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Zamajobe dusts herself off after toxic relationship

Singer bounces back after 10-year hiatus

Singer and songwriter Zamajobe Sithole.
Singer and songwriter Zamajobe Sithole.
Image: Supplied

Once a shining star of the early 2000s with a voice and sound that could be on any soulful Sunday radio playlist, singer Zamajobe Sithole regrets taking a 10-year hiatus from the industry following a toxic relationship whose ending brought her misery. 

Zamajobe is now back into the scene with new music but she is grappling to comprehend with the industry dominated by amapiano — a sound that didn't exist when she took a pause from making music in 2013. 

“I left the game for 10 years. I am kind of getting back to it, trying to get my name out there in the media, radio and TV space. Leaving the industry set me back. 

“I try not to have a lot of regrets but I regret leaving the industry. I feel I would have done so much and be ahead with a lot of things. I am one of those who believe in building her own empire. I feel I should have approached everything differently. Now that I am back I will see where God takes me,” said the musician.

Zamajobe, who could be best described as one of the princesses of Afro-soul at the height of her career, is currently touring Germany, Poland, Austria and the Czech Republic with new music. She caught up with Time Out this week ahead of her show in Berlin. 

The Ndawo Yami muso is set to release her first single, Baba Wethu, at the end of October and EP in January next year. She last released an album in 2013 with Thula Mntwana — also a jazzy-Afro pop offering. 

However, a lot has happened in the South African music scene since the birth of Thula Mntwana, which came at the time when the dominating genres locally were deep house (Culue De Song), Durban kwaito (Big Nuz) and hip hop (KO and Kwesta). A few would argue that amapiano have been holding their own in the pop scene and continue to grow with every new song or dance video being circulated on social media.

Zamajobe during Basadi In Music Awards CEO's Legends Luncheon in Johannesburg.
Zamajobe during Basadi In Music Awards CEO's Legends Luncheon in Johannesburg.
Image: Oupa Bopape

Zamajobe admits that she could not ignore the amapiano wave and had to succumb to it and gave it her own twist infused with the soulful sound she is known for. 

“Amapiano is a very youngish sound. I worked with youthful producers and the youngest is 13 years old. There is a bonus R&B track that was produced by T-Bos Mokwele’s son...I have been enjoying the sound we have created, which is fusing jazz and other sounds. I love the exploration and the creativity.

Baba Wethu is just a prayer, which is my background in gospel and jazz. I grew up in a gospel background at Pastor Benjamin Dube’s church choir. I am basically putting a prayer into a dance song so that people can allow themselves to pray anywhere they are. I am not the only one because I have been hearing a lot of dance songs with a gospel message.”

Zamajobe landed in the music scene 19 years ago with a voice, guitar in her hand and a badge of having made it to Idols SA top 10. 

She quickly launched her music career with her debut, Ndawo Yami, in 2004, which was followed by Indoni Yamanzi in 2009. Her debut, Ndawo Yami, achieved gold status for selling in excess of 25,000 copies. She had the world at her feet, having started playing guitar at 17 and performing at the MTV Europe Music Awards in Lisbon, Portugal.

While the industry was still appreciating her amazing voice and composing talent, the Afro-soul singer disappeared from the face of the industry, only to re-emerge years later. She says this was due to romance gone wrong, which affected her mental state and that she had wanted to give herself some time to heal. This also included relocating to Polokwane for five years but kept gigging and earning royalties for her music to sustain herself.

“I got in a toxic relationship that really messed up with everything that I believe to the core. I knew nothing about toxic and narcissist relationship and gaslighting (manipulating a partner mentally into them doubting their sanity). But I had to experience them. When the relationship ended I was confused, lost, and I did not know what was wrong with me.

“What kept me away for 10 years was that I wanted to get to a certain point mentally where I feel a certain way. The more I explain this to people the more I sounded ridiculous. It dawned on me that life is not a destination but a journey.

“Since I was a person who never wanted my private life to dominate more than my music career, I try to be as far away from the media as I can. I realise now that I should have started a conversation and shared my pain. Maybe I would have gotten help [earlier],” said Zamajobe, who was born in Frankfort, Free State, and grew up in Vosloorus, Ekurhuleni.

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