Zoë Modiga on making a cameo performance on Netflix's Savage Beauty and the success of her last album
She grew up in a township in Pietermaritzburg where everyone would play their favourite music, loud enough for all the neighbours to hear. She now uses fashion and music to express herself and celebrate her identity as an African black woman. “The taste that my community of people, where I come from, had in music was what I enjoyed observing and I learned early on that I want to make people feel the same way that those people felt when they were listening to those records,” Zoë says. Her last album Inganekwane, released in 2020, is a celebration of black bodies and telling African stories in her mother tongue IsiZulu. The independent KwaZulu Natal artist, whose journey as a musician has been in the making for more than a decade, scored her big break when she won the Southern African Music Rights Organisation’s international scholarship for jazz in 2015. “At the time I had just finished some music studies and I was in a position of wanting to have a message to tell and to share with people. Zoë had spent years and time horning her craft and she hoped it was the best time possible to release her album. She says the album decided itself to come out during the pandemic.
Although nothing went according to plan, the album was awarded the 2021 South African Music Award for best-engineered album. “You want to plan tours, share the energy with the people that come support you, but we weren’t able to do that, but I think we were able to still be creative by having the virtual shows and also trusting that people will have the time to listen to the album with everything that we were all going through. But despite the challenges, her album earned her and her team serious recognition. “It was very challenging but still very rewarding at the same time, and I don’t think there could’ve been a better time for Inganekwane to come out, we were happy how it was received. The award-winning singer is currently preparing to tour Netherlands and Africa too. She considers herself an album artist and as much as she is working on a new sound, she prefers to live through the experience before writing and releasing music. “I do think that it takes time, you want to live through certain things, question certain things, observe life so that you are reflecting life back to people, at least that how I look at it and what inspires me,” Zoë says. “It has been two years since the last album, but good things take time, I prefer to be as humble as possible in the process.
“I am a young African black woman and I am inspired by people who come before me, and I know that what I have to offer is being able to redefine what the modern African sound can be, that’s why I do what I do. She tells Drum that she has a very deep love and respect for music. Read more | Rising star | Singer Odwa Bongo on why he wants his perfomances to be a space for healing Zoë urges young artists to continue to explore having agency for themselves. “Opportunities are finally in such a way that people can have agency, where you share the message you want to share and present yourself the way you want to present yourself,” she says. “There’s this model that has been followed time and time again of having to have drama around you to be able to elevate your brand. She has had to overcome a constant challenge as an independent artist of not having access to resources as compared to artists with record labels, but she also sees that as a catalyst to creativity. “Independent artists don’t have as many resources, being able to be creative is not easy but I think at the same time that has served the art.
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