Zoë Modiga

Singer Zoë Modiga is going places. Image: Supplied

#MusicExchange: Zoë Modiga…a woman of music, metaphor and magic

An authentic, compelling artist challenging the status quo, Zoë Modiga is steadily creating an immortal legacy of cultural impact through music, fashion and storytelling.

Zoë Modiga

Singer Zoë Modiga is going places. Image: Supplied

Zoë Modiga, born and raised in KwaZulu Natal, is the quintessential artist who represents the present and future of South African music.

Her sophomore album, Inganekwane (isiZulu for “Fairytale”), was released in November 2020 and takes the themes explored in her 2017 debut, Yellow: The Novel, and delves deeper into what it means to be a young black woman in Africa today. 

Modern, evolving African story in song

Drawing from human experiences, identity and storytelling, she creates a distinct sound to communicate a modern, evolving African story without loosing its essence. 

As a lively, transcendent performer with a background in classical and jazz training, she is known to enchant audiences into another world while having an evocative individualism in fashion and imagery.

Zoë is an independent artist, releasing under her label Yelloëwax. Despite the global pandemic she has been able to spearhead virtual performances throughout the year



Fame is about ?

Impact and influence and hopefully using it for the betterment of society. 

Retirement will happen when ?

I still have so many riches in my purpose yet to explore and I hope to never loose sight of that. I’ll rest when I transcend to the next life. 

I don’t do ?

Things that don’t feel honest to me. 

What does music mean to you?

Music is Spirit. It is a calling, a gift, a teacher, an opportunity, a messenger.

My music is about ?

The black consciousness and experiences from my perspective. It is a celebration of our stories, identity, language and beauty and a reminder that we are a phenomenal people who carry so much beauty despite our traumas. 

Image: Supplied

I would love to co-write with 

 Rokia Traoré, Fatoumata Diawara and Dobet Gnahoré to name a few. 

Where do you go for inspiration to create ?

I seek my Creator and and the human experience and listen. 

What is the most enjoyable aspect of your work ?

I enjoy performing, writing and recording. They all offer a different feeling and require different mind spaces but they feed my soul. 

The song you must do in every show ?

I have to do Umdali in every show


Any funny moments on stage?

I love introducing my band when we do longer sets because I can share quirky stories about each member to the audience and have us laugh and unwind a little.

My heroes?

My grandparents, my mother, Nina Simone, Busi Mhlongo, Letta Mbulu, Princess Magogo.

My style Icon 

My late grandmother, Busisiwe Modiga, and old-school Drum Magazine covers.

Which living person do you admire most and why?

I admire my mother most because she personifies strength and I think she has withstood every kind of thing and still has so much will and spirit. I really love that about her. 

What is your most treasured possession?

My mind and my thoughts are my treasure.

It’s your round what are you drinking?

A virgin Strawberry Daquiri or a chai latte 

Dream gig to do?

EVERYWHERE. Small pubs, garden parties and world stages. 

What makes you stand out?

Me just being me. 

Image: Supplied


I can’t tell you, I won’t have the readers know what to tease me with. 

If you were not a musician what would you do?

I would be an anthropologist or a zoo keeper. I wouldn’t be surprised if I teased at both in this life. 

Who would play you in a Hollywood blockbuster and why?

I’d be honoured if Thuso Mbedu played me. She would be familiar with the nuances of my background as a black Zulu lady from Pietermaritzburg and she has incredible range and mastery over her craft. 

Pick five words to describe yourself?

  • Sensitive
  • Old soul
  • Empathetic 
  • Escapist/Hermit
  • Intuitive 

Five favourite SA albums?

  1. Jabu Khanyile and Bayete – Umkhaya Lo
  2. Letta Mbulu – Greatest Hits
  3. Busi Mhlongo – Urban Zulu 
  4. Ringo Madlingozi Live – The Greatest Hits
  5. Sibusile Xaba – Ngiwu Shwabada

Greatest movie ever made?

Moonlight…and a long list I won’t mention now. 

What books are you reading ?

Dudu Busani-Dube books. They are so action packed and they’re hilarious with the craziest plot twists. 

What song  changed your life? 

That’s unfair, so many. Let’s say Busi Mhlongo’s Amagugu.

Who do you love?

Myself, family and loved ones. 

What is your favourite word?

Right now? Transcendent. 

Favourite fashion item 

Big eyelashes. 

Give us some real proper slang and what it means 

Why don’t you give me some…

Top of your bucket list?

Travelling to all the countries in the African continent. 

Your greatest achievement?

Being alive and being true to myself in everything I am and everything I do. 

What do you complain about most often?

Incompetence, disrespect and selfishness and boy, does that set me off. 

What is your fear?

Not living out my full potential.

Happiness is?

Peace of mind. 

On stage I tend to?

I surrender, I serve and I release. 

The best life lesson you have been taught?

My father saying “make sure you fail, but fail once”. 

Do you get worked up while watching a sports game on TV ?

I don’t watch much sport so I don’t really get worked up in that sense, but I enjoy documentaries about the lives and passions of incredible sportsmen/women. I think I recognise that passion and that desire to excel and deliver at the highest level and I am inspired in that way to do the same. 

Where would you like to be right now?

Senegal, never been there and I always hear beautiful stories about it.

Wishes and dreams ?

To evoke emotion, to be impactful and influential and to be an honest storyteller for the times in this life. I believe that all the “sparkles” that will come my way will be in fulfilling this first. I hope to mean something to the core of each human being that crosses my path and I hope that, what ever encounter it is, however big or small, is a pleasant experience. 


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