A journey of emotions, from A to Zonke
The tag superwoman is bandied about loosely these days - and I couldn't think of a more appropriate time to use it after meeting Zonke Dikana.
This Wonder Woman is the epitome of a music superhero. She writes and composes her music, arranges, produces, sings and performs.
"Even in 2018, on my sixth album, I still have to explain that I wrote, produced the entire project. Some people find it hard to believe that I do all of that on my own, in my music. I don't know if it's because I'm a woman.
"Sometimes I feel like climbing on top of a mountain and shouting to address this once and for all, but at the same time it keeps me going. I tell myself 'you doubt me? I will show you and do it again'.
"Somehow people can't fathom that a woman in music can do everything for herself. It's easier to accept that in fine art or fashion design or interior decor. They are going to wait for a long while if they think there is a ghost producer I hire and pay to keep quiet."
We meet on one of the coldest days of the year. She looks demure in textures of black and flawless make-up. Bright-eyed, petite and full of smiles, she is a star at every angle. At 38, you'd be forgiven for thinking she's in her 20s.
As we sink into one of the luxurious sofas in the Sade room of Sony Music offices in Parktown, Johannesburg, it hits me how ironic that we would be here.
I mean in many ways, Zonke has always reminded me of Sade - not only with her timeless music, but her mystique. She rarely features on red carpets, she comes out with a release once in a while, she guards her private life and to know her, we search through her music.
Her newest album L.O.V.E is out, which she spells out as Living Out Every Emotion.
"It's about the ultimate state of love in general, not only between a man and a woman. It's a happy album," she says.
With just nine songs that are destined to be classics in their own right, Zonke takes you on an emotional journey.
From the rhythmic opener Ndili Mpondo, the lively Intliziyo, the groovy Soul to Keep featuring Kwesta, to the disco bangers Tonight and L.O.V.E and the sumptuous Uyandithanda and Ndiyakthembisa, there is a song for every season and emotion.
In search of the holy grail that makes a quintessential Zonke song, our conversation goes back to Sade.
"She is my inspiration and I feel she mirrors me with her unique style. You're forced to look for her in the music. Mystique is important in music.
"I'm naturally not too outgoing, not to say I'm unfriendly, but I'm not tempted to be what I'm not.
"I've always been an old soul, the skirts have never been shorter and I've never partied. I've just maintained my music and this family business my father started."
She refers to the legacy of her late father Viva, stepmother Anneline Malebo and sister Lulu who were all musicians.
Our chat reaches an emotional crescendo when we talk about how she lives for music.
"Music is all I live for, to a point where I feel so guilty because if you were to ask me, 'which is more important, your kids or your music?'
"I'd rather say 'both', but I can never say it's them [my kids]. If it's not the music then I'm no good to them. I will be dead, a zombie to them. For me to be present and be happy as their mom, they gotta let me do the music."