Following the success of his EP Umsebenzi released in 2020 (and the deluxe version released in 2021), Sjava is ready to release a full-length (18 track) studio album titled Isibuko (a mirror).
As the name suggests, this album exposes a deeply introspective side to the Artist as he takes the listener on a journey of bare and raw emotions.
According to Sjava “This album obviously is a reflection of my journey over the last few years and speaks to my experiences and growth as a person and as a musician. Musically, it is a continuation of the process that began with the Umsebenzi EP/Deluxe and I hope my supporters enjoy the body of work”.
Speaking to the length of time it has taken to release another full-length studio album since Umqhele in 2018, Sjava says “I know it’s been a while, but I trust that the album will be worth the wait. Thank you to everyone who has supported me over the last 8 years of my career, and I look forward to continuing this musical journey together in the future.”
On production and instruments, Sjava works with his long-term producer and partner Ruff; Vuyo Manyike, who has also worked with Sjava since his debut album in 2016; as well as Delayde and Webmoms (UK, Umcebo). Featured artists include long-time ATM collaborators Emtee (My Life, with Emtee Records’ artist Lolli Native) and Saudi (Ungavumi, Amaphiko), 1020 Cartel’s Anzo (Amavaka) and Maskandi heavyweights Shwi (Ithuna), Mzukulu (Isoka, Akabuye), Inkos’yamagcokama (Akabuye) and Dumakahle (Amakhehla).
Sjava has also featured some leading ladies on the project such as of Afrotainment stars, the Qwabe Twins (Isoka), and the highly talented singer/songwriter Mzulu Phaqa (Inhlonipho).
The foundations of the album were laid at a two-week album retreat in February 2022 at Antbear Lodge in the beautiful Okhahlamba mountains in northern KZN. It was here that Sjava, Ruff, Delayde, Webmoms and Vuyo Manyike conceptualized the essence of the project and recorded the initial music and vocals for the album.
“Amavaka”, describes the how self-doubt and fear leads to self-sabotage, reminding us that we’re often further in our lives than the tiny voice of doubt in our heads would have us believe; while “Thixo” is a haunting prayer, a plea to God to remain within His sight and Grace. Family relationships and hardships are vividly described and exquisitely delivered in “Akabuye” and “Kube ngangazi” .
Sad love songs, a genre that Sjava is well known for, are well-represented on this album. “Amanxeba” tells the long tale of the never-ending time it takes to heal from the grief of a failed relationship; and “Grounding” describes a man’s longing to finally find true love, settle down and start a family. But the love songs are not all sad with “Dudlu” and “Iphisi” painting beautiful pictures of enduring love.
The album rounds off well with strong upbeat tracks such as “My Life” and “Isoka” as well as songs with positive feel-good messages (in true Sjava fashion), like “Ungavumi” and the glorious “Ubuhle bendalo”.
The release of the 18-track album was announced by Sjava at his Live in Durban concerts (9 & 10 December 2022) where the audience was given a sneak-peak into the project with a live performance of the song Amavaka, for which both Delayde and Webmoms travelled to South Africa for the performance with Sjava.
Isibuko is available on all leading digital platforms and can be accessed here: https://africori.to/isibuko.
Where it began…
Born Jabulani Hadebe in Bergville, KwaZulu in 1983, Sjava spent his early childhood in the rural outskirts of the beautiful Okhahlamba (Drakensburg) region, then later moved to Johannesburg where the city would mould him through his teenage years. These two very different worlds would leave a lasting imprint on Sjava, both as a man and an artist.
Sjava’s break into the entertainment industry was, surprisingly, not in music but as a screen actor in several TV drama films and series such a Ugugu no Andile and Zone 14.
In 2015, however, he would start attracting attention for his talent as vocalist following his feature on the hit song Ameni (Miss Pru). This would be the prequel to his phenomenal debut album Isina Muva (2016) where his skill of merging the two worlds residing in him (rural KwaZulu and urban Johannesburg) and creating, what was then, an emerging sound with elements of Maskandi, Scathamiya, Mbaqanga, Hiphop, Trap, RnB and Soul. With this album, Sjava made South Africa sit up and pay attention to his vocal and writing skills.
By the time he released his sophomore album Umqhele, in 2018, Sjava had been featured on the Kendrick Lamar-produced and Grammy-nominated Black Panther album and had received a BET Award for Best New International Act. In the same year, just months before the release of Umqhele, Sjava also released an EP, Umphako, which featured the hit single Abangani featuring erstwhile fellow stablemates and African Trap Movement (ATM) members, Emtee and Saudi
Amongst other awards won, Umqhele went on to win the sought-after Album of the Year award at the 2017 South African Music Awards. This album also contained the smash hit uMama.
1020 Cartel & Umsebenzi – a new chapter…
In 2020, Sjava launched 1020 Cartel, a record label he co-owns and that would be a platform for him and other artists to develop and grow the urban-Zulu genre of music which he was a part of pioneering back in 2015/2016.
His first release under the new label was Umsebenzi, a four-track EP that soured to number 1 on the Apple Music album charts and stayed there for months. The EP contained the platinum-selling Umcebo which came about as a collaboration with UK-based producers Delayde Beats and Webmoms. The EP also won best produced album at the 2021 SAMA Awards.
Following the EP reaching gold status in early 2021, 5 new songs were added, creating the Umsebenzi Gold Deluxe album which was released in October 2021.
Isibuko – a reflection and journey inward…
Sjava’s 2023 offering, Isibuko, exposes a deeply introspective side to the Artist as he takes the listener on a journey of bare and raw emotions.
In Isibuko, Sjava shares the private thoughts and emotions that have been the soundtrack to his life over the last three years and touches on various aspects of his life as both a man and an artist. Musically on this album Sjava develops his sound and experiments with slower, deeper lo-fi elements as well as rich, live instrumentation that gives the album both body and depth.
On production and instruments, Sjava works with his long-term producer and partner Ruff, Vuyo Manyike, who has also worked with Sjava since his debut album in 2016, as well as Delayde and Webmoms (UK, Umcebo). Featured artists include long-time ATM collaborators Emtee and Saudi, 1020 Cartel fam member Anzo and Maskandi heavyweights Shwi, Mzukulu, Inkos’yamagcokama and Dumakahle.
Sjava has also featured some leading ladies on the project in the form of the Afrotainment artist-duo the Qwabe Twins and the highly talented ‘bubbling under’ singer/songwriter Mzulu Phaqa.
The foundations of the album were laid at a two-week album retreat in February 2022 at Antbear Lodge in the beautiful Okhahlamba mountains in northern KZN. It was here that Sjava, Ruff, Delayde, Webmoms and Vuyo Manyike spent day and night conceptualizing the essence of the project and recording the initial music and vocals for the album.
The rest of 2022 was dedicated to chiseling and refining the music, until it was finally completed in December.
The Isibuko release was announced at the Sjava Live in Durban concerts (9 & 10 December 2022) where the audience was given a sneak-peak into the project with a live performance of the song Amavaka, for which both Delayde and Webmoms travelled to South Africa to perform with Sjava.
Isibuko is live on all digital platforms on 27 January 2023.
Main image: Sjava/Instagram