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A snapshot of our October cover story featuring Msaki

Asanda ‘Msaki’ Lusaseni is an award-winning singer-songwriter and producer with a distinct voice and sound. Her take on art and music sets her apart as a force. She chats to Glamour about her latest album, renowned collabs and approach to activism.

Msaki is a big part of the reason I can attest to the power of music. Her soothing voice has gotten me out of bed more times than I care to admit. ‘Fetch Your Life’, which she co-wrote with Prince Kaybee, was my anthem at a time when my sense of purpose was out of reach.

Aware of her impact, she says, “The song became a rallying call, battle cry, lifeline and an inspirational mantra. People took to it, making it the biggest song on South African radio in 2019 with 3.1 billion impressions.”

In 2020, she received four SAMA nominations and dominated digital and radio charts with her serendipitous collaboration with Sun-El Musician on the motivational ‘Ubomi Abumanga’.

She says that iconic collab “is the result of care and a lot of respect for each other and the craft.

We’ve become such good friends through our shared desire to build and create and support other artists.” And she shares they generally come together over positive things.

Even outside of music, as we love the same sports. “When it’s time to make music, it’s as natural as breathing. He’s my best friend and one of the kindest, most encouraging people I’ve ever met.”

Her collabs with industry greats include her synergy with Tresor on her 2019 single, ‘Pearls To Swine’, whose music video she directed. The single earned her a nomination for Best Produced Video, and ‘Sondela’ was a nominee for Song of the Year. Diplo, Kabza De Small and Black Coffee are amongst the icons with whom she’s worked.

“My collaborations are birthed from friendships and a desire to highlight other artists’ unique selling points. I try to make music with people I’d want to be stuck in the car with on a long drive. My main question is usually, what do we have to say together? I leave many of them to organic timing and natural synergy, but I’ve also learnt how to be an intentional collaborator, so a song carries the energy of two souls, not one.

There’s already magic in that!” Her feature on Black Coffee’s album earned her an honorary Grammy Award, which she says is “wild! I’m meeting and collaborating with more and more people who casually mention they have a few of them! “I hope Grammy energy can rub off on a gal!

But, seriously, it became real when the certificate arrived at my house. I was honoured and grateful Black Coffee had included me in his projects.”

The Inimitable Muso is on a winning streak. And has just bagged two 2022 South African Music Awards for Best Female of the Year and Best Adult Contemporary Album Awards and five nominations for Artist of the year, Female artist of the year, Best Produced Album, Best Collaboration and Best Adult Contemporary Album for her critically acclaimed sophomore double-album, Platinumb Heart, distributed by Platoon.

If you’ve been following her music journey since her debut EP, ‘Nal’Ithemba’ in 2013, and debut LP, ‘Zaneliza: How the Water Moves’ in 2016, you’ll be familiar with her captivating content. Her latest body of work is a fusion of electronic dance, folk and amapiano. From a content perspective, how is it different from her previous albums?

“Platinumb Heart Open and Platinumb Heart Beating feature protest and love songs. The colour of the sound is red and gold, like blood and minerals. Whereas, Zaneliza is blue and white. It’s a water album concerned with healing and cleansing. Platinumb Heart is also a heavier, denser work that asks more questions.”

She enlightens that her creative process is layered. “I move from many ideas in search of one or two. It’s part of my process to make a heap of stuff and then take away from it to leave a motif.”

It’s fascinating that her deep connection with art comes through in her expression. “I was a visual artist before I was a musician. I studied different media, from photography to painting.

I work on installation and performance art too. My album launch was an art exhibition made up of a series of installations representing the songs.”

She notes November is a special month for her. Not only is on the cover of this issue, but it also marks the anniversary of her albums. This double-drop is one for the books! “I can’t believe it’s been a year! People have been so warm and generous with their feedback. My supporters wrote me essays in response to the albums.”

It’s hard to ignore her great speaking voice, and I’m curious about some of the conversations that have emanated from it. “Thank you! A few people have told me I should host a radio show. That makes me laugh because my nickname is derived from that. Msaki came from nomsakazo, which came from msasazi, meaning radio DJ.” I’d never have guessed! “

Her comment sparks my curiosity about her upbringing. “Growing up, I was mostly into sports. I played provincial tennis, hockey and cricket and was a member of a very sporty family. And I’ve always liked poetry, which is the earliest expression of my individuality as an artist. I used to love conversation too and would often find myself with adults chipping into their conversations – if you’re African you’ll know how taboo that is. My nickname, Nomsakazo, came about because I’d literally interview my parents’ visitors like a radio host, intrigued by their stories. I think I have a podcast in me. I’m interested in many alternative ways of thought, still enjoy conversations and the idea of peer interviews fascinates me.”

Msaki also uses her voice to effect change and amplify calls for social justice. What does that speak to? “Maybe, I’m an accidental activist. I wrote songs as a response to painful events unfolding in South Africa. I was disturbed by the reality of events such as the Marikana massacre, how FeesMustFall unfolded and GBV was becoming cemented in our vocabulary.”

And she shares that she was writing to keep her heart from becoming numb.

“I was completely shook that striking men, students and civilians were being shot, sometimes in the back, resulting from what seemed to be callous and careless leadership. I’m appalled that South Africa is one of the least safe places for women to live. I’m still processing that, and art seems like the final courtroom when all the others have failed us.”

Read the full cover story in the October issue of Glamour SA, now available in-stores nationwide, or grab your digital copy, here.

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