Isipaji sika Simphiwe Dana: A journey of healing and finding peace

It has been almost 20 year since Simphiwe Dana mesmerised her fans with her debut album 'Zandisile' in 2004, followed by other soul soothing releases such as 'Kulture Noir' in 2010, and 'One Love on Bantu Biko Street' in 2006 and 'Firebrand' in 2014.

Multi-award-winning singer and songwriter Simphiwe Dana. Picture: Supplied.

JOHANNESBURG - “We are on a journey of healing and finding peace after a traumatic experience with a pandemic that made us question a lot about our existence,” said Simphiwe Dana.

It has been almost 20 year since Simphiwe Dana mesmerised her fans with her debut album Zandisile in 2004, followed by other soul soothing releases such as Kulture Noir in 2010, One Love on Bantu Biko Street in 2006 and Firebrand in 2014.

“Being consistent with anything for 18 years is a celebration and the success is a celebration too. The creation of Isipaji sika Simphiwe Dana comes at the tail-end of a whole tumultuous era in my life, but it’s still a nice thing to point at as something to celebrate. Fulfilment is not the right word, but it’s the best word I can think of right now. I feel this really grounded sense of accomplishment,” said Dana to Eyewitness News about her upcoming performance.

The multi-award winning singer and songwriter will carry her fans down memory lane when she performs some of her hit songs at the South African State Theatre (SAST) on 27 and 28 May on the Opera stage.

“I am grateful for always having faith in my creative trajectory that I turned down all sorts of attempts to influence my creativity. As a result, I have watched trends come and go, and still, I remain."

Dana will be exploring the many amazing songs from her repertoire that she has not performed in her upcoming offering Isipaji Sika Simphiwe Dana.

The event will be an opportunity for Dana to explore the various textures of her work to date; an intuitive, multi-layered effort from a mature artist at the top of her creative powers.

“I don’t really have a formula, but I do prefer to write from an acappella perspective. I see my voice as an instrument and use it as such.”

MOYA was Dana’s previous offering, and she had worked with fellow South African creative director, theatre producer and dancer Gregory Maqoma and his Vuyani Dance Theatre. MOYA spoke to the significance of one’s spiritual health, particularly following the traumas associated with loss and feelings of helplessness owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Simphiwe is one of our best in the continent. After seeing MOYA a month ago, I knew we had to have her at the SAST. Even better to have her during Africa Month, where we as African people need to come together and engage and try to heal through song and good music. We always look forward to hosting her here,” says SAST artistic director, Aubrey Sekhabi.

Dana’s timely offering forms part of the SAST’s celebration programme for Africa Month, a time when the continent commemorates the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the now African Union (AU).

“It is an opportunity to take stock of how far this wounded continent has come, to celebrate the wins and to dream of a better tomorrow,” said Dana.

Being the biggest theatre complex in Africa, with its Pan-African outlook, the SAST subscribes to the ethos that the AU was founded on, featuring Dana proclaims an appreciation of the continent’s rich artistic excellence.

“I knew I was something different for the industry, I knew I looked different, I sounded different and the songs I wanted to sing were different,” she said.

“I thought I was telling people, ‘make way, something different is coming,’ but in hindsight, I was telling all of our stories about what it means to affirm yourself because the world will always tell you that you’re supposed to be something different.”

Simphiwe Dana invites her fans on a journey into the many musical gifts in her bag.

“It is wonderful to be back on stage. Performance is a very significant part of my creative makeup. It has felt like I’m losing my identity for the past two years. So, expect extra-emotionally charged performances.”