zuka lands with a big music bang

Musa Ndwandwe

Musa Ndwandwe

It's been a long slog from selling home-made buns in the township to occupying the summit of the pop charts at a top youth radio station.

As in the movies, the story of Andile Shezi, known to his growing legion of fans as Zuka, has a heart-warming punchline about it.

Punted by top radio DJs as the next big thing, 20-year-old Durbanite Zuka has entered with a bang. His current single, Sizipholele, has taken the airwaves by storm and sold more than 5000 copies even before its launch, planned for this Easter.

Ukhozi FM and TS Records kingpin Sbusiso Leope, aka DJ Sbu, has given his stamp of approval, vowing to support Zuka's career though he belongs to a rival stable. The single is a constant feature on Ukhozi's highly popular breakfast show.

"The first thing that strikes me about Zuka as an artist is that he treats his work with a lot of respect. When you look at him he's neat and presents a good image at all times," says Leope.

"Zuka also shows the kindof hunger that I have not seen ina long time in a budding musician."

Just like most of the new kwaito ambassadors of the ilk of Hauza, Lvolvo Derrango, Zakes Madida (of Mayonie Productions) and others, Zuka is armed with a music education.

Growing up in a poor household, Zuka sold home-baked buns to pay for music lessons and pocket money, earning the nickname Cookie in the process.

"I pestered the late Qunta Mbhele to give me piano lessons while I was still at high school and I paid him R50 an hour," says Zuka.

As an only child in a poor family, Zuka "decided" early in life that he was destined for the top.

After matriculating at Chatsworth's Risecliff, Zuka enrolled at Durban University of Technology for a jazz and popular music performance qualification. There he would meet groups such as Black Coffee.

Having started out training as a vocalist, he later took lessons and ended up majoring as a bass player. His break came last year when he studied sound engineering at Durban's United Rhythm Studios and a producer, Dust, chanced on his demo.

"Dust was also in the process of forming his own record label, Dustinity Records, and I became his first signing," said Zuka.

They soon realised that to do justice to the quality of the music, more resources would be needed.

"We teamed up in a joint venture with Vusi Leeuw's Huge entertainment and this first album was the result."

While Zuka has undoubtedly announced his presence in an unforgiving industry, he is not basking in the new-found fame.