Self-proclaimed ‘soldier and saint’ Zetina Mosia tells Helen Herimbi about the layers that shape her music
“MY name?” Zetina Mosia’s eyes get smaller as her smile gets bigger. “We haven’t discussed my name,” she says to me.
We are sitting opposite each other in a plan B of a restaurant after her first choice – a quaint nursery tucked away in a Jozi suburb – is closed to observe a Jewish holiday. The singersongwriter-event organiser is almost done drinking her avocado and spinach smoothie – a concoction that tastes better than it sounds, she tells me.
At this point, we’ve spoken about Mosia’s old music, her new music and even Strike The Rock – Women in Music Festival, the all-female concert that she’s a part of at the GoodLuck Bar in Jozi this Saturday. But there’s just one thing we neglected to include in our chat.
“My parents met in a taxi,” Mosia explains.
“Well, in Ghana those taxis are called tro tros. My father is South African and was in exile in Ghana so he couldn’t use his real name due to the struggle back home. Zet was his alias.”
“Fostina is my mother’s name so they put the two together: Zet and Tina. That’s why Zetina is my name,” she beams. “So, I always say I am a soldier and a saint. My mother’s name is of a saint and my father was a soldier. I have a bit of hard and soft in me. That balance makes sense for me.”
It also makes sense for the music. Having started out as a singer who is partial to jazz stylistics over alternative hip hop beats, Mosia began to make a name for herself in the underground after 2010.
By 2014, the soft-spoken siren had become a force to be reckoned with. She included elements of trip-hop and funk and continued to work with frequent producer, Kanif Sebright under the Iapetus independent record label.
Mosia released her debut album, The Roundabout, in 2015.
On the album, Mosia says: “It’s a circle of emotions. I had to come back to myself. After I was done with the album, I realised I was this person who didn’t know who she was and then found out who she was through the process of making the album.
“So, The Roundabout is like a mandala of Zetina. I love circles. Spirals are a big theme in my life, I’m always drawing them. But yeah, the album is about coming back to who I really am. I don’t think The Roundabout can happen again because that was the circle of who I was at that time.”
One of Mosia’s strengths is her pen game. She mostly writes from real life experiences and even when the beat conveys a happy mood, her voice is emotionally charged to a point that the only way to describe it is: it doesn’t lie. Lately, off The Roundabout, is one of the songs that allows her voice to shine.
On it, she sings about the happy hour of a relationship being delayed. I ask her about this fan favourite and she says: “I didn’t write Lately, initially. Sometimes the beat triggers the writing because the emotion is connected to whatever I’m saying. Sometimes I don’t even know it until it’s already happening.”
Even today, in 2017, the song seems to have had it’s own effect on the singer. She pulls her plush velvet jacket with roses embroidered on it together in the middle and confesses: “I get shivers just thinking about.
“I’ll never forget how much I cried when I was done with that song. It made me realise I was trying to save something and happy hour was just not coming soon enough. I got sick of myself and knew if I don’t let go, I’ll become a shell of myself.”
With Mosia’s upcoming EP: B-Sides, Remixes and Reimaginings, Mosia is still writing about relationships. This time, sonically, she has evolved.
A song called Sorbet springs to mind. She sings about a jigsaw puzzle in the brain but it’s so funky and her vocals blend in so beautifully with the instruments.
Ginger is moody, maybe even dark but still, it’s great because, as Mosia says: “I’m having a fun time playing and experimenting with my voice.” As an explanation of where she is now, Mosia says: “With The Roundabout, it was a time in my life where I was going through a whole lot of emotions. I went through the good, the bad and it got ugly. And I made more music to recover from that because it was like: ‘girl, you need to get yourself together!’”
She’s been the soldier of love songs and she’s enjoying the saintly lightness of bringing out the good in her music so catch some of Mosia’s music at Strike The Rock – Women in Music Festival this Saturday!