We got a chance to sit down with the lady whose voice has summoned many a club goer to the dancefloor and ask about her recent movements and when she'll bless us with a Vusi Nova collabo.
Why did you move from house to Afro-Soul?
Because I grew up in a home where UMam'am was always playing jazz, blues, ne-Afro-pop, Afro-soul, from Ma-Brrr to Yvonne, Busi Mhlongo was out there in my crib. So in my house, there was always music, but real music and I studied Jazz at Wits School of Arts and I knew there was more. When you're young, it's fun doing house, it's vibe but ndikhulile ngoku and I want a future in music and not only am I musician but I'm also a business woman. I run my own label and I'm very proud of the fact that I went to school, and I had to sit down and think about it. I wanted to grow and for me it makes sense. Also, for me my dream has always been to perform live at festivals with a full band and the only way to do that is through Afro-soul. That's why I got together with Mjakes, the executive producer of my album, and I told him my dream and he said with my vocal capability we can make it happen so I did it.
Talking about Mjakes, how did you guys coming together come about?
A friend of mine, Kevin, was like 'Yo man, I think you should meet Mjakes then he gave me Mjakes' production history in detail and I was like "WHAT? Okay let's go" met Mjakes, sent him some music, he listened to it and by the time we sat down he said 'I think you can do this, I believe you can do this and I'd be honoured if I could executive produce your project because I think you're it'.
Are you guys still working on the album?
Yes, we're still working but this album will be done in time for women's month which is when I will launch it. I like to call myself not only the new age Afro-soul Queen but I'm the new-age definition of feminist so I like everything of mine to have a message, to empower women, especially black women. I'm all for a black sister. Yonk' into yami is very black female driven and I'm very proud to say that. That's why I want an all black woman's band. The reason why I'm searching for talent to be on that band now is because as we're building this album so they'll learn the songs and we get to know each other as we perform until the big launch. There's so many girls who have shared that they play an instrument but they don't have a platform to explore that talent. I had to fight to be heard, but that's the sad reality of black women in the music in the industry and South Africa as a whole, you gotta fight. I also want to give black girls with natural hair a chance, so as to kill this idea that you need to look a specific way to make it.
So, with such a strong 'black women empowerment' thread, will your label Testo Record only be signing women or it's just all eyes on you now?
I do have aspirations of signing other people but I want to focus on me first because nobody's going to believe in a label that doesn't have a success story and I need to be the success story. Black Coffee has Soulistic because he is Black Coffee. Testo Record will become Testo Records because it started and built the brand, the SA and global brand, that is Lady X. Only then can I focus on mentoring the next person but I can start with these four girls that will be in my band.
What type of female instrumentalists are you looking for?
Bass guitar, lead guitar, keys, drums and if I happen to find a sister that kills it on the sax, she'll be in. If I happen to find a sister that kills it on every other instrument other than the ones I've mentioned, they will be in.
And when is this talent search happening?
Right now, what I'm doing is going to a couple of campuses, conducting interviews, just putting it out there and telling everyone to follow my social media pages because I'll randomly announce that I'm ready for the talent search to go down properly when everything is in place.
What's your relationship like with Mjakes?
He's my mentor, he'll actually be on the panel that'll be choosing the ladies that'll end up in the band. I learn so much from sitting with him. We always go into studio at 11 and only start recording at 1 because we sit and we talk about real things. I take notes and learn and jam. I mean, every afro-jazz, afro-soul, afro-pop artist that has won awards and become iconic is because of him. Who am I not to learn from him?
He's known for using session musicians a lot though, how scary was it working with them?
I'm used to going into studio with my producer, it was a vibe back at Kalawa, you'd come through, there'd be some Hennessy and I would record a song in an hour because the instrumental would be sitting in the machine and the mic was there. Afro-soul isn't like that, and also in house music I sang in English. When I started singing in my home language though, that's when I realised how beautiful isiXhosa is. It was easy getting into studio and singing in English, because it was automatic. The same for isiXhosa but writing in isiXhosa or isiZulu is a different thing, that's where my anxiety came from. And with Afro-soul, remember, you're telling a story that South Africans can relate to so you have to tap into that rich heritage.
So now, after watching your video, Vusi Nova's video came on and it got me thinking, have you ever considered doing a song with him?
Funny you should mention that, I was in the video for 'Ndikuthandile'. I also recently did a poll asking people who they thought I should work with. His name came out tops. I think it should happen. He's definitely #1 contender for a duet. Can you imagine those 2 big voices in one song? It'd be hectic, theatrical, art the essence of Afro-soul.
One thing I noticed about Zandie Khumalo's album, which was also executive produced by Mjakes, was that it had no features. Are you going to use the same approach?
Yes, because it's about 'hear me', it's about 'this is me'. I'd rather feature more women because that's what I'm all about but I also had this conversation with Mjakes and he said 'you've done enough to earn a sense of curiosity and respect in the industry and I think it's okay that this album is just you. But if you want to work with some of your friends that's absolutely fine because you have extremely talented friends. For me though, I'd rather it be about you.'
How many tracks will it have?
We're thinking a minimum of 10. We're halfway through, we're at like 6 now, we'll probably do 4 more.
We're kind of excited, though Lord knows August is far. We'll wait. In the meantime, keep iGugu Lam' on repeat while you wait for her next single.
Main image credit: twitter.com