About 5.5 million South Africans are
living with HIV, with an estimated 1000 dying daily, robbing families and friends of their loved ones. One of those left behind is a
23-year-old musician who lost her mother. That was more than ten years ago. She
has overcome her past and many struggles since then and is now building a
successful career in music.
Nomfusi Gotyana, known simply as Nomfusi in the
music industry, was born in the Eastern
township. Her single mother was a traditional healer. Each weekend Nomfusi would accompany her to
ancestral rituals where she would sing, dance and play drums in front of
In 1998, her mother died from an HIV-related illness. Nomfusi
was only 12 and she struggled with the loss of her mother. She wrote her first
song, "Uthando," which means "love".
"When my mother died," she says, "we didn't know that she was sick
of AIDS – we thought that it is one of her beliefs and that maybe she needed to
do something for her ancestors.
"I personally was so hurt and shocked
that my mother died of AIDS [that] I wrote the song about Uthando.
And I got to think what is love and what love means. I wrote the song in Xhosa,
because [it] is the language I am most comfortable with. So most of the songs
I write [are]in Xhosa."
A few years after her mother's death Nomfusi moved to
Cape Town's Khayelitsha township to live with her brother, who was a waiter.
She enrolled at a local college to learn to be an accountant. To pay for her
studies she got a job as a waitress in a karaoke restaurant, where she was also
required to sing.
That's when she got her big break. Diners would
personally ask for Nomfusi to perform and others started booking her for their
weddings and other functions. But it wasn't an easy road, being recognized as a
"As I grew up as a young black person in the township," she says, "it was scary for me to come to the city because everything was at my disadvantage.
I mean lots of things. Speaking English, communicating with people and
marketing myself was just a disadvantage because of the background of schooling
that I got in the townships. I would want to express
myself but I couldn't."
Today she performs with her six-piece band, the Lucky
Charms, at various public events across the country. She's already released a
live performance DVD, and her debut album is due to be released soon. It's
titled Kwazibani, which was her mother's name and which means "Who Knows?"
She describes the music in this album as a mixture of
different genres ranging from rhythm and blues to jazz – and says she is
inspired by artists such as Tina Turner and Whitney Houston.This year she performed along big name artists at the
10th Annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival Free Concert, and
she is fast becoming a household name even before the release of her album.
She wants to keep singing – and more. She dreams of
travelling the world – seeing places she's never been before and wooing crowds
with her captivating voice and lyrics.
For VOA Africa, I'm Unathi Kondile, in Cape Town, South