Truth Coffee Roasting in Cape Town is buzzing with caffeine lovers and surrounding steampunk décor. It feels like I have just stepped into an almost other-worldly atmosphere as I eagerly wait to meet Majozi.
I see him wearing his trusty Simon and Mary hat, and coming across with a very approachable demeanour.
We take our seats and start with some casual conversation, but it’s not long before I rattle off my first two questions: “Where are you from and when did you start making music?”
“I’m from a little place called Mount Edgecombe in Durban and I started making music, well I started playing guitar, when I was thirteen,” he begins. “I started making music more seriously around 2011 just recording stuff with my iPad.”
Nhlanhla Majozi (or just Majozi as he prefers to be called) has received recent acclaim with singles like ‘The River’, ‘Someday’ and ‘Fire’ which have made him a standard feature on mainstream radio stations like 5FM and KFM. Signing with record label Universal Records, he has also released his second EP entitled ‘Mountains’ which has been available on iTunes since the end of March. Though clearly a gifted musician who incorporates a unique combination of folk, indie and electro into his set, what strikes me most about Majozi is his down-to-earth humility.
Interested to hear what inspired him to become a songwriter in the first place, he answers candidly:
“I’m not good with much else so I enjoy writing songs and I found that it was a good way to express myself. I actually found feelings within myself that I didn’t even know how to express to myself, if that makes any sense? It sounds like I don’t know what I’m thinking in my head. Honestly, a lot of the times I don’t know. Though clearly a gifted musician who incorporates a unique combination of folk, indie and electro into his set, what strikes me most about Majozi is his down-to-earth humility. Only when I start writing things down and sing it I actually realise what’s in my heart and I guess that inspired me to be a songwriter.”
It’s not easy for local South African musicians to actually pursue a career in music, so what made him decide to take this bold leap into becoming a full time musician?
“Long story short, I recorded an EP with a friend. You know, I just wanted to record something so that I could say that I’ve put it onto iTunes, and it was actually well received. One thing led to another and I got some support from guys at church and just went for it.”
If you hadn’t guessed it already, Majozi is a professing Christian. Many, either consciously or subconsciously, have this idea of a society divided into the categories of ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’, but is it possible for something or someone to bridge this gap? Majozi and other local mainstream artists like Matthew Mole and Gangs of Ballet who are also followers of Jesus have shown that it is. They have opened their music up for anyone to enjoy, and have brought something refreshingly different to the music scene in the process. But what is Majozi’s reason for broadening his reach?
“You listen to the radio and you listen to the songs and a lot of the time the songs are catchy and I love that. I love listening to the radio. It’s embarrassing the songs that I like. It always used to bother me that the material and the meaning behind the songs are so shallow and one-sided and then I realised that they were just singing about what they believed… and I was like, why can’t I do the same? You know, why should I be ashamed? Why can’t I sing commercial songs and sing what I believe? Not necessarily sing Christian contemporary music, just sing music that everyone likes and have what I believe in it because that’s what everyone does. That’s what Nicki Minaj does. That’s what Drake does. They sing about what they believe, so that’s what I want to do and sing to everyone.”
Those who wouldn’t normally be interested in listening to ‘Christian music’ in the past are being exposed to a new and perhaps more attractive form of what this could sound like. Excellent production matched with creative lyrics salted with the truths of the Bible is inviting more people into a new perception of reality. Not only is the word ‘Jesus’ tattooed on Majozi’s body, but Jesus is also honoured in the words of his music. There is a definite anthem of hope that rings through in a number of his songs, probably most poignantly in ‘The River’. Here is an extract from the chorus: “Sometimes life it feels like a cancer and there’s no reason to love. But I tell you now you will find the answer in the God who came from above.”
Majozi has been active in the local music scene for about two years now. The question I pose to him is how he has been able to hold to his identity as a Christian in an industry that could easily try to squeeze him into something that he’s not.
“Luckily working in the church made me, I don’t want to say pretty strong, but it gave me a good foundation,” he shares. “I’ve always had a good foundation growing up and people around me when I go back home after touring are very supportive. They understand what I’m trying to do so I don’t want to say I’m super strong but God has given me the strength and He has prepared me through a lot of things for this.”
He ends on an honest note: “There was a time when I thought about becoming a full-time musician, but I was like there’s no ways I can do it now. I think now it just seems like the right time and I’ll see how it goes. Maybe something will happen but I can handle it now.”
Things are indeed happening for Majozi. And even though this talented musician is becoming a well-known name in South Africa, it is his openness and love for God that has made the biggest impact on me.
Check out the video for “The River” by Majozi: