We were having drinks at Olwethu Leshabane’s home on a Friday evening after a long day of shooting content. She requested her brother to go take the music speaker upstairs, and when he came back, we all broke into laughter because the speaker was gigantic! Guess which song was first? It was Shekhinah’s ‘I love it here.’
Being a big fan of Shekhinah myself, I had to comment. Olwethu and I spoke about Shekhinah’s Trouble In Paradise album and shared which songs are our favourites. My colleague and I gazed at each other in excitement while Olwethu continued to passionately talk about the album. We had already planned to profile Shekhinah for this lifestyle feature, however, we hadn’t pitched the idea to Olwethu yet.
So without any further ado, I feel I should confess that this interview was a passion project. I did not feel like I was actually at work while putting together this piece. It was nourishment to my soul more than it was work.
I had a conversation with Shekhinah, and instantly, it was as if we already knew each other. I was nervous before she picked up the phone, but her spirit was so alluring it made me comfortable.
Here’s how our conversation went…
Q. Despite your success in music, what is that one thing about yourself, that you are most proud of?
My perseverance in general. I don’t give up easily and I think that is the strength I use in all the different mediums of my life, which was very helpful in this project because I didn’t give up on it although I thought I would.
Q. Are you proud of the sound of pop and other closely related genres in SA?
Definitely. I think local music is at its best than it has ever been in a long time. I am so proud to be amongst many other artists that are making great music. I think it is at its peak.
Q. What is the thought process behind deciding which songs make it into your albums?
It is difficult. But for me it’s about what works together as a body of music. And I had quite a few songs that didn’t make it into the album and that’s because I felt that they didn’t have a place. However, it’s also about what works together and also lyrically what tells the same story.
Q. One of the reviews of Trouble in Paradise is about the acceptance of yourself as the only source of love. This is beautifully profound. Can you elaborate on that?
A lot of us during this COVID 19 pandemic were forced to look within ourselves for the support that we needed, the company that we needed, and we just had to figure everything out ourselves because we weren’t allowed to go out. So I think Trouble In Paradise was just one-long-big-four-years-of-quarantine going within and trying to feel beautiful, and love myself without having your boyfriend there or a screaming audience.
The album ends off with the song ‘beautiful’ that just reminds you that everything you seek is within you, and with ‘Fixate’ which reminds you that you need to focus on yourself and be in your own team before you expect anyone else to be on your team.
Q. Would you say that emotions such as ‘heartbreak’ don’t exist anymore because you’ve let it out and turned it into something beautiful?
No, I wouldn’t say that, but I would say that I understand them better now. That was the idea of making the album, to understand what I’m going through, to be able to contextualize it. However, I am no longer insecure, and I know how to love myself better now. The journey of self love and healing is continuous. There’s no end to it.
Q. You featured Una Rams on ‘Pick Up’ and he has also worked with you on his projects. The end product is always perfect. How did this relationship start?
I have always wanted to work with Una, everybody knows that he’s a great writer. I got the beat for his song ‘sixth sense’ a long time ago and I thought it was so dope that I had to jump on it. I also sent him ‘Pick up’ because I felt like he’d kill the song, and he sent his verse back. This was two years ago. I am so glad that it’s finally out.
Q. You were very selective with the artists you featured, what is the one non-negotiable quality that the people you feature must have?
I don’t have any non-negotiables. Just do what you need to do. If we’re working together, I respect you and I trust you to do your best.
Q. What dreams do you still have?
I still have lots of dreams! I want to travel the world. I want a song on the Billboard Top 10 chart. I wish to do a lot for Essence, I want to own a huge house and a sports car, to retire young… to work with my dad, I still have a lot of dreams.
Q. Let’s talk about the Rosefest’s ‘Our Bright Future’ discussions about issues surrounding mental health. Are we going to be seeing more of these?
Definitely. We want to celebrate Women’s Month every month and make sure that we are actively doing something no matter the circumstances or climate.
Q. How do you take care of your mental health as an artist?
For me, my mental health is really just about coming home. Always take time to go back to where you come from, and where you are loved unconditionally. But also, a lot of prayer, a lot of motivational talks.
The conversation with Shekhinah was food to my soul. I could feel my inner spirit awakened, and I think that’s because the lyrics in her songs hit home. Speaking to an artist who produced work that almost brought me to tears and caused a connection with ‘self’ has a ripple effect.
My absolute favourite song is ‘Pick Up’ featuring Una Rams. This wasn’t their first project. I’ve found that whenever they work together, the end product always sounds mellow and nostalgic. I particularly love Pick Up because it reminds me of the early days of my romantic relationship. I reminisced about the pre and post ‘honeymoon stage’ in my relationship. This song sparked those hidden memories that I had abandoned.
Trouble In Paradise is not only about romantic relationships, it’s also about self-love and healing. You don’t need a romantic relationship experience for you to enjoy this body of work. Every song will speak to you from the first title, to the last.
Go stream this album and let us know how you felt in the comments section.