Behind the scenes with Simphiwe Dana

Simphiwe Dana
Simphiwe Dana Simphiwe Dana
Image: Getty Images

Singer-songwriter Simphiwe Dana is set to make her return to the stage this weekend, just a few months after recovery from vocal surgery. The 39-year-old songstress this year celebrates 15 years since her debut in the music industry, making her upcoming show, Simphiwe Dana Annual Congregation, that much more special. We caught up with Dana who gave us a behind-the-scenes look into how she is preparing for her big come back, which diet plan she follows, and what we can look forward to regarding her show.

What is the first thing you do when you wake up?

I’m an early riser, so I get most of my day’s work done in the morning. That is my making sure that my teenaged kids have what they need for the school day. I then go for a jog and some exercise. I have such a newfound respect for exercising, not only is it good for the body but more importantly for the soul and mind, which is healing for me, and has become a huge coping mechanism for my battle with depression and anxiety.

Do you have a specific diet or food menu that you follow that boosts your energy levels prior to the day of your performance?

As a musician, it is very important to be regularly hydrated and to drink at least six glasses of water a day, a few days before a big performance. Water moisturises the vocal folds and acts as a lubricant. It helps keep my voice flexible and resilient and comes in handy to help me hit the higher notes with more ease and clarity. It is also very important to eat lightly the day before and avoid any acids. On performance day, I avoid heavy foods rich in sauces, fat and acids. These can cause indigestion and phlegm, which of course coats the vocal passage.

How do you deal with your nerves before going on stage?

As a seasoned performer, I have gotten to understand that energy plays a huge role in a performance. Sometimes a performance is flat not because the performer is under-prepared, but because the energy between the performer and the audience is off. I’m always most nervous about minutes before I go onstage, so I try to be present in the moment and immediately switch off when I exit that environment. Also, being nervous is good; it’s the adrenalin rush that fuels my stage energy.

What is the best time to write musical material?

There is no best time to write music, inspiration can come to you at any given moment in time. I’m one of those artists who are not pressurised by creative time. Writing music is a multi-layered creative and strenuous process. It can be done over a year and sometimes over a process of four years or more; either at night, during the day or in the mornings.

Do you think that your fans experience some form of healing synergy whenever they watch and listen to you perform live on stage?

Yes, I believe that my fans experience some form of healing synergy, as I am constantly approached by them to tell me how much my music has soothing powers which has brought healing to a part of their lives which was once very dark and challenging. Others have said that my music helped them overcome destructive relationships, social and economic hurdles or mental health.

What can fans expect this weekend when you make your return to the stage?

All I can say is my fans can expect a soul-baring and moving musical experience with the usual spiritual energy. The Church of Dana shall come alive once more and we will definitely be having church. My congregation and I connect on a serious spiritual level. We sing together, dance and completely lose ourselves in the music. That is what I look forward to the most – that magical moment with them.

- Simphiwe Dana Annual Congregation at the Lyric Theatre is on Saturday March 2

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