For South African singer-songwriter and producer , music has always been about honest expression and human connection. With his new solo album Reprise on 2nd Avenue and an upcoming run of Cape Town shows, he’s inviting audiences to experience the emotion and warmth of his alternative R&B sound.

After cutting his teeth making beats at home and performing during university, Qü (real name Sakumzi Qumana) linked up with turntablist Lazola Ndamase and later Tebogo J Mosane to form the band Johnny Cradle in the late 2000s.

The Roots-Electro outfit’s success took off in 2017 with the release of their self-titled debut album and through performances at venues and festivals across the country. But by late 2018, the grind had taken its toll. “I was just exhausted from life in general, everything,” Sakumzi tells us. “So I just put a break on everything and decided to just relax and not try to not do this music thing anymore.”

It’s easier said than done to put music behind yourself, however. “You try, but it doesn’t leave you. You still hear music in your head. Even if you try and hide it, you’re just going to keep hearing it,” Sakumzi says. As he began writing and recording again for himself in 2019, he found he still had plenty of inspiration to draw from.

“I realised that I actually sort of had a lot of internalised emotions… around ups and downs of life. So I started writing songs about those kind of things,” he explains. The move from a group project to composing solo allowed Sakumzi to express himself more faithfully. ” Because, you know, in a band, you sort of look at things more from a general perspective, you know,” he tells us. “When it’s just you, you’re thinking purely, how am I feeling? And what do I want to say?”

The result is the intimate Reprise on 2nd Avenue, – a lush, low-key collection infused with live instrumentation and collaborations from artists such as Lwanda Gogwana and former bandmate Lazola Ndamase. Sakumzi also brought in R&B artist Amarafleur for vocals on the track ‘Self-Sabotage’, which deals with the cycles of self-doubt that haunt many creatives.

“This song wasn’t necessarily her style, but I wanted someone who could bring a completely different vibe than what I do to make it interesting,” Sakumzi explains. “If you’re going to collaborate, what’s the point if someone just mirrors you?”

Sakumzi hopes to offer audiences something distinct with his slower, emotive live set. “I always think that if you connect with the music, someone else will too. So I’m looking forward to [showing people that] it doesn’t all have to be fast-paced, high-energy. It can still translate, and people can still enjoy themselves in a live setting, even if it’s kind of mellowed down.”

This emphasis on live performance is shaped by iconic influences like Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, Portishead and 90s gangsta rap. “I think the one thing about all the people that I’m into is their production, people that can produce music as well as give great performances. I’ve always loved that,” Sakumzi explains.

Sakumzi says he already received a reassuringly warm reception for his recent album launch at The Bioscope in Jo’burg, “People were vibing from the first song to the last track.” He tells us that before getting in front of an audience, even if the music feels right, “There’s no telling if it’s going to resonate. Luckily, we got that confirmation last Saturday, it’s great.”

To achieve that intimate yet immersive atmosphere, Sakumzi will be accompanied by pianist Solethu Madasa, who also features on the recording of ‘Amandla’. You’ll have three chances to catch Qü during their Cape Town tour — Friday, 14 June at Gorgeous George alongside Tanaka, Saturday 15 June at The Commons in Muizenberg, and Monday, 17 June at Selective Live.


​​I work in the tech sector in hopes we can find human-centred alternatives to the mess we’ve made for ourselves. I get involved in the music scene because leaving passion unpursued is a sin. When my feet aren’t busy on the sokkie floor, you can find me chasing silver linings.

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