ZONKE: Africa’s next big star

(kui Gitei) Angelique Kidjo, Mbilia Bel, Brenda Fassie, Yvonne Chakachaka…Africa has had its share of iconic female artists. And now, a new generation of soulful singers is set to take over the mantle, and among those is the South African songbird, Zonke.

She’s gifted, she’s beautiful, and she’s poised for stardom. Born to a drummer father, Zonke realized early that she had already caught the musical bug. She grew up in the Eastern Cape, just outside Port Elizabeth.

A young Zonke could hardly wait to escape her hometown which had no music studios. In 1997 she was in Bloemfontein studying Human Resources, but quickly gave that up and moved to Johannesburg to live with her father and his new wife.

Her stepmother happened to be Anneline Malebo who was in the group Joy, and she introduced Zonke to fellow artist Joe Nina, and the future star’s career was born.

Her biggest break was when she met the German group Jazz Cantina, and after writing them a song they were so impressed they came back to South Africa and recorded her music. Jazz Cantina was reborn as Culture Clan, which now included Zonke and two other rappers.

Culture Clan released their music in South Africa and in Germany and they went on to win awards from both the Channel O and Metro FM Awards.

Another milestone for Zonke was when Bongo Maffin invited her to do a stint with them when vocalist Thandiswa Mazwai was unavailable.

Zonke then went onto record her first solo album called Soulitary, which was released through Columbia Records in Italy, Germany and Japan.

Zonke is a songwriter as well, and has written hits for Mafikizolo, Don Laka, Black Coffee, Guffy Pilane and Winnie Khumalo.

The album that made South Africa fall officially fall in love with her was Life, Love and Music, incorporating the house craze sweeping the continent.

Zonke is set to release a new album, Ina Ethe (means give and take in Isixhosa), towards the end of the year. The first single off the album is Jik Izinto, currently on high rotation on major radio stations.

Catch this amazing artist tomorrow at the Nairobi Arboretum from 6pm as she headlines the second Tusker Malt 100 Club. For more details, check out the hash tag #TML100withZonke.