The white-undies embarrassment….

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BY BILLY SUTER

Twenty questions for popular KwaZulu-Natal-born singer-actor JOEL ZUMA, who releases a new album in February. He gave a taste of  the collection at a concert at Pietermaritzburg’s Winston Churchill Theatre on December 29, then performed  as part of the varied lineup of the Midmar Jazz Festival on December 31

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YOU HAVE AN ALBUM DUE SOON – TELL ME MORE.

My first album was titled When the Time is Right. The upcoming album, Essence of Love, was recorded in Moya Studios in Joburg. It has 11 original songs and one cover track, Burn Out, from the legendary Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse. But I have rearranged the song completely with the help of a prolific producer, Lawrence Matshiza. It will be a great surprise to music-lovers who know the original. I have just released a new single, Owami (meaning ‘my own’) – a beautiful, mid-tempo ballad about a person who has everything but love.

joel
JOEL ZUMA…new album in February.

TELL ME ABOUT THE ALBUM LAUNCH ON DECEMBER 29 IN PIETERMARITZBURG.

I performed from 6pm at Pietermaritzburg’s Winston Churchill Theatre. I sang songs from the new album and favourites from my previous album – among them Onjengawe, Liyajika and Ngimtholile – as well as a few soul classics. I shared the night with Linda, Madala Kunene, Themba Mokoena, Nomalanga Hlubi, Demonic, DJ Nka and Jerry Jones.

TELL ME ABOUT AT THE MIDMAR FESTIVAL ON DECEMBER 31

I performed around 5pm with my band. We offered a taste of the new album and also favourites from my previous album. The event ran from 10am at Midmar Dam, Orient Park, Howick. The lineup included top SA DJs and the likes of Big Nuz, Babes Wodumo and Naakmusiq.

WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO IN RECENT MONTHS – AND WHAT NEXT FOR YOU IN THE NEW YEAR?

My recent performances were in theatre – at the Market and State Theatre – where I played Charlie in Sophiatown. It was an incredible but challenging role to play. But the response was amazing. People really loved my interpretation of the character.

WHEN DID YOU LAST PERFORM IN DURBAN?

I recently performed in Durban, at The Playhouse, in my musical Music in the Air, which I wrote and produced. I also did Kwela Bafana there, a 1950s musical which was also very well received.

WHERE AND WHEN WERE YOU BORN, AND AT WHAT AGE DID YOU KNOW YOU WOULD FOLLOW A SINGING CAREER?

I was born in Pietermaritzburg and since my father was a priest I always sang at church – but only realised I want to do this professionally when I was at the Durban University of Technology, studying drama. Every time there was an event at DUT I was always the one singing, money or no money. I just loved it. People started asking me if I was going to record my own CD. That’s when I started to write my own songs.

TWO HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR CAREER?

I guess I have had a lot of highlights but writing a full-scale musical and receiving six nominations for it at the Durban Theatre Awards was completely unexpected. Also, I have met three presidents: former president Thabo Mbeki, Jacob Zuma and the former president of Botswana, who came to my wedding. That was really cool.

WHERE AND WITH WHOM DID YOU SPEND CHRISTMAS?

I spent Christmas with family and relatives. We always get together and share jokes, reminisce and eat lots of food. I alwaYs look forward to that.

WHAT FIVE WORDS BEST DESCRIBE YOU?

Positive. Friendly. Hardworking. Patient. Perfectionist.

WHAT ARE SOME THINGS ABOUT YOURSELF (HOWEVER TRIVIAL) THAT PEOPLE ARE UNLIKELY TO KNOW?

I am not a morning person. I don’t answer my phone before 9am unless it’s important or I am working somewhere. Also I can’t stand sunlight in the mornings (that’s why I always wear shades); my parents wanted me to be a teacher or a pastor; and I do a lot of voiceovers for big-brand adverts in Zulu and English.

YOUR MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT ON STAGE?

I was once performing in a suit and the audience was a bit dull so I started moving closer to them, singing passionately. The people started screaming and pointing at me and I started moving to the other side of the stage with even more passion, where there was more screaming and laughing. As I went back to my band I was told my fly zip was open… and I was wearing bright-white underwear. I was very embarrassed.

WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST SURPRISING THING SOMEONE HAS SAID OF YOU?

When someone says: “Are you from South Africa?” I’m, like, “Yes”. Then they say, “No ways… you are not from here. How come you don’t sound like you’re from here?” I never really know what to say to that…

WHAT ARE YOUR FEARS AND PHOBIAS?

I am very afraid of losing my voice. Everything I do has to do with singing, acting, recording or talking. I earn a living from my voice.

WHAT TRAITS DO YOU MOST DISLIKE IN OTHERS?

Disrespect and racism.

IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY FIVE THINGS WHAT WOULD THEY BE?

I’d like to be more punctual, read more books, gym more, dance better and get another degree.

WHAT IS THE WORST TROUBLE YOU HAVE EVER BEEN IN?

I once missed a flight from Cape Town going to a show in Durban. I had to get another flight… which meant arriving 30 minutes after the theatre show had started. Somebody had to sing my song which started the show. I was in big trouble. It was eight years ago.

WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU  EVER RECEIVED – AND WHO GAVE IT?

Be the best you can be and always believe in yourself. Different theatre directors told me the same thing.

YOUR VIEWS ON THE CHAOS IN UNIVERSITIES THIS YEAR?

Leaders must engage with students because they do have a point, but students mustn’t burn buildings to get attention or to be heard.

WHAT THOUGHTS ON REINCARNATION? AND IF YOU COULD CHOOSE, WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO COME BACK AS IN YOUR NEXT LIFE?

I don’t believe in reincarnation. I believe when my time here has passed I will go and start another life in heaven.

WHAT THINGS DO YOU MOST MISS FROM CHILDHOOD?

I miss having no responsibilities and not worrying about money. I also miss not knowing the stumbling blocks in the entertainment industry. I used to believe everything I read or saw on TV. I believed in magic. Now I know that there are people behind everything we see and buy.

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