Mutual musical indulgence with Judith Sephuma

Illustration by Ellen Heydenrych.

Her musical ability, experience and beauty blew the audience away the moment she stepped on stage. Judith Sephuma returns to Grahamstown, expressing her love for the city: “The intimacy of this place is absolutely beautiful.”

With her diverse and exciting lyrical themes, Sephuma broke the mould with “Mmangwane” from her 2001 album A cry, a smile, a dance. Her closeness and engagement with the audience shows heartfelt appreciation and love for her listeners. “I have always looked for songs that my audience enjoy,’’ she says during the show.

Listening to “Le Tshepile Mang”, the bass guitar reminded me of a heavy machine gun combined with a jackhammer. No wonder they call the man behind it, Tendai ‘Shox’ Shoko, the shock absorber.

“Palesa” is an emotional song that Sephuma put a lot of energy into, as she is memorialising her little girl who passed on. The song, offering praise for how beautiful life can be, is from her One Word album released in 2015, a work which is described as funky Afro-Jazz.

Sephuma leverages different genres to carry messages that touch people’s lives. As a classic jazz singer, she takes the audience back to the olden days by singing “Music in the air”, a song which creates a beautiful memory lane for the audience while they engage with and indulge her in the song.

“Mme Motswadi”, one of her most beloved songs, gets the audience shouting. “A song for my mama, a song for my wife!” The song is from her New Beginnings album. In writing it, she was inspired by her mother for being the strong woman she was. It’s a way of saying thank you, as the song is dedicated to her and any other women out there who provide unconditional love.

Echoing from 2001, the song “A cry, a smile, a dance” is still powerful. Sephuma jazzes it up until the listeners are tipsy on her music. All the emotions put into the song were true, and that makes this song — like all of her songs — relevant.

By Sakhile Dube