Nhlanhla Majozi (26) wears his heart on his sleeve: he has the word “Jesus” boldly tattooed on his right upper inner arm and, just below that, another tattoo pays tribute to his mother – who was a domestic worker for the family that helped to raise Majozi.
We meet at one of his favourite spots, Larney’s Café, a chic Italian espresso bar hidden away in a corner of Durban’s Gateway Shopping Centre. After ordering a coffee milkshake he reveals, in all seriousness, that he’s quite a coffee snob. But as we settle in and chat, the laidback personality of the Salt Rock resident shines through.
After working at a bank for five years, Majozi quit his job to study music at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Having only launched his music career last year, his soulful indie folk music style is a bright light in Durban’s live music scene.
The first single, The River, off his debut EP Marvellous Light has been playlisted on radio station 5FM and the title track has just been featured in a new Private Property advertisement. Marvellous Light reached the ninth spot on the South African iTunes chart.
Majozi was recently signed to Universal Music and is currently working on a new EP.
He is humble about his good fortune, crediting friends and fellow bands such as Gangs of Ballet for their support, but revels in being able to defy people’s expectations.
“I like to surprise people. I remember when I started out, performing at open mic sessions, people would joke around saying I’d play reggae or maskandi. Even before, when I’d play covers at weddings, I would do songs people wouldn’t expect me [to play], but songs that would make my voice sound good, such as Coldplay and Kings of Leon tunes,” he says. “It’s important to try and be as fresh as you can be and stick out as much as you can.”
Majozi sticks out and yet blends in with Durban’s underground live music scene. It’s a vibrant and multicultural scene that pushes boundaries organically.
With the likes of The Trees, who elegantly deliver folk-punk-funk tunes, to the punk delinquents Fruits and Veggies and the electronic hip-hop group K-Bomb, the scene continues to push through the apathy Durban is notorious for when it comes to music support.
Majozi is often seen at Live – The Venue, Durban’s leading music joint.
He’s unapologetically Christian, something you will hear in his music, with lyrics such as “Glory be to God …” in Marvellous Light.
This tends to turn some people off his music, but not off his sound. His indie folk music is not edgy and it is not pretentious. It may even, at times, have the monotony sometimes necessary for an artist trying to make a name for himself.
What resonates is his particular brand of catchy soulfulness.
Says Majozi: “I’ve grown up in a certain way and I have always written from where my faith places me. The way I choose to do my art also enhances my freedom.
“What I want to do with my music is to be encouraging, to tell people that they’re good enough,” he says.
“I believe we should be looking at taking care of each other and not only looking out for ourselves. This perspective has shaped how I write.”
He embraces the indie folk label that has been given to his music, but his vision is to grow, experiment and defy definition.