An Interview with Ntsiki Mazwai
MaMiya: Thank you for taking the time to unpack yourself and The Masterpiece with us. Before we get started, is there anything you don’t wish to speak about? So we know our boundaries…
Ntsiki Mazwai: Thank you so much for giving me a platform for my voice. It is not often that I get a chance to speak for myself. People always speak around me like I’m an object and not a person. I appreciate every platform I get.
You know, I’m an open book. I feel that it is important that I am as truthful as possible about who I am and my human experiences. We can only learn from each other if we share information. I also find that nobody can hold my demons against me because I have owned up to them. Feel free to ask me anything.
MaMiya: Who is Ntsiki Mazwai?
NM: heavens I really hate that question! I never know what people want to hear. Do you mean my background? What do I stand for? Historically I am the daughter of two writers who were leaders in the Pan Africanist Congress, Belede Mazwai and Dr Thami Mazwai. Having parents who were writers means that I was raised to be a deep thinker but not only that, my breast milk was pan africanism. I am a seed of that union. When I was young my parents called me Tjatji, so I guess my tjatjarig nature was always ‘a thing.’ My mother died when I was 11 which shaped a lot of my journey.
I grew up in Soweto but my parents were traditionalist so my Xhosa identity is deeply embedded in my being. I visit my maternal grandmother’s grave in the Transkei as often as I can. The Transkei is my home but Soweto is the beautiful family that has adopted me.
Life taught me big lessons while I was young. I have always had to be strong. I think also life is very different when you don’t have a mom. I think a lot of my strength and hardship enduring elements stem from that early tragedy.
I went to white schools and as a grown up discovered I was black. White schools don’t teach us our blackness. They create an illusion of separation. Sophisticated blacks and disadvantaged blacks are created. Everything lies in black unity for me. Black unity will remove the division that capitalism has enforced upon us.
I struggled in high school as the outsider everybody was always gossiping about. I found my escape in reading poetry in the library during break times. Poetry books were my escape. In a sense, I am just a girl who is addicted to art. I don’t know how to live without it.
Who is Ntsiki Mazwai? When I look in the mirror, I see a woman who cares deeply. A woman who loves to serve and heal. I see a woman who loves to laugh and express herself. I see a woman who does not tolerate injustice. I see a woman that has a beautiful energy that others like to be around. I see a woman who likes her own company. I see a woman who takes charge in every situation. I see a woman who makes people feel comfortable. I see a woman who works hard and hardly sleeps on her dream. I see a leader. I see a healer. I see a person who brings joyful and youthful energy.
I also see many other things, which is why I hate this question….it has no answer. We are all on this planet asking ourselves ‘WHO AM I?’
MaMiya: What makes THE MASTERPIECE special?
It feels like a breakthrough moment for me. I feel like it is Do or Die. The Masterpiece captures the moment where my soul decided to Rise Again. After 15years in the game of some pretty hard knocks, I finally feel like ‘actually THIS is what i wanna do with my life.’ For the past several years the media had been running a smear campaign on my brand and they had a sister second guessing herself. I forgot my own strength….the stage. Many people couldn’t see through the propaganda. It left me heartbroken for many years. Getting my Masters Degree was actually part of my escape plan. I had decided that the people REALLY didn’t want me. All of this has changed since I started working on the new work. I got on stages for the first time in many years and the same thing that had always happened, happened. That thing I had forgotten. I KILLED IT. And I continued to kill it. I started to promote in December last year and have been so blown away by the reception. It is amazing to watch my energy at work. As expected the audience is reluctant when the mc calls my name, however from the second my dj turns on that sound the roof comes down. It happened again today. I announced a new song (Mahamba Wedwa) and Chuchu (my producer)….all he did was press play. People reacted to the song like it was that song that they absolutely adored….the song that makes them rachet. I was like HEH MADODA! This journey has been so profound for me. wow.
I feel like a lot of people felt like ‘I gave the game away.’ The Masterpiece is my moment to settle that score.
MaMiya: Who did you work with?
NM: I have had the most incredible journey with my producer Chuchu/ Dj E-Siah. I spent all of 2017 looking for the right sound. It was actually quite a crazy year because I just refused to settle for anything less than what I wanted. I was lucky enough to have an underground album fall on my lap, DEEP SOWETO VOL 3. The production was absolutely beautiful.
I searched high and low and one day in the middle of October Chuchu pitched up. We didn’t waste any time on 21 October I went to his studio in Dobsonville. It was a tiny bedroom studio that produced The Masterpiece. Religiously we made time every day from 10am-2pm to work on music. I would arrive in the mornings and find Chuchu playing a beat. I’d sit on the bed, get my writing pad out and release everything that I had been feeling and observing around me. In the early stages I was quite shy about my voice, as I had been scared of it for so long, but as the weeks went by I gave more of myself and opened myself up to growth. Chuchu is the most patient producer I have ever worked with. I really had a blessed journey. We have so many stories and memories to share. We have a story for each song. I am blessed to have people around me who know how to work around my ‘temperamental’ moments. I do not mean tantrums, I just mean that Chuchu and my whole team have to deal with moments where Ntsiki is MAMIYA….and MaMiya uyachikana.
Featured on my album as a producer and artist is one of my favourite rappers King Flo, he produced one of my fave tracks on the album ‘’Impintshi Zam.” Listen, I don’t care if only 10 of us like that song but those 10 of us SISEZOYIJIVELA GOED!!!!! Haha but no, this is a club banger for real. Yizo!
I also feature bra Pops Mohamed, we do not give enough credit to musicians who are preserving our indigenous instruments. We are sleeping. Pops Mohamed is a legend and what a privilege it is to have him on the track SOBONANA. Sobonana is a the crying song in the album. Its intention is to heal. We shall weep and release the spirits of those we have loved and lost. I myself have cried about 100 times to that song. It’s really great for a good cry!
Then there is the legend in the making, Napotron, he is a master beatboxer and musical genius. An artist who is truly loyal to his craft I am yet to see such a work ethic. Then he just happens to be humble with a beautiful soul. South Africa and the world is about to fall in love with Napotron.
I also have an amazing team around me, I am forever grateful to Rasty More, Kgotso Motaung, Tumi Tsiri, Chula Mthembu, Aphiwe Honono and Phindy Rasmeni for helping me strategise and execute. The masterpiece has taught me that with unity, Africans can achieve the unimaginable. I always have amazing creatives who ensure that my imagining is aligned to the work. There are too many people to thank right down to my producer’s wife doing my hair! We really have been blessed. It has not been without conflict but the journey has been pure, honest and true. I am proud of the work.
So when does the album drop?
27 April 2018
Tickets R120 on Soweto Theatre
R150 at the door
Before I forget…..genre?
NM: This is a cross genre offering that will suck you in whether you’re an old skul hip hop hed, love your kwaito or appreciated some beautiful lyricism and sounds. The album is young and it’s mature. It is sophisticated and ghetto. A beautiful mix of politics, love, women and spirituality…the subjects Ntsiki Mazwai has become known for.