It became the most Shazamed songs in the world in 2020, with people in almost every country dancing to its social media challenge. Today, Jerusalema is still one of the most successful songs to come out of South Africa, and the songstress behind the hit, Nomcebo Zikode, is continuing to fly high.
Growing up, Nomcebo always knew that music was her true calling. However, it wasn’t always an easy road. “Music has always been my great passion, and in many ways, my one true dream. I was ridiculed as a child when I mentioned that my dream was to sing professionally, as no one in the community thought this was actually possible,” she tells Glamour SA.
Beginning her career in 2003, Nomcebo initially worked as a backup vocalist for various big name stars in the gospel industry, including Lundi and Sfiso Ncwane. She sang with Debora Fraser as a backing vocalist for nearly 10 years, while at the same time, dabbled in being a successionist for other artists in order to enrich her musical prowess. “My exposure across different genres aided in my ability to be diverse and versatile,” she recalls.
In 2006, Nomcebo toured with the legendary Tshepo Tshula in London, and not long after, worked with popular Kwaito group Mafikizlo for almost a year.
With so much experience under her belt, it was in 2010 that Nomcebo launched her prolific music career by working with singer Zahara on her hit studio album, Loliwe.
However, despite the many opportunities she was given, Nomcebo still felt like her voice was not being heard. According to the songstress, she was in a very dark place in her life, and was constantly praying for a breakthrough in her career. Eventually, this opportunity came about.
“I held on to the belief that God has a divine plan for me,” she says. “And by His grace, in 2018, I wrote and performed a hit song alongside DJ Ganyani called ‘Emazulwini’”.
The song, which was Nomcebo’s first exposure into the world of house music, was featured on the album Ganyani’s House Grooves 10, and went on to top a number of charts, both internationally and locally. It even won House Record of the Year at the Dance Music Awards South Africa. “That was a huge moment for me which set the stage for what was to come next,” she says.
It was in 2019 however, when the trajectory of her career catapulted her to being a global superstar.
She collaborated with Master KG to produce Jerusalema - an opportunity she says, that was like a lifeline to her. “This was a turning point in my life and altered the course of my journey”, she says.
The song topped music charts across the continent and was nominated for Song of the Year throughout all music platforms in South Africa at the end of 2019. To date, the song has over 430 million views on Youtube and has achieved Diamond and Platinum status in a number of European countries. Safe to say Jarusalema achieved international acclaim and caused a social media frenzy.
“I am grateful and humbled by the global success of the song and the fame and popularity it has received,” Nomcebo says.
“I am elated that so many people have been unified by this song in this moment of darkness and that it has inspired positivity and joy,” she says, referring to all the lives lost during the pandemic, and the “void it has left in all of us.”
Following its success, Nomcebo embarked on an African tour, performing her collection of music. She performed in countries including Ivory Coast, Congo, Malawi, Mozambique and Burkino Faso, to name a few. She also released her solo album Xola Moya Wam, in August last year.
When asked about her favourite career highlights thus far, she says there have been many amazing moments. However, nothing compares to what she experienced with Jerusalema. “I have been moved by people’s kindness and generosity in the way in which they have embraced me and the song,” she says. “In countries that do not even understand IsiZulu or English, yet their love for Jerusalema has been unexplainable.”
Some other meaningful highlights include performing for the children of Madagascar and getting to collaborate with superstars she has admired for years.
“But of course establishing my foundation the Nomcebo Zikode Foundation has been a personal and career highlight that is close to my heart,” she says. “I have been able to give back in my a meaningful way to those less fortunate in my community of Hammersdale.”
Although Nomcebo is seemingly on the cusp of doing great things, and taking her career to the next level, she’s been involved in a lawsuit with her label that has currently been weighing her down.
Thus, “Independence!,” she says, is the goal she would like to conquer next. “I would like to be free from any unfavorable agreements and contracts that prevent me from achieving my highest potential.”
“I wish to conquer the music world with further hits and meaningful music that helps make the world a better place.”
Making music that will “advance the rights of women, that will take African music to new heights, and celebrate our uniqueness and Africannes proudly,” is currently on her agenda.
Not to mention, she’d also like to win a Grammy and further her humanitarian work in the spirit of Nelson Mandela.
Ultimately, Nomcebo’s main aim is to create and perform music in the truest and most authentic way possible. “I will continue to make music that connects with listeners emotionally, and sincerely convey my heart and soul in anything I do,” she says.
“I live by prayer and by placing everything before God. I am not able to explain why God chose me and gave me the gifts that he did, so I can only accept that I am here on this earth to do his will as a servant of God.
I live by Ubuntu, and know that each of us plays a role in the betterment of the lives of all global citizens.”