It took South African artist Sjava (real name Jabulani Hadebe) 25 hours to get from Johannesburg to Los Angeles to attend the 2018 Black Entertainment Television (BET) Awards.
But the long journey to California was well worth it: the KwaZulu-Natal-born musician won the prestigious Viewers’ Choice: Best International Act Award.
It’s been a big year for the 34-year-old, who was one of three South African artists to feature on the Black Panther film soundtrack, released in February. Curated by American rap superstar and Pulitzer prize winner Kendrick Lamar, the album also features appearances by Babes Wodumo and Johannesburg-based rapper Yugen Blakrok.
About being approached for the soundtrack, Sjava said: “Kendrick loved how I stayed true to the culture and how I represent where I come from. If I was making the music they have in America, I don’t think he was going to reach out. I have something that they don’t have.”
Sjava, who has a new EP coming out this week (his debut album, Isina Muva, was released in 2016 and went on to reach gold), said that while he might seem like an overnight sensation, his new-found success had been a long time coming – he’s been making music for 16 years.
Sjava is especially proud that he’s become successful on his own terms, by staying true to himself.
• The BET Awards will be shown on BET (DStv channel 129) on Tuesday at 8pm.