Umqhele – Sjava (Album Review)

BET award winner, Sjava, released his sophomore album Umqhele last week (December 14, 2018). The 18-track body of work follows the release of Isina Muva in 2016, and gives his fans some much-needed Sjava flavour!

Girl Boss rating 4.8/5


Umqhele receives a high rating for three reasons:

  1.  Relatability. It provides a safe space that allows for vulnerability.
  2.  The production quality. Sjava utilizes a diverse range of sounds
  3.  Cultural reference. The album contains accurate commentary on some Zulu practices and beliefs.

I am tempted to call Umqhele the hustler’s softer side because of tracks like Ngiyabonga, Uvalo and Confession. The songs explore universal themes like everyone’s desire to make their parents proud; learning to have faith and trust in your ambitious goals and your God; being afraid of love and getting hurt.

As you listen to the album you are able to reflect on your personal journey. The ability to tell a story with music and let the audience see themselves as the protagonist is a gift that Sjava has and it makes his album phenomenal. The relatable lyrics on the album are paired with a diverse range of sounds, with the track Linda having a saxophone, while Isibhamu uses a trap beat. The variety of sounds makes every song a unique experience.

Lastly, Sjava speaks about Zulu beliefs in the track Linda, stating, “ngoba wakhiphisisu bathi leyongane iyo evala izibusiso, wawuxakekile” indicating that the omens we use to explain why things aren’t working out in our lives are often untrue. The song goes on to explore other trials that people face and Sjava consistently reminds the listener to not think that this is the end but to rather realise that it is a part of the journey and one should be patient.

The only factor that may affect this negatively is the fact that it is 97% of it is in isiZulu. This may alienate people who can’t understand the language. Although many non-Zulu speakers have expressed an affection for the soulful nature in which he speaks, their lack of understanding of the lyrics limits their connection to the music and this may affect it’s replay value. Aside from this, Umqhele is a masterpiece and it should win Sjava many more awards. It is definitely worth the purchase. 

Zani

3 thoughts on “Umqhele – Sjava (Album Review)

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