“Music chose me. From a very young age, I would sing along to songs playing on the radio, and most people complimented me on how good I sounded”, these were the first words Nicky Shange told Marabi Jazz Lounge at a coffee shop in Durban. The Ntuzuma born vocalist and composer believes that when she sings, no matter what’s going on in her life, everything just falls into place. After staying at Inanda for a few years, her family finally settled in Newlands East.
While performing at The Bat Centre in 1998 with the group Shana, the late Busi Mhlongo happened to be there for the performance. Shana also consisted of Nkosinathi Maphumulo popularly known as Black Coffee, Shota whose real name is Mnqobi Mdabe and Demor Skhosana. Immediately after their performance, Nicky left the venue and headed home. She was a student studying music at the then Natal Technikon. Ms Mhlongo requested her contact details from her then bandmembers. Much to her surprise, she received a call from Busi who asked her if she would be interested in being her backing vocalist. “I was ecstatic and was more than willing to work with the legend”, she said.
She described the late Busi Mhlongo as a person who was very humble but demanded a lot of respect from her fellow bandmembers when in the studio as well as during live performances. Nicky just didn’t understand why many radio stations did not play Busi Mhlongo’s music despite the huge talent she possessed. The first day of her rehearsal with her mentor will always be in her mind. “The moment she started singing, I knew that was a life changing moment for me”, she recalled.
“I had never had such a powerful voice in my entire life. She had this aura about her that was not easy to explain. She is the reason I fell in love with African music”, reflecting on those early years of her career. Busi Mhlongo is not the only artist she has worked. After meeting gospel singer Jabu Hlongwane, she worked with him as his backing vocalist. In 2001, she became part of Joyous Celebration. Nicky also became a backing vocalist for musicians Thandi Mazwai, Jonas Gwangwa and many others.
Nicky describes herself as a versatile vocalist who performs different styles of music accordingly. She attributes that to not being stereotyped and a hard worker. “It’s not easy to put me in one box. I write what comes to mind at that particular time. Be it soul, jazz or traditional”, she told Marabi Jazz Lounge. Working with so many different artists has made her grow as a musician in her own right. “I was like a sponge grabbing and holding onto everything I deemed would be useful in my career”, she added.
Countries that she has visited as a performing artist include Namibia, Benin, Mozambique, Swaziland, Algeria, Mauritius, Germany and the Unites States. One of her ambitions is to release her first solo album, hopefully this year. “I already have songs that I want to be included in the album. I have been writing music since 1993.”, she said. Asked whether female musicians are treated differently to their male counterparts, without hesitation, she said ‘they are’. They feel they must work twice as hard to prove themselves in the industry. “A volcano is about to erupt”, shew warned.
One of the unfortunate things about South Africans is that they do not appreciate their own musicians enough compared to other countries. Nicky fully concurs with this. “Busi Mhlongo, was appreciated more abroad than right here at home. The same goes for Bheki Mseleku and Madala Kunene. It’s a huge concern”, she said. Some of the reasons have to do with the lack of airplay these musicians receive. A few weeks ago, she sang Busi Mhlongo’s songs Yise Wabant’am and Ntingi Ntingi at a live performance that was hosted by Ukhozi FM in Durban, much to the delight of the studio audience and listeners of the Sunday jazz slot at the station. The show was aimed at honouring South African fallen musicians such as Hugh Masekela, Allen Kwela and many others.
Nicky often hold vocal lessons with students who still want to nourish their vocal abilities. She is not shy to express how much she loves performing live. Sibongile Khumalo is one of her role models. “Sibongile Khumalo has longevity. Her career has always been stable. She comes across as humble. Her vocal control is outstanding. Nicky believes that there is so much she wants to share with audiences through her performances and the album she wants to record. “I live and breathe music. Everything I do has to do with music one way or the other”, she concluded.
Nicky can be accessible on the following social media platforms:
Facebook Page Nicky Shange’s WORLD
Zishaphi – where it’s happening
The Orbit Jazz Club & Bistro – Braamfontein
10 March 20h30: Ziza Muftic with Sydney Mnisi, Peter Sklair, Roland Moses & Peter Auret – R150
13 March 20h30: The Blue Notes Tribute Orkestra – R150
15 March 20h30: Tlale Makhene’s Swazi Gold – R150
16 March 20h00: Mantswe a Marabi – R150
16 March 21h45: Sibongile Khumalo – R150
The Jazzy Rainbow – Durban
10 March 19h00: Sisanda Nilsson – R80
16 March 19h00: Londiwe – R80
UKZN Centre for Jazz and Popular Music, Howard College – Durban
14 March 18h00: Stefan Johnsson, Melvin Peters and Bob Sinicrope – R80 general entry, R50 pensioners, and R25 students carrying student cards
The CRYPT Jazz Restaurant – Cape Town
10 March 20h00: Maya Spector – R100
13 March 20h00: Melissa Erasmus & Friends – R100
14 March 20h00: Adolf Thelen pays tribute to Gershwin – R150
15 March 20h00: Bongani Sotshononda with United Nations of Afrika – R100
16 March 20h00: Afro Fiesta – R100