The 26-year-old Tsonga rapper Sho Madjozi has captured our hearts with her captivating beats, incredibly unique style, and colourful personality.
Madjozi, whose real name is Maya Wegerif after Maya Angelou, was born in Limpopo to a South African mother and Swedish father — activists who spent eight years in different parts of the African continent, soaking up all the different cultures it has to offer.
She believes this is what got her in touch with her heritage and exposed her to all kinds of music.
“There was this sense of South Africa being quite isolated from the rest of the continent, and I saw myself more as an African than just a South African,” she said in an interview with the Fader.
Madjozi's experience all over the continent allowed her to develop a unique sound and embraced her home language, Xitsonga, in her catchy verses.
She’s also a talented songwriter, and she had planned to work with local musicians when she returned to South Africa. Luckily for us, she caught the performance bug and has blessed us with her extraordinary talent.
She caught everyone’s ear when she featured on Okmalumkoolkat’s summer hit, Gqi. Her verse took the song to another level, and she has been unstoppable ever since. Madjozi gave us more top hits like Huku and Dumi Hi Phone, which are filled with Xitsonga flow and catchy Gqom and Hip Hop beats.
Madjozi’s activist parents have played a significant part in influencing her decision to adopt her heritage a lot more in her music.
“It was frustrating to interact with South Africans who didn’t feel a part of the rest of the continent,” she explained. “I’d come back and they’d be like, ‘What’s it like in Africa?”
Madjozi has made it a point to embrace her Tsonga heritage by donning the Tsonga skirt called the xibelani. In a recent interview with Elle South Africa magazine, she said: “I have looked back on South Africa and thought it was sad that we put on costumes of ourselves. I decided to come back and find ways to truly be in my Tsonga-ness”.
She has often raised the fact that her culture and language is constantly discriminated against, which is why it is so important that she brings into mainstream Hip Hop.
“My mission is to try and imagine what a young African girl would be without the interruption of colonialism and apartheid” she said in her interview with Fader.
Madjozi has been particularly stunned by the overwhelmingly positive response of her fans to her efforts.
Yesterday I got an email from @halamakev saying his daughter really wanted me to see this picture of her and tell her what I think 😭😭. (Swipe to read) I was so touched at a father’s love for his daughter, touched at how much my movement means to little girls and moved by the confidence in this young star. I love you Amani 💖 you are so pretty 😍😍😍 I love your xibelani it looks just like mine 🤗🌺
“When Tsonga people say I've made them proud after years of being marginalised and mocked, it puts a smile on my face,” she continued.
Earlier this year, Madjozi shared an email on social media that she had received from the father of a 4-year-old fan, Amani. The little girl's father had sent Madjozi a photo of his daughter wearing a little blue and yellow xibelani.
But Madjozi’s efforts in representing her culture in mainstream media is bigger than creating visibility for the Tsonga ethnic groups — but for all groups.
As Africans we have different identities and living in a Westernised world may allow some of us to lose our sense of heritage. Madjozi’s efforts help remind us to continue to be in touch with our roots and not allow other influences to make us feel embarrassed by where we come from.
Madjozi is also big on equality in the industry. She told Elle magazine she believes that, as a woman, it’s important for her to prove that she can rap, write, and produce hits in a male-dominated industry — specifically in the genres she occupies space in: Hip Hop, Gqom and Dance.
Madjozi will be joining some of the biggest names in music in the world — including Beyoncé, JAY-Z, Cassper Nyovest, and D'banj — when she takes to Johannesburg's FNB Stadium on December 2 for Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100, presented and hosted by the Motsepe Foundation.
The Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 is presented and hosted by The Motsepe Foundation, with major partners House of Mandela, Johnson & Johnson, Cisco, Nedbank, Vodacom, Coca Cola Africa, Big Concerts, BMGF Goalkeepers, Eldridge Industries, and associate partners HP and Microsoft.