Sho Madjozi: “I’m the driver of my own destiny”
Her unapologetic approach towards life has contributed to her success, leaving much to be admired. Meet Sho Madjozi, the queen of Tsonga culture and music and one of the creative entrepreneurs selected for the Hennessy All I Need campaign.
Give: that’s one of the many things that Maya Christinah Xichavo Wegerif, popularly recognised as Sho Madjozi, is known for, though the way she usually puts it is that she “gives back.” Two words that make you like her even more. “I am who I am because of my community and because of the people around me. I think it’s only fair to give back,” she says. “I've been able to do things for people from where I'm from, and my career has changed the lives of my whole family,” she continues.
Undoubtedly an icon in the making, the talented South African rapper, actress, and poet is still to this day making big moves and kicking down doors that were previously shut. All while acknowledging her humble upbringing and highlighting that “in my heart, I’m a village girl.”
And, like so many of her other common touches, this one too makes people fall head over heels because they know that she came from a modest background and that she wasn’t given anything, to begin with. And when reflecting over all her career highlights, she remembers one very fondly: “When I went back to my village, around one hundred kids came to my grandma's house and sang my songs, and I realised it [my career] was real and that what I do matters," she says.
Giving – whether it’s through her unapologetic self, music, inspiration, or hairstyle tips – is one of many reasons why people are looking up to her and why she’s here; Madjozi firmly believes that she, and her alikes, were put here to be heard, and she is not afraid to neither tell nor show it: “You as a human being living on this earth has as much right to bring your own ideas into reality as anyone else,” she explains.
That’s the thing about Madjozi; she’s of great belief, doing things her way, with a constant “go big, or go home” aura following her. And there isn’t much about Madjozi that isn’t big. Her colourful personality, gestures, unique style, voice, and catchy verses – ones that won the hearts of many music lovers across the world – her dreams, empire, self-confidence, and talent – all very big. “I’m a dynamic individual, and I want to make very bold statements,” she says. After gaining recognition through her feature with OkMalumkoolkat in 2016, Sho Madjozi skyrocketed and is one of the biggest stars on the African pop scene today. Her unique Pan-African sound, which draws on various cultures and the diaspora, has also won her an international appeal. “This is the only thing that I want to do. I love the continent of Africa and writing and words and music. And me being Sho Madjozi is an expression of that. I use that as a vehicle to share my ideas of what I think about the African continent; I use Sho Madjozi to explore the fun part of music,” she explains.
Something that didn’t go unnoticed. In 2019, she was named one of Forbes Africa’s “30 Under 30”, a recognition that she, when asked to comment, laughingly said, “Well, congrats to them for recognising that!”
Madjozi’s focus has always been to spread Tsonga culture. And thanks to her numerous undertakings – proudly highlighting Tsonga culture through her art and her style – she has embodied that to an extraordinary degree, transforming, in ways both concrete and intangible, the lives of countless people. “It’s important to be exactly who you are. Before, it was embarrassing to be Tsonga; you were ridiculed and made fun of. And a lot of Tsonga people hid it. But when I came on to the scene, I was able to share that ‘No, you be yourself’; I was able to share the importance of being exactly who you are”.
Sho Madjozi is quick to practice what she preaches – her signature style draws from the Tsonga culture, reflecting her pride in her heritage. A vital part of her iconic look is the xibelani skirt, a skirt usually worn by Tsonga women during traditional celebrations. Inspired by Tsonga traditional garments, she also incorporates a mix of bright colours in her look and her home language, Xitsonga, can be picked up in her catchy verses.
“Tsonga is my language and the culture that I grew up in, that I was and am surrounded by. And I love taking things I find beautiful in my culture and interpreting them for today, for now. It’s all about embracing your culture on a day-to-day basis,” she discloses.
Madjozi rarely fails to live up to her inspirational image. And as the femme fatale that she is, she seems like she’s always one step ahead, tirelessly, like a dog with a bone, going after something new.
“Why should I stop? I can always achieve more. And why should my goals be limited by what the people before me have managed to achieve?”
No doubt about it, the gqom beats queen blew people away when she entered the industry as her colourful self; when she made it clear that ‘standing out instead of fitting in’ is the way to go. She mesmerised them when rapping in her own way, constantly building an unmatched authenticity by staying true to everything that makes her unique.
“I am happy with how I built everything. I was bold. I was courageous, daring. I walked into board rooms not knowing what was going on and thinking, ‘I have the right to be here’, and I did exactly what I wanted to do. I wouldn’t do anything differently today,” she discloses.
Madjozi is a breath of fresh air, as sought after as a ray of sunlight during stormy weather. Her style is eclectic and electrifying; when she walks into a room, it vibrates and spills over with fun. She is hard to ignore and even harder not to love, a breathing testament that the future belongs to a generation that is not afraid to take what’s rightfully theirs. Or, as Madjozi herself would say, “The stage is yours.” .
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