There’s a Zuma on my stereo

2012-11-11 10:00
Musician Joel Zuma impresses Lesley Mofokeng with his smooth and dignified sounds

There has been a deluge of Zumas flooding our national conversations lately, be it in politics, business or the arts.

Names such as Khulubuse Zuma, Dudu Zuma, Duduzane Zuma, Edward Zuma and Gugu Zuma have become media fodder.

With the rise of Jacob Zuma to the highest office in the land, there seems to be a renewed vigour in his brood.

Now meet a new JZ – Joel Zuma – someone you’re likely to hear a lot from and about in the music world. For the record, his singing skills put the president’s Umshini Wami rendition to shame.

For a change, this 34-year-old crooner from Mpendle outside Pietermaritzburg is not from the presidential bloodline, although there may be long-distance links.

Zuma, who goes simply as Joel, has been quietly chipping his way to the top since high school. A chance meeting with radio legend “Kansas City” Mchunu made him determined to be a radio star.

Then, while studying at Natal Technikon (now Durban University of Technology), he landed jobs on UkhoziFM radio dramas, such as Hhayi Bo, Ingoma kaMama, Sibhekephi and Ngavuka Kwabafileyo. Word spread in the small Durban theatrical circuit and Zuma was cast in productions such as Othello and Amadeus.

After his studies, he was one of the most cast young performers, working nonstop for two years.

In search of something bigger, he packed his suitcase, a TV and radio set, and with R900 headed to Joburg.

After just three months trawling the audition rooms and back alleys of the big bad city, Zuma was fast-tracked to fame when he landed a role in Richard Loring’s The Young Ones, which ran for a year and earned him a Naledi nomination for best newcomer and best singer.

In musical after musical he became indispensable as an actor, singer and musical director.

He ventured into TV as a presenter of’s Let’s Fix It and was last seen in Kwela Bafana at The Market Theatre this year.

“I never stopped writing music throughout,” he says. “I always wanted to release an album for South Africans. My calling was in the music and not just acting. I couldn’t wait for South Africa to hear what I had to say, until now.”

Last month, Zuma finally released When The Time Is Right, one of the outstanding albums currently on the market.

A fast and energetic talker, Zuma longs for the old values of love he grew up with and this is his effort to bring it back. His philosophy is that not all music should be loud. He believes soulful, music still has a place today. He is inspired by late US soul singers Marvin Gaye, Teddy Pendergrass and Luther Vandross.

“Does everything have to be boom-boom these days? Where is the love we grew up on? Every house had an album of good old soul music,” he says.

“I still believe in old-school love. I needed to remind people of the eternal love that’s not dependent on money and status, just pure love. That’s what I encourage.”

The album is well produced and performed with finesse. It has a dignified sound and there’s no sense of a chancer here.

The confidence he exudes on songs like Ordinary Man and Ngimtholile points to a man who waited for when the time is right.

» When The Time Is Right (EMI/CCP Records) is in music stores nationwide