Sho Madjozi's star reaches Epic levels

Emmanuel Tjiya Journalist

Sho Madjozi has leveraged sincerity, viral social media presence and unapologetic Tsonga pride in her unstoppable rise to global stardom.

At age 28, this week she continued to rewrite and redefine the success code for African musicians when news broke of her inking a deal with American record label Epic Records.

A few minutes before she went public with her signing on Tuesday, we link-up in a casual telephone chat.

A useful tip I got from her team a few years ago is that she absolutely loves it when you call her by her birth name Maya Wegerif.

So I did exactly that as we exchanged greetings.

She can hardly hold back the excitement in her voice as she tells me that she has known about the signing since last year.

"I'm very excited, but obviously for us we have known for a while. It's really the record deal that I would have wanted," Sho Madjozi says.

"They have wanted to sign me for a while and we finalised everything this year. I'm very good at keeping secrets until it's time to drop them.

"This is one of the biggest deals for a South African artist."

Sho Madjozi reveals that what made this even more special is that Epic Records chairman and CEO Sylvia Rhone handpicked her.

"She [Rhone] is an absolute legend in this industry and works with legends. So she herself wanted me signed and that is a big deal," Sho Madjozi gushes.

The music heavyweights that Sho Madjozi speaks of include Mariah Carey, Black Eyed Peas, Babyface, Ciara, Jennifer Lopez, Shakira and 21 Savage.

"African artists are enjoying an unprecedented level of visibility in music and Sho Madjozi is beautifully waving the flag for South Africa," Rhone comments.

"She's bold, brilliant and remarkably talented and her music embodies all that is special about her homeland."

Sho Madjozi's meteoric rise has been a modern fairytale story even by today's social media fame standards.

Sho Madjozi jumped from soapie star in Isithembiso with a feature on a song by Okmalumkoolkat to being the opening act for now fellow Epic Records signee Travis Scott in 2017.

She continued to carve her path through solo songs such as Dumi HiPhone, Huku and Wakanda Forever.

Before long her ascent found Sho Madjozi sharing the stage with Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Usher and Ed Sheeran at the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 concert in December 2018.

In the same month her highly successful and critically lauded debut album Limpopo Champions League, which yielded more hits such as Idhom and Kona, dropped.

After that the global market came flooding as she won a BET Award, cleaning up at the South African Music Awards on her way there in June 2019.

But her viral hit John Cena about the American wrestler is what really solidified her international footprint last year.

"Madjozi is a new kind of global pop star," New York Times described her in August and billed her as the next Rosalía - Spanish flamenco-pop star.

"She's cementing her crossover success," Billboard predicted in October 2019.

"The radical new poster child for Pan-African pride," Vogue praised her in February this year.

Who can forget Sho Madjozi's viral guest appearance on American talk show The Kelly Clarkson Show, in which Cena made a surprise arrival as she lost all her marbles? Her reaction gave TikTok content for the millennial generation as the song skyrocketed on digital platforms.

"A lot of people didn't think that I will amount to anything and I love the fact that I get to share all my dreams with people. But behind-the-scene I fight to be respected and taken seriously. I had to fight for my space."

Born to a white father and black mother in the village of Shirley in Elim, Limpopo, Sho Madjozi has done it all one colourful xibelani (traditional Tsonga skirt) at a time.

Her trademark candy-hued braids have been a hit with women of all ages - especially young girls. Proving that children love Sho Madjozi all over the world, she won a Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award in May.

Despite all that she has achieved all over the world, Sho Madjozi highlights making the people of Limpopo proud her greatest career win.

"For me it has always been about going back to my village and watch how excited everyone gets - on a career level that is my biggest highlight.

"On a personal level I'm so happy with the person that I am and I've grown to be.

"I'm fearless - I say exactly what I feel and think. I'm not scared of anyone. This industry has made me tough and I love that about me right now."

This year she was the only female artist to be nominated for Best International Act at the BET Awards against eventual winner Burna Boy, Stormzy, Dave and Innoss'B.

This was her second consecutive nomination after winning Best New International Act last year.

"The biggest lesson is that no one can kick you out and the industry has never been more open than it is right now."

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