5th May 2020 BY Ivis Ngwenya

How did you go from singing back up for an afro soul singer to producing electropop? What made you decide that this was going to be your genre/ sound?

You know, Vusi and I met in music school. I couldn’t stay in music school because I didn’t have the funds to continue my studies but we met there. When you’re studying vocals, part of the curriculum is to explore and perform different genres, so he was that guy – with that grit. I used to love watching him perform rock and roll because you had to learn all the genres, apply them and perform them etc. He was extraordinary. But also all of that equipped me to be like, genre? Especially when you study the history of jazz, you’re like “if jazz is improv, why do we define it?” From there I was just like “I don’t like definitions and I do not want to be defined!”

I can do whatever I want!

From school, I had decided that I’m just gonna play around and not be like everybody else, this was already a background that I had been carrying from being an outcast, so I was like, I may as well go all in – let’s create something different, something new, something interesting! In our country, we don’t have platforms for that many genres, there isn’t a platform for electro-pop or alternative music, especially since we don’t have that many black artists doing this type of music because everyone is chasing the paycheck.

View this post on Instagram

Creation day 1.

A post shared by ELO (@elo_zar) on

How would you say your identity links to your music and the type of music that you produce?

I mean, like I have been saying, being an outcast and not going with the wind, kind of forces you to be different. So now within my music what I want to offer or what I am offering is kind of almost like a nod to the kids that don’t fit in. If you don’t fit in it’s okay. If you don’t fit in, it’s actually beautiful because there isn’t a template that can be forced onto you so you can always start something new. You must always take the courage to be different and I think that’s what I like the most about my sound – not everybody vibes with it and that’s okay. I am doing it my way, I am not looking for validation nor I am forced to be anybody but myself and I think that is what my music offers. Most of my music, when I do release the project, I have almost written it as cue cards to remind myself that things are going to be okay, so if I can do that for me, I can share that. I wanted to write in a way that anybody of any age can relate to.

What can we expect from you this year, any new album on the horizon?

Absolutely. I have been sitting on this album for just over a year. I didn’t just want to rush into releasing anything just to say I have an album, you know? But at the end of this year, there will be an album that is out there and we’ll probably have a tour guide. This corona thing has, of course, understandably messed up the schedule we had laid out for the year putting a lot of things on hold.

Hopefully, there will be a lot more art pieces too. I am collaborating with a lot of photographers and I am trying to make something. One of the dreams is to have like a photography exhibition of Elo Zar; where she comes from and I want to also have a coffee table book as part of my merchandise. That’s the kind of stuff I am thinking about instead of just having caps.. and socks, your generic merch, you know?

What is your single Bophelo about? What’s the meaning behind it?

So bophelo actually means life in Sotho, I am Sotho but I wasn’t raised in Lesotho, I’m like Soweto Sotho so I don’t speak that deep Sotho that I wish I could but Kommanda Obbs who is featured on it, he is from Lesotho and he HIT those lines! Bophelo is a song commemorating the fact that all of us have our own struggles and our own journeys and we don’t have to do it by ourselves. You can literally reach out to the beyond when you’re going through whatever you’re going through. That is basically it in a nutshell!

What do you enjoy the most about creating music?

I am obsessed with calling my band members collaborators more than people who work for me because when we come together and prepare a live set, I expect them to bring themselves. Usually, when you’re in a band you are expected to play the music how you would hear it on the record and I’m more like “guys, I need you to bring your own interpretation of the song.” This way you’ll feel each persons contribution to the character of the song which is what I love – they give my live performances so much life because I expect them to be themselves. So to answer your question, I really love performing live and working with my band.

What advice would you give to your 16- year- old self?

Just Relax! I would tell myself that I am loveable and that I am loved, not just by individuals but I have the capacity to love myself and I should work on that. I would tell myself that you can do whatever you want because I didn’t have that background with like the supportive parents, they were supportive in the way they could, but it wasn’t like when you have sports games, they would come, because they were working. So I kind of missed that. So as a 16-year- old I would say fight for that, fight to believe in yourself. That’s what I would tell her.

Lastly, where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?

I am not looking at 10 years, I am looking at next year. I am just taking my life as it goes because I really want to be present. Mentally I am in a much better place, emotionally and even spiritually. I am enjoying being myself more than I ever have in my entire existence. I am not looking at the next 10 years. I am just going to live my life and be present!

Listen to her new single