The pop evangelist: ​Yoza Mnyanda

Filmmaker and musician 

If you googled Yoza Mnyanda this time last year, you would find her not so basic basics: She’s a 23-year-old aspiring cinematographer and graduate of the University of Cape Town’s Film school.

While studying she spent some time establishing herself as a jazz-soul songstress with a sultry braggart voice reminiscent of Lebo Mathosa, through a few cover videos and voice overs for Superbalist.

Growing up in East London, in a home where the likes of Letta Mbulu and Caiphus Semenya soundtracked her childhood, Mnyanda began cultivating her love for the arts when she was a child.

“I was always into drama and music in primary at high school. I always leaned towards the creative side. Then when I was done with school, I went on to study Film and Media Production and did music on the side.”

Work and effect

Google would not have reflected what she has done since the beginning of 2017.

Her first major musical wave happened when she tweeted Black Coffee in 2017, asking how many retweets she’d need for him to collaborate with her. After hearing her voice, Black Coffee ignored her retweet inquiry and agreed to get into a studio with her.

Not too long afterwards, Mnyanda and her partner Katt Daddy became the musical duo Darkie Fiction. In just seven months they released three singles Selula, Fiction Sound and Sobabini, along with a video that is an ode to native nostalgia.

Mnyanda’s work draws on what she has experienced. “Everything I make is loosely based on something I’ve been through or something someone around me has been through … I don’t really believe in making anything that doesn’t leave you with at least one question. Even if the question is, ‘What on earth was that?’”

In November last year, music channel TRACE partnered with the Gauteng Film Commission to give young filmmakers an opportunity to showcase their work. Mnyanda was one of the three candidates chosen to create a film of less than five minutes that advertised the Trace Roots Music Festival while telling an African story.

These short films were aired on TRACE for public voting. The winner receives backing to produce a 20-minute film to be shown on all TRACE platforms in 2018.

“I chose to profile an artist that was performing at the festival, Sho Madjozi, and my piece won. That’s how the documentary came about,” says Mnyanda.

Future plans

Little America, the documentary’s working title, is about local artists’ use of American gimmicks to sell music. The film also looks at the lack of airplay for artists who are making music that is authentic to the locale and why that is. It’s due for release on TRACE this March, which will be followed by a deeper delve into her music.

“2018 is basically the year of Darkie Fiction. I feel it. I just hope that it’s one of the acts that contributes to a more authentic shift in terms of what is considered as popular South African music. Planning to release a lot more music and a lot more visuals and having a real impact. I’m also really hoping that it turns into something that can pay the bills as well.”

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Zaza Hlalethwa
Zaza Hlalethwa
Zaza Hlalethwa studies Digital Democracy, New Media and Political Activism, and Digital Politics.

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