From Hammarsdale, KwaZulu-Natal, emerges The Joy, an a cappella group that has captured hearts globally with their soulful harmonies and rich cultural roots. The five members — Pastor (Ntokozo Bright Magcaba), Duzie (Melokuhle Mkhungo), Guduza (Sphelele Hlophe), Sthombe (Phelelani Sithole), and Marcus (Sanele Ngcobo) — came together during a choir practice at Sikhethuxolo High School. We spoke to the band last Friday, the release day of their new self-titled album.

Deeply entrenched in the Zulu traditions of a cappella singing, The Joy draws inspiration from isicathamiya and mbube styles. “Growing up in KZN, I would say, really influenced our music. From when we started singing, the genre we were singing was inspired by what our grandfathers sang back in the day. Then we mixed it with isicathamiya, the genre we sang in high school, adding a gospel spice to it,” Duzie tells us.

These genres, celebrated globally by groups like Ladysmith Black Mambazo, form the bedrock of their musical identity. Their sound is characterised by powerful harmonies and a complete absence of instrumental backing.

The Joy’s ascent to fame began with local performances and a significant win in a municipality-wide singing contest. Leveraging social media, they rapidly gained a following, catching the attention of prominent American artists such as Alicia Keys and Jennifer Hudson. Their UK television debut on BBC’s Glastonbury coverage and Jools Holland’s show further cemented their international reputation.

Cat’s got their tongue

A pivotal moment in their career came with an invitation from Doja Cat to collaborate. The Joy recorded vocals for re-imagined versions of her tracks ‘Acknowledge Me’, ‘DISRESPECTFUL’, and ‘Shutcho’. Reflecting on this experience, Duzie tells us, “It was fun, but it wasn’t easy because we have never sung the genre that Doja Cat is singing, so it was kind of difficult. But then we worked our magic.” The Joy also performed alongside the chart-topping pop and hip-hop sensation at Coachella in April this year. This performance introduced their music to a global audience, showcasing their talent on one of the world’s largest stages —  though this is far from the first time that South Africa’s a capella talent has been recognised on the world stage.

“We had a lot of rehearsals. We were rehearsing for two weeks, so it was a long process, but then a great experience for us to share a stage with such a big artist and singing on such a big stage for the first time,” Duzie tells us. “It was breathtaking. Seeing the audience cheering us while we were on stage, we weren’t expecting such a vibe or a welcoming from an American audience.”

The band tells us they have other big collaborations in the works — but are going to hold their cards close to their chest until things are confirmed.

Album launch comes to Cape Town

Following their Coachella appearance, The Joy released their new self-titled album on 21 June, through London-based Transgressive Records. The album, recorded live at Church Studios in London, features 11 tracks without any instruments or overdubs. “We did the album in one day — one day,” Duzie tells us. Their recent single, ‘You Complete Me,’ was filmed during the live recording of the album and produced by Up The Game.

“One of us will come up with a title of the song or a storyline of what we are writing about. Then we will each work on different melodies. Since we grew up in church, in each and every song that we’re going to sing, there must be a melody that has something to do with an emotional vibe or emotional style,” Duzie explains about their writing process.

Reflecting on their evolution, Duzie explains, “I think that we have grown into the music industry and we have mastered our sound in such a way that now, in each and every song that we are featured on or that we are singing, there’s always going to be that mark, that ‘The Joy’ on the song.”

With their new album out, The Joy is embarking on tours, starting with performances in Cape Town and Johannesburg, followed by international dates. You can catch them in Cape Town on the following dates: 26 June 2024 at The Athletic Club and Social, 27 June 2024 at The Olympia Bakery in Kalk Bay, 28 June 2024 at Feastival at Makers Landing (alongside Will Linley, Karyendasoul, and Internet Girl, to name a few), and 29 June 2024 at Babbi.


​​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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