Long musical odyssey for SA’s Sjava to BET Awards
● It took South African artist Sjava (real name Jabulani Hadebe) 25 hours to get to Los Angeles from Johannesburg.
The KwaZulu-Natal-born musician has been nominated in the prestigious Viewers’ Choice Best International Act category at the 2018 BET Awards in the US.
Tonight Sjava will know whether the long journey to California has paid off. But even if he doesn’t win, he knows that being nominated is an honour.
It’s been a big year for the 34-year-old, who was one of three South African artists to feature on the Black Panther film soundtrack, released in February. Curated by American rap superstar and Pulitzer prize winner Kendrick Lamar, the album also features appearances by Babes Wodumo and Johannesburg-based rapper Yugen Blakrok.
About being approached for the soundtrack, Sjava said: “Kendrick loved how I stayed true to the culture and how I represent where I come from. If I was making the music they have in America, I don’t think he was going to reach out. I have something that they don’t have.”
Sjava, who has a new EP coming out this week (his album, Isina Muva, was released in 2016), said that while he might seem like an overnight sensation, his new-found success had been a long time coming — he’s been making music for 16 years.
About “making it” in his 30s, he told the Sunday Times: “Sometimes I thank God it took time because [the music] was not going to be this mature, I was not going to have these stories that I’m talking about, I was not going to have my life as a testimony. I’ve looked at [the struggle to make it] in a positive way. It’s like going to university — you have assignments, you fail some, you pass some, you’ll have fees problems. It will be a long course.”
Sjava is especially proud that he’s become successful on his own terms, by staying true to himself.
Walking the red carpet at a pre-awards party on Friday celebrating African talent and attended by Cassper Nyovest, Pearl Thusi, Davido and Fally Ipupa, Sjava wore red, white and black to signify his spiritual journey. But he was camera-shy.
He was a far cry from rapper Nyovest, who joked to photographers snapping away while he posed on the carpet that knowing which camera to look at was “like juggling girlfriends”. Nyovest is also nominated at the BETs, in the Best International Act category.
Other Africans nominated in the category include South Africa’s Distruction Boyz, Congo’s Ipupa and Nigerian superstars Davido and Tiwa Savage.
Nyovest told Nandi Madida during their red carpet interview that he wanted to win but he was willing to lose to Davido.
This year’s BET Awards are themed “Blackanda” (a reference to the fictional nation Wakanda in Black Panther) and mark the first time that the Best International Act award will be handed out during the live televised ceremony rather than before it.
The BET Awards will be shown on BET (DStv channel 129) on Tuesday at 8pm.
Jabulani Hadebe, aka Sjava, is glad to have found fame on his own terms.