24TH MARCH, JOHANNESBURG: Sjava and Big Zulu, collectively Inkabi Zezwe, have released their debut single as a duo titled ‘Umbayimbayi’ which serves as the lead single to their one-time joint project Ukhamba.
Produced by Inkabi Records artist and producer Xowla Shabalala, also known as Stallion, “Umbayimbayi” is an Afropop ballad mixed in with Maskandi elements.
The single is the duo’s first take at championing a cultural moment in South African contemporary music. As a precursor to the album, ‘Umbayimbayi’ is a celebration of love and union, which are often at the basis of the artists’ music as individual acts and only made sense as they joined hands on Ukhamba. In the chorus they sing; ‘Sengizok’ thengel’ umbayimbayi we dali / udubul’ intaba zangakini / uzong’ bona njalo’. As the IsiZulu term for a canon, Inkabi Zezwe use the image of Umbayimbayi to describe the depth and breadth of an enduring love that triumphs over any obstacle in its path – even the highest mountain.
Inkabi Zezwe ‘s union is rooted in brotherhood and honoring their IsiZulu culture. Their music, although fresh and forward-looking, is filled with references and remnants of their culture. On 17th March the duo held a press conference in which they revealed their album Ukhamba will be released on 12th May. Inkabi Zezwe also divulged details of their nationwide tour. The pair will perform at Sunbet Arena in Time Square on 23rd June, at Grandwest Arena (Grandwest) on 29th July, the Big Top Arena (Carnival City) on 26th August and will end off the tour in KwaZulu Natal at the Hollywoodbets Kings Park Stadium. Tickets to the tour are now available on Computicket HERE.
ABOUT INKABI ZEZWE
Sjava, whose real name is Jabulani Hadebe was born in Bergville, KwaZulu-Natal in 1984. He began exploring music at age 10, forming his own acapella group ‘Abafana base Mpumalanga’ but his entertainment career was set in motion when he took on acting, starring in popular television shows such as Zone 14 and uGugu no Andile. His debut album Isina Muva (2016) was his major transition into the music industry and earned him ‘Best Produced Album’ awards at both the Metro FM and South African Music (SAMA) award ceremonies in 2017. That same year, Sjava won the first DStv Mzansi Viewer’s Choice Rising Star. In 2018 Sjava was featured in the Kendrick Lamar-curated and Grammy nominated Black Panther: The Album soundtrack. In the same year the superstar won a BET award for ‘Best International Act’ and released his sophomore album Umqhele which scored him ‘Best Afro-Pop Album’ and ‘Album of the Year’ wins at the 2019 SAMAs. His recent album Isibuko (2023) maintains Sjava’s dedication to highlighting the human experience with a rich, bulbous and ethereal soundscape.
Born Siyabonga Nene in Bergville, KwaZulu-Natal in 1987, Big Zulu transitioned into rap music in 2008 after a stint in the taxi industry. The rapper’s music is often filled with aspirational subject matter that his fans have long gravitated towards. He melds Maskandi and Hip-Hop with his gripping flow and cadence. Ushun Wenkabi his debut album was released in 2018 but it was Zulu’s third album Ichwane Lenyoka (2021) that helped catapult him to superstardom. The album boasted the hits ‘Mali Eningi’ featuring Ntaba Yase Dubai and Riky Rick, ‘Inhlupheko’, featuring Mduduzi Ncube and ‘Umuzi eSandton’ with Lwah Ndlunkulu. As a testament to his persistence and talent, Big Zulu has won several awards including Song of the year for ‘Mali Eningi’ and ‘Album of the Year’ at the 2021 South African Hip Hop Awards. The superstar has also won in the ‘Collaboration of the Year’ at the 27th annual SAMA awards.
As a duo, Sjava and Big Zulu make up Inkabi Zezwe, a project that celebrates the connection they have as Zulu brothers and musicians. This collaboration places them at the precipice of an interesting moment in music and culture. Their music as individual artists travel back and forth through traditional isiZulu musical forms and more contemporary musical expressions. Sjava is R&B and Afropop / Hip-Hop inclined whereas Big Zulu uses Hip-Hop / Rap to negotiate his musical identity. This ambivalence of genres is a prime opportunity to imagine and create music that is not only an autobiographical anecdote of their intimate worlds but as artists who are attentive to contemporary South Africa. Their new music explores everything that matters to them; love, intimacy, joy, aspiration and people. Inkabi Zezwe is about community and the beauty of shared experiences.
The pair will release their introductory single Umbayimbayi on 24th March ahead of their album release Ukhamba on 12th May with Warner Music Africa. The album, which was recorded in the hills of Bergville, from whence both musicians come, incorporates their unique styles of storytelling.