Ami Faku

Ami Faku’s album ‘Imali’ has been making waves on the music scene. Photo: Supplied

Biting into Apple Music: The rise of soul songstress Ami Faku

The Eastern Cape-born songstress Ami Faku’s musical storytelling abilities have caught the attention of Apple Music.

Ami Faku

Ami Faku’s album ‘Imali’ has been making waves on the music scene. Photo: Supplied

In 2004, Ami Faku was 11 years old. It was a compelling year in which former president Thabo Mbeki began his second term after the African National Congress (ANC) won the national elections with a landslide majority of 70%.

The atmosphere in the country was hopeful, peppered with vibrant determination as world events, such as the Olympic Games saw South African sports stars win gold and the death of pop icon Brenda Fassie rock the nation while the tsunami devastated thousands. 

Ami Faku picks up where Simphiwe Dana left off

Within the entertainment industry, there was a fresh new voice making waves. Her name was Simphiwe Dana and at 24 years old, she was singing in Xhosa. Her music a blend of jazz, afro soul with nuances of R&B synonymous with the likes of India Arie and Erykah Badu. 

It’s easy to draw comparisons between Dana’s style and newcomer Ami Faku who likely sang along to Dana’s hits from her Zandisile album, such as Ndiredi and Ndize Mama Tata.

Yet as individuals in different eras, their music is relevant to each period with Faku sanguinely picking up from where Dana left off. 

Talent spotted on ‘The Voice SA’

Fast-forward to 2017 and the budding musician enters The Voice SA competition. She is eliminated but not before catching the attention of Vth Season owner Raphael Benza.

Benza’s record label is home to Bigstar Johnson, AKA and Tresor. Inking her first deal is a dream come true for the then 24-year-old who, like Dana, at that age officially began her exciting foray into the music industry.

In 2019, Faku, who is originally from the Eastern Cape, gears up to release her flagship project, Imali. The offering is dropped towards the end of the year and features Blaq Diamond and Sun El Musician with production credits held by Eternal Africa and Wilson.

Faku is also included on Amanda Black’s Power sophomore album. 

“There’s a lot that’s going on [in the album]. There’s a song that we call eBhayi; it’s [the type of] song you’ll hear in the taxi rank. And then we have Tshomi Yam, which is sort of like a traditional vibe. So it’s just a collection of songs. Each song has, like, a brother or sister.

“So it’s just me; it’s everything that I’ve always wanted to do, so it’s not just ballads, it’s also groove, but groove in a very cool, mature yet youthful way,” Faku told Okay Africa. 

‘Uzalo’ exposure turning point in career

The most-watched soapie in South Africa, Uzalo plays Faku’s uBuhle Bako during a wedding special which sees six million viewers tune in and get a taste of Faku’s talent.

This turning point in her career leads to more bookings as she starts to become a household name. The songwriter then collaborates with Sun El Musician on Into Engawe which firmly places her in the house music scene and catapults her status as a soul songstress.

The title track off her album Imali beautifully captures the essence of the “come up”, a term used to describe a typical rags-to-riches story which the artist speaks so openly about. 

“Like the title track on my album Imali (translated as “money”); I was once in a situation where I felt like things weren’t working out — and it was just darkness throughout. I’ve left that place, but I know there are people that are still there, and that song is basically about them, those who are praying and nothing is going well.”

Spotify and Apple Music

Faku wrapped up 2019 with one of the country’s best-selling albums and also joins Shekinah, Karen Zoid and Lady Zamar in the top 10 most-streamed artists on Spotify. 

In 2020, the shy singer is still going strong. She has been included on Spotify’s Shisa Lounge playlist which has 800 000 subscribers and Apple Music asks her to speak out about her singles in the Apple Music Song Series. Musica lists Imali as the top-selling local album at its stores around the country. 

House hitmaking DJ and producer Prince Kaybee collaborates with her on an instrumental track which has Black Motion bring their tribal beats and Shimza adds a touch of classic house. Faku also releases a ballad with Benny Afroe titled This Feeling

The year has barely begun, but Faku is already on top, enjoying consistent airplay and hosting a two-night concert series in Johannesburg. She has arrived.