We cannot talk about music in South Africa without bringing up the icon that is Shekhinah. She was the most streamed female artist on Spotify in South Africa, last year, she won Album of the Year, Female Artist of the Year and Best Newcomer of the Year at the SAMAs, her debut album Rose Gold went platinum and with big plans like a new album and her first tour coming up, It is Shekhinah’s world and we’re just living in it.
With all of this in mind, Shekhinah was a natural choice for our cover for the Beats Issue, and she sat down with COSMO editor, Holly Meadows to talk about being adopted, opening for Ed Sheeran, and her journey from Idols to superstardom. Here’s a snippet of what to expect from our exclusive interview in our May Beats Issue.
How did your multicultural upbringing influence your music?
I was born in Durban and was adopted by the Donnell family two weeks after I was born. Then we moved to Pietermaritzburg. I have four siblings [her sister, sister-in-law and father are part of her management team]. Growing up was really cool as I have a very diverse family. My parents are white, but they had many friends from different cultures. My mom and dad split when I was in Grade 5. My mom got married to a woman in America, and my dad married a Hindu woman. So multiculturalism influences my music – there are different races and sexual identities everywhere I go. I love Pink, Madonna, Diana Ross… I’m influenced by everyone.
Tell me about the transition from Idols contestant to music artist
I was 16 and my sister encouraged me to go to the Durban auditions, and I got through. But I was missing school and I didn’t make it to the finals. Three months later, I watched it on TV. People started following my journey on Twitter and I got a lot of engagement. But when I was eliminated, that engagement ended. I remember what that meant to me because people were starting to invest in other artists on the show, and from that moment on I realised that this is what I wanted to do with my life – to work in the music world.
I decided to audition again the next year and I came sixth. When I was eliminated, I was really okay with it because I got to go home and finish my matric exams. After Idols, I moved to Jo’burg, and my parents encouraged me to go to varsity. In 2014, I enrolled at AFDA to study music and live performance. It was very awkward because everyone had seen me on TV. But then I recorded Back To The Beach with Kyle Deutsch. During Idols, he was in one of my group rounds and he lived very close to my house in Durban, so we always kept in touch. We’d already established this ‘let’s write a song together’ type of relationship. Eventually Universal heard our track, and the rest is history!
Why do you think people love your music?
I like to think that my music resonates with what people are going through. For example, Suited celebrates love, and that’s a universal emotion. You need to connect with how people feel at a particular moment in their lives.
You’re working on new music, when can we expect to hear this?
We’re doing my first tour in Durban and Jo’burg in August. It’s called Rosefest, and I plan to release my new music during the tour.
Who is your celebrity crush and why?
Miguel – always! He writes beautiful love songs.
Tips for COSMO girls who wanna make it as a pop star?
You have to shut out as much noise as possible and believe in yourself. You never know what will happen unless you try.
Get Your Hands on Our May Beats Issue, Out Now!
For more of Shekhinah, pick up our May 2019 issue on newsstands 15 April, or click here to subscribe.