The Powerful Siren
Indie artist and singer/songwriter Jozia uses her unconventional way of looking at the world to create music and videos with a fearless disregard of opinion. Describing her sound as Mamokebe, meaning siren, that also forms the title of her latest album which was released earlier this year. Coming into the music industry as a creative, talented breath of fresh air, Jozia spoke to Marelise Jacobs about her album and the benefits of being misunderstood.
Tell me about yourself and your music?
Jozia: I like crazy things, everything that is weird attracts me, whether it is hair - red is my favourite colour - the bigger, the better. When it comes to my music, I like to call it a Mamokebe sounds. It means siren, something like mermaid. To me Mamokebe means a powerful creature, somebody who is misunderstood, who doesn’t belong. When you watch a video like Mamokebe, you can tell that a young girl like that, fifteen years ago in a township, seeing things so differently was bullied, no? So it is about being isolated.
In terms of alienation, is that something that comes through your music?
Jozia: You know, when I was finished with my Mamokebe album, even how I put the songs together, this is number one, this is number two, number three and also as soon as I was done with all the videos, the whole album seemed dark. So yes, it comes sometimes from what I have been through, what I am going through, what I have experienced. During the time when I was working on Mamokebe, I wasn’t aware actually that I was doing it, it wasn’t planned that I wanted to be so dark, it just happened to be like that, almost like a diary. But now I am looking forward to my future projects that I think is going to be more colourful.
“...Had I known about Björk or had I seen David Bowie when I was still young, I think my childhood would have been better. I would have known there is somebody out there who understands...” - Jozia
The video for Mamokebe was shot on the border of Mexico and the United States, how did you set that up?
Jozia: There is an art institute who is funding my music and I told them about this project that I wanted to do. That when I shoot the video it has to somewhere not in this world, I want it to be different. I was fascinated by the pictures I saw of the the Grand Canyon and also of Mexico, so I thought these are the places that I want to go. I didn’t think they would actually say okay, let’s go do your project there.
I was also invited by the founder of the No Show Museum, Andreas Heusser, to come along on tour with him. I was traveling with him throughout every city, I took everything on the journey of where we were, what we were doing, like a documentary road trip that became the music video for Julio. I was very blessed last year to go to America and also Mexico to shoot and film and work on my project.
You and Kevin Leicher worked together on the album, how did your paths cross?
Jozia: My first EP was done in Europe with Dutch and British producers but they didn’t really understand Afro Pop, I wanted a different sound. When I came back to South Africa, I met with different kinds of bands to find the specific sound but I didn’t get it anywhere. I spent about six months working with different people and still it wasn’t the way that I wanted it. Then I found Kevin on the internet and called him up. We really gelled together, he understood me. Usually I speak in colours, I don’t play all the instruments, so I like to say I want the bass to sound red or I want the percussion to be African and he understands what I mean. It was very rare to find him. We ended up working together on the whole album.
Where does this unique way of doing things come from?
Jozia: I would say the thing of not having role models. There is no person that I look up to although I am inspired by people. I criticize a lot of things that I see everyday, whether it is fashion or music or film, when I’m watching anything I always criticise and think they should have done it like this or like that. I was always like that at school, so the way I think, the way I dress, the way I talk comes with a scrutiny especially when you were raised in a township. There was bullying, being misunderstood as a young girl. I don’t understand why I was like that, but as I grew older, my music and how I speak, it makes sense now. On television we were always given mainstream music, anything that was safe. Had I known about Björk or had I seen David Bowie when I was still young, I think my childhood would have been better. I would have known there is somebody out there who understands.