Nomsa Mazwai – more than just a baby sister
09 May 2015
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Welcome to Old Mutual Live Radio, my name is Aphiwe Manono and as usual we bring you some of South Africa’s brightest and shiniest stars. This afternoon we’re speaking to a young woman who has so much under her belt, she puts a lot of her peers in shame. Her name is Nomsa Mazwai, thank you so much for joining us Nomsa.
Nomsa Mazwai: Thank you for having me.
AU: I want you to take us, I actually had an interview with your older sister, Ntsiki Mazwai last week and she gave me her own sort of vibe of what it was like growing up in the Mazwai household. Let’s hear it from the youngest of the clan, what her experiences were like growing up in her home.
Being the baby of the Mazwai Clan
NM: My experiences growing up were very interesting because I had two older sisters who I completely adored and I wanted to be them really badly. So experiences at home was amazing. My dad has the most incredible book collection in his little library, in his study and so, you know, it was an upbringing filled with pan-African ideas.
A household that really strived to tell us every day that we’re beautiful, we’re black, we’re amazing and we can do amazing things with our lives. It was an interesting upbringing, I think even having the older sisters that I had, it was fun, the house was always full of music. I remember music a lot and always the best kind of music.
My mother died when I was really young, so I got brought up by my father, but it was just a different kind of household, a different experience, but very fulfilling and it played a big role in shaping who I am today.
AU: I’m glad you spoke about your father, he’s a veteran journalist and you are a younger sister to a singer and poet, how did your background influence your career in music?
My background influenced my career
NM: First of all, my background influenced my career, there were always books about economics at home because my dad was interested in all that. So I read a lot about economic ideas and there were a lot of books by African writers, Steve Biko, there was a book, I remember reading that over and over because it was so short, but I really enjoyed the content of it. So that, I think, influenced my ability to write and my ability to want to read and to want to know more about the world.
Then having sisters that are creative, that are singers and poets, you know, that also just enhanced my writing and my creative outlet. I always try to express myself through the arts. I was a painter, I am still a painter, I was a painter when I was younger. I exhibited at the World Summit for Sustainable Development, I sold some my paintings and I sing too when I write poetry and I’ve written a book.
It was just that richness of home, the ability to just access information and to be able to articulate ideas with people. I think that really influenced who I’ve become today. I have a Masters in Economics, I don’t think it’s uncanny because I grew up in a house with a lot of books about economics. I’m a singer now and I grew up in a very music family. My mother’s siblings are all part of choirs, my father’s siblings are all part of choirs and so, you know, your family and your home life really creates your particular DNA.
AU: I fully agree. You mentioned so many things that you’ve done, a Masters in Economics, you’re a singer, you’re a painter, I would also put you down as a poet because you do all of this. How do you sum it all up and make it into one big ball of Nomsapasta, you know, awesomeness?
It’s all about being happy
NM: Well, what I do is I try to make sure that in my life I’m doing things that make me happy every day. From ’95, I work at the National Stokvel Association of South Africa and as you know, Stokvel are R49 billion of the South African economy. Working with them, understanding how they work, how they function, that’s very interesting to me, just from an economic perspective.
Just understanding the economics of black culture in South Africa and where economic activity is taking place. What are people doing with the money that they have and then back onto the thing that I do things that fulfil me every day, I need the music.
I need to be a performer, just to stay sane. I’m always wanting to perform in venues, performing my music, performing poetry and my poetry is really poetry about the socioeconomic existence of a South African. I talk about what my experiences are as a South African and so that’s what my poetry is. My poetry is really my experience.
AU: I don’t know if the word to describe you would be eclectic or hippy or what do they call you guys now, like eccentric. You are out there, you’re loud, you don’t need to speak to you to know that you are a people’s person and you are out there. How does that inspire your crafts and how do you put that and mould that into one thing?
I love being with and around people
NM: You know, I think the one gift that a person can give anybody else is to tell them is to do you. You’ve just got to do you in everything that you are, you know, just do what makes you happy. I am out there, I am an extrovert, I love communicating with people, I love being around people, I love performing for people.
I think if I were to wrap myself up, I would say I’m definitely a performer. I read this one book called Life is a Performance and even in your professional life it’s a performance. Even when you’re on stage, it’s a performance, it’s just being able to understand who you are and how you want to express your particular brand.
AU: Your music, it’s a different sort of vibe.
NM: What I was saying was, I think it’s just to be yourself, you just have to do you in everything that you do. There was a time when I never thought that I could be able to merge the different lives that I’m living and put them together and now I am. Now I know that I can be all these different things all at once.
AU: Your music, what inspires the kind of music you make because I’ve listened to your latest offering and I love how you sort of, you tell a story. It’s not, it’s something everyone can relate to. I love that you write that way, but what inspires your music and how do you sit down and say, this is definitely what I want to speak about.
My music is inspired by experiences
NM: My music is inspired by experiences, what I’ve come across in life, how I’ve dealt with it, how I’ve tried to address certain situations and I just try to sing about that. I think that’s probably why people can relate to it, because it’s music that is of an experience.
I think we all have these similar experiences and you do know that feeling of first love, when you had those butterflies and that was the feeling you were having at that moment or you know that feeling of; I mean the other songs, being a traveller or experiencing new things or trying new things or being in a new space and being totally lost in that. Trying to address that, trying to find yourself in this world.
That’s it, my music is really about that. My music is just my experiences, it’s just what I’ve been through and I write my music the minute that I think about it. When I’m experiencing a particular thing, I write my music about that.
That’s all I can say really. It is what it is, this is what it feels like. You do what you do, you go where it takes you, so that’s what I write about. I just write about my experiences and how it is that I’ve come to be this person that I am.