Nomcebo Zikode overcame tragedy, poverty and depression to become an international singing sensation with ‘Jerusalema’ – and now she has fashion and jewellery ranges in Jet stores! This is her story.

Born the youngest in a family of four children, Nomcebo (36) was raised by a struggling single mother in the KwaZulu-Natal township of Hammarsdale. Her father sadly passed away before her birth, and she later also lost her younger brother. Yet, despite family tragedy and financial hardship, she describes her early years as being good. ‘Those difficulties helped make me the woman I am today,’ she says.

By the time she’d matriculated, Nomcebo was already honing her singing skill, winning auditions and working as a backing singer. ‘I guess I was always that loud kid who just loved to sing,’ she muses. In 2003, her rich, distinctive vocals won her the Ukhozi FM talent search, headed by well-known gospel producer Tshepo Nzimande. She then moved to Johannesburg to kick-start a 15-year career of recording and touring as a backing vocalist for prominent local artists such as Deborah Fraser, Zahara and Lundi Tyamara.

While pursuing her music, Nomcebo also managed to earn an Information Technology degree. ‘I felt I needed a plan B, in case this music thing didn’t work out,’ she explains. ‘My mother didn’t have money to educate me, so I invested in myself.’

She also met and married her husband, Selwyn Fraser (son of gospel superstar Deborah) during this period, and the two have a daughter, Ziyanda (15) and son, Mnotho (six). Fraser currently acts as manager to his talented wife. ‘In the 15 years we’ve been together, he’s been my biggest supporter,’ says Nomcebo. ‘He believes in me more than anyone.’

Nomcebo remained an unsigned backing vocalist for years, but eventually began to attract attention when she featured on the songs of well-known DJs. A highlight was her successful 2018 collaboration with DJ Ganyani, on the chart-topper ‘Emazulwini’. She also showcased her songwriting ability on the SAMA-nominated song and was then signed by Open Mic Productions.

However, this deal failed to yield the solo success she longed for. ‘I was hoping for big things, but I still didn’t have my own album and I often felt like giving up,’ she shares. But fate had other plans for her…

‘I don’t even think of myself as a star… I just look at how far I have come and all I feel is gratitude’

After months of Nomcebo feeling overlooked by her record company, Selwyn helped orchestrate an inspired collaboration with well-known DJ and producer, Master KG. They recorded ‘Jerusalema’ in late 2019 and the upbeat, gospel-influenced house song went on to debut at number one on the Billboard Music charts, with its music video exceeding 400 million YouTube views.

The hit has also won multiple music awards. Nomcebo composed and recorded the song’s powerful lyrics in a single studio session, and says she knew, on a spiritual level, that it would be a huge hit. ‘I know that God made this hit for us,’ she explains. ‘The song was also an expression of all I was going through at the time.’ She confides that she was in a deep depression over her stagnant career while recording ‘Jerusalema’. She wrote the lyrics as a plea to God to guide her out of the dark and to a place of peace and happiness.

‘This song brought hope and joy to millions across the world during the worldwide lockdown, but I wrote the song before Covid-19’, she adds. ‘I really believe God chose me to spread hope during this dark time.’

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In 2020, Nomcebo’s dream of a debut album finally came to fruition, with the release of the SAMA-nominated, platinum certified Xola Moya Wam’. And in 2021 the songbird enjoyed successful European and American tours. ‘It’s about introducing myself to an international audience, singing in my own African language and representing my culture and my country,’ she explains. ‘The response has been amazing.’

To further expand her brand, she has also partnered with Jet to create an exciting fashion line for adults and children, as well as a perfume range.

‘I love fashion and I wanted to create classy, comfortable and affordable clothing that doesn’t show too much skin,’ she says. ‘I was also involved in every step of creating the three fabulous fragrances.’ She wants her Jet range to offer a message of hope. ‘I became a symbol of hope during the pandemic and these clothes reflect that spirit of hope,’ she says. ‘I want to remind people that anything is possible, no matter your circumstances.’

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Success has also inspired Nomcebo to give back to those less fortunate. ‘God has blessed me and I want to be a blessing to others,’ she says. In June, she launched her Nomcebo Zikode Foundation, with the aim of helping others and giving disadvantaged school kids resources and dignity. ‘I know how hard it was growing up in a disadvantaged home, so this is my way of helping kids so that they don’t feel uncomfortable and judged at school,’ she explains.

Her desire to give back and positively represent South Africa has been boosted by two prestigious ambassadorships. In 2020, she was appointed a South African Arts and Culture Ambassador, and in May 2021 she announced that the Swiss-based social tech company AIDONIC had made her their Goodwill Ambassador. In this role, she will use her platform to focus on supporting under-resourced children, nursing homes for the elderly and caregivers in less privileged communities.

She may be a celebrated singer, aspiring fashion mogul, ambassador, philanthropist, wife and mother, but this multifaceted star still harbours big dreams. Nomcebo now has her sights firmly set on an extensive world tour, launching a successful clothing range, broadening her philanthropic reach and a possible collaboration with a major international artist. But she remains as humble, passionate and authentic as she has always been.

‘I don’t even think of myself as a star… I just look at how far I have come and all I feel is gratitude,’ she says. ‘Yes, there are challenges in life but my story is a reminder to keep hope alive and to never give up. When you believe in yourself and your dreams, anything is possible.’


Visit selected Jet stores to shop Nomcebo’s fashion range and perfumes. Or take a peek at her range in your January issue of Jet Club.

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NOMCEBO ZIKODE: BORN TO SHINE NOMCEBO ZIKODE: BORN TO SHINE Reviewed by Michelle Pienaar on December 13, 2021 Rating: 5
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