Berita, the multi-award-winning musician and producer behind ‘Thandolwethu’, ‘Ndicel’ikiss’ and other chart-topping tracks, returns with ‘Jikizinto’, proving she’s only going one way, and that’s up.

That Berita is a slasher goes without saying. Her admirable work ethic is evident when I chat with her on a hot November day in Johannesburg. I am in awe of her energy. Born Gugulethu Khumalo, she is the oldest of five – four girls and a boy. Berita and her family left Zimbabwe for New Zealand in 2007. Just before returning to Africa to study at Walter Sisulu University in South Africa, she bought her first guitar. Since then the 29-year-old has done nothing short of upend the Mzansi music industry. She is a multi-award-winning singer, guitarist and music producer.

Berita is an overachiever. She also founded her own music rights company, Assali Music, which owns, releases, and markets her music. Oh, and she is the founder of a Pan African women empowerment platform called the Women of the Music Business Africa (the Womb Africa), created to foster dialogue for women, engage and share opportunities across the African continent. ‘Often, the music industry is regarded as a male-dominated business,’ she says. ‘I found our industry damaged. Women are more prone to exploitation, unfair deals and low compensation than their male counterparts.’ In the eight years she’s been in the music business, she faced her fair share of unfair treatment.

‘I have been fortunate over time to learn how to navigate the space,’ she smiles. ‘I decided to be a part of the solution so that women who come after me don’t have to go through similar struggles.’ She believes that women artists, managers and music entrepreneurs need knowledge, access and empowerment to take advantage of the growth opportunity as the world looks at Africa for creativity. ‘The goal of the Womb Africa is to make the music industry a safer, more conducive space for talented girls and women from all walks of life across the continent,’ she says. With the multiple roles she plays, she is reimagining the music industry.

Despite the challenges this year has brought, Berita had an incredible year of growth. In February she released what she calls a beautiful, timeless tale of love – a chart-topping fourth studio album titled Songs in The Key of Love. Its lead single, ‘Jikizinto’, peaked at number one on radio monitor charts during lockdown. This album is not lacking in creative talent. Following the release of ‘Jikizinto’ was another hit, ‘Siyathandana’, featuring Amanda Black, and ‘Uyandazi’ on which she worked with the talented DJ Tira.

With the gender-based violence (GBV) spike amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Berita felt the need to address the violence against children and women that tore the nation apart. ‘After the GBV topic trended, I asked myself how I could positively impact the situation through my voice.’ ‘Ungandibulali’ is a plea to men in our society. ‘A man’s duty is to love, protect and provide, not to kill, harm and destroy women in our society,’ she adds. The afro-soul muso wrote the track in collaboration with her production team. ‘We felt we needed a collaboration with a choir and reached out to the Ndlovu Youth Choir at the perfect time – they were finalising their album which features the track as well,’ she says. ‘It was an organic collaboration from the onset.’

It is said that you can’t give what you don’t have. Given the knock the entertainment industry took over lockdown, how did she manage? ‘It was a challenging year that stretched me beyond my comfort zone. Like many young people, I started the year full of energy with

my resolutions and goals,’ she says. However, by March, the pandemic brought everything to a grinding halt. This meant live performances were cancelled, compromising her main source of revenue. ‘It was tough, mentally and emotionally,’ she says. But it allowed her to restructure her business and work on herself.

‘As artists, we are always on the run from one performance to the next; it was good to take a pause and reflect on the impact I want to have on the world.’ It also helped that she came into 2020 with a solid plan. ‘Jikizinto’ was released right before the lockdown and peaked at number one on the radio during that period. ‘I think having a project prepared before Covid-19 helped me cope,’ she says. ‘Once lockdown regulations were eased, I was able to mobilise resources to continue promoting the album to the best of my ability.’ The music video for ‘Siyathandana’ incorporated home videos of their supporters and friends during the lockdown as they could not bring extras to the set. The song and video have done exceptionally well on radio, TV and streaming services since that innovative effort. ‘It’s still tough. The entertainment industry is not fully back at work, but we are coping and exploring new possibilities,’ says Berita.

Eight years ago Berita released her debut album with a song called ‘Thandolwethu’. ‘That was the beginning of my journey; the song became an anthem across South Africa and opened many opportunities,’ she recalls. Since then she has released four more albums, won multiple awards and performed across Southern and Eastern Africa. But she says collaborating with the two greats in African music, the late legendary Oliver Mtukudzi and world-renowned Bra Hugh Masekela in one song, was the highlight of her career. ‘No one else in the world had that privilege; I am forever humbled and honoured by that moment,’ she says.

In July, much to the delight of her fans, Berita announced on social media that she had tied the knot with Nhlamulo Baloyi. ‘I enjoy our privacy, but this is God’s blessing I share from a place of pure bliss, love, joy and gratitude,’ she said in a post. The couple had a private ceremony with the family under strict lockdown regulations. They plan to have a big celebration later on. For the holiday season, she plans to spend time in her marital home for the first time. ‘This is my first Christmas as a makoti; I will make all kinds of salads in the kitchen,’ she laughs.

In the new year Berita plans to release her EP Dance, Praise, and Worship. The lead single, ‘Ungandibulali’ (‘Don’t kill me’) features the Ndlovu Youth Choir. Berita says it addresses the gift and the curse that was 2020. ‘The gift is that we are coming out of this year tested and victorious. The curse is that not all of us made it alive,’ she says.

She also plans to set up the Womb Africa as a social enterprise which will begin full operations at the beginning of March 2021. In the meantime, her message for the festive season is, ‘have hope and gratitude. I say let us dance, praise and worship, for we made it through 2020!’

  • On each of my albums, I always sing a song in an African language I do not speak.
  • My home language is Ndebele.
  • I wrote my first novel at the age of 19.
  • I also play the piano.
  • My ears are not pierced.

  • I love my husband; I am a hopeless romantic.
  • I love Magnum, it cures all my cravings at any time of the day.
  • My go to outfit is a head wrap. I feel regal when I wear one.
  • You will never find me without a Plan B – I always have a solution.
  • I enjoy playing tennis, in my next life I want to be Naomi Osaka!
Keep up with Berita on social media
Instagram: @beritaafrosoul
Twitter: @BeritaAfroSoul

THE UNSTOPPABLE BERITA THE UNSTOPPABLE BERITA Reviewed by Michelle Pienaar on November 30, 2020 Rating: 5
Powered by Blogger.