But Afro-soul musician Zonke Dikana isn’t too fazed about collaborations, which is why you’ll only hear her voice on her latest album, Work Of Heart. “Musicians were born long before collaborations,” she says. “As an artist I shouldn’t need another artist to lift me, I should be able to stand on my own and succeed. I don’t need collaborations to survive. That doesn’t mean that I don’t collaborate. I’ve worked with many other artists before on music for their albums, but with mine, I wanted to be just me.”
Dikana is inspired by English soul singer Sade who hasn’t collaborated with another artist in years. “She’s my idol. I love everything about the way she works and lives her life. I see myself following in her footsteps.” Work Of Heart is centered around the song Meet Me In My Dreams, a dedication to her sister and musician Lulu Dikana who died last year. The sisters have been prominent musicians for years, but never worked on a song together.
“We were both very stubborn about music,” says Dikana. In the upbeat song, Dikana sings: “Go to sleep now, don’t you worry, for I will love you ’till my days are no more, but you gotta promise me, you will meet me in my dreams.” Dikana says she hopes people will see how much she has grown as a songwriter, producer and a musician with the work done on the album.
“I don’t concern myself with how many CDs I sell or whether the album goes gold or platinum. I want to grow by improving my art, my performance and, in so doing, get more people enjoying my album.”
Did she feel the pressure to match the success of her second album, Ina Ethe, while recording this album? “I felt the pressure to create something that would be even better than Ina Ethe. I really wanted to show myself even more with this album.” While she’s received a lot of positive feedback, she’s also received some criticism.
“Everyone wants to know why there isn’t a Xhosa song on the album,” she says with a laugh. “As a producer, sometimes I will push myself to mix the two languages, but most of the time I allow my songwriting process to happen naturally. I don’t wake up and think: ‘Today I’m going to write a song in Xhosa or in English’.” Despite the questions around a Xhosa song and a collaboration, Dikana doesn’t regret a single decision she made with her latest offering.
“If an album or a song makes sense to me, I’m satisfied. I think people who say ‘but this is not the Zonke we know’ want to hang on to Ina Ethe, but as an artist I have to move on. That album is in my past. I am a different person now.”
Dikana will be performing songs from the new album at the Bassline in Johannesburg on October 10. Speaking on what people can expect, she says: “Fireworks. I am going to give it my all.”