconventional look and sound is constantly on a journey of self-discovery and acceptance.

"There are a lot of people that I would want to be like, look like and sound like but that's just not me so I try very hard not to fall into that convention. Being myself is what got me to where I am right now."

Her new single, Different, featuring Mariechan Luiters of former all-girl group Jamali, embodies this truth and has been well received by fans.

"Different for me is about stereotypes and trying to break them and just challenging the idea of two females being vocalists and their differences but still working cohesively in the same world," she says.

"People like to put you in different boxes, like coloured, short, hot or chubby, and I wanted to highlight those stereotypes, which is why I broke the video in two halves of black and white - yin and yang."

The songstress, who has faced scrutiny over her race and background, says that a lot was expected from her in terms of releasing an album and what it would be about. This is why she felt the need to convey the notion of her doing things her own way in this single and emphasising the power of women.

"I think, like most industries, everything feels very heavily male dominated and I find my producers, sound engineers and directors will always be guys, and that's a problem," she says.

"A lot of women in the industry have very male-dominated teams and it shows, but it is slowly changing because we are doing our best to change it."

Although Shekhinah is collaborating with women and creating an all-female team, she still gives credit to support and mentorship from males like her good friend and powerhouse, Black Coffee.

"I think Black Coffee is such a beautiful example for all artists in our country. He expanded and left a territory he was most known in and started pushing overseas and is succeeding.

"I really appreciate him and there's no reason I can't aspire to be the artist he is as a female."

With dreams of gracing stages like Coachella, nothing is holding this ambitious young musician back.

"I think for me what is really big is to have a gold-selling album globally, not just in South Africa. It's difficult but it's possible," she laughs.

Her debut album, Rose Gold, turns one in October and she plans to celebrate the milestone with a national tour.