Interview

Nomcebo Zikode On Life After 'Jerusalema'

The South African singer talks about the "Jerusalema" phenomenon, releasing her debut album, and giving back.

During her first trip to the United States, Nomcebo Zikode was handed the keys to the city of Miami by commissioners Joe Carollo and Jeffery Watson. It was a moment that left the South African singer and songwriter somewhat taken aback. "They said, 'We are so proud of you. You made us all motivated during a difficult time," she recalls to OkayAfrica. "I was thinking I made Africans proud, but I didn't know that even Americans, white people, are proud of me too. It's just shown me that in life, if you hold onto something, if you have dreams and never give up on them, they are going to become reality."

35-year-old Zikode had always wanted to share her voice with others. Born in Hammarsdale, Kwazulu Natal, now based in Johannesburg, she was captivated by local singers when she was a child. "From a young age, I was listening to South African music like Brenda Fassie, Rebecca Malope and I also used to love Whitney Houston with all my heart. I used to make a lot of noise singing that song, 'I Will Always Love You,' and my neighbors used to say I was too loud. But I wasn't disrespecting them when I was singing. I was just a happy child who loved singing and dancing. And I wanted to make others happy."

"Jerusalema" — and its monumental success — certainly has made people happy. On the back of the song's widespread acclaim, which Zikode worked on with Master KG, she has been traveling through Europe and the US, performing to audiences that got to know the song through the lockdown brought about by the pandemic. The story of the song's global rise -- sparked by a viral video of Angolans dancing to the uplifting Gospel-inspired track -- is well known. For Zikode, the story of what comes next is still being written.

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South Africans Call Out the Use of Blackface in Bulgarian's Performance of 'Jerusalema'

South Africans have called out a Bulgarian singing show following the use of blackface during a performance of Master KG & Nomcebo Zikode's hit single 'Jerusalema'.