Music has always been integral to SIPHO. Born in Zimbabwe and brought up in Birmingham, most of his early memories involve music – lush, African pop on the home stereo, 80s bangers in the car, and endless family parties. “I feel like music is around everyone, in a way,” he says. “Because I come from Zimbabwe, it’s quite musical, and vocal – we sing at funerals, at weddings, we sing at everything. And everyone knows the songs. For me, music has been an education tool, a communication tool, a community tool. All kinds of things.”
As his teens gave way to introspection, however, SIPHO. (pronounced ‘see-po’) utilised music as a means to channel feelings he couldn’t otherwise articulate. Gorgeous R&B melodies set against electronic elements, he’s slowly conjured a sound he can call his own. Speaking to Clash, he talks about the impact Frank Ocean had on his life, or the thrill of watching Solange and Tyler evolve in real-time. “What I’d call the new Black renaissance,” he smiles.
Brought up around the Seventh Day Adventist church, he later departed from its teachings, adopting a more general spiritual view. He loves to meet people, speak to people, and hear their stories; but Sipho also longs to be alone, to create, and conjure his songs into being. “I am involuntarily empathic,” he says. “I can build a bond, but I have to also recognise that I’m a bit of an alien everywhere.”
“I’m blessed with being able to meet people, and connect with people, but I know that sometimes things make more sense when I sit by myself and let life do what it has to do,” he reflects.
Music is a balancing force in Sipho’s life. Now signed to Dirty Hit, his hugely impressied debut EP ‘And God Said’ is only the start; as SIPHO. emphasises, this is an ongoing journey. “If I wasn’t sitting here writing songs then I wouldn’t be as calm a person as I am. It makes me wonder, what would that other person be? It gets to a point where you realise you have no other choice but to do this. I’d probably be a ticking time bomb unless I gave myself something to do.”
WHAT: Revelatory songwriting, with an intensely personal sense of soul
3 SONGS: ‘ALMOST LOST’, ‘MOONLIGHT Pt. 2’, ‘BODIES’
FACT: SIPHO. Is a Lord. “No, literally!” he laughs. “My Dad bought the title and gave it to me for Christmas!”
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Words: Robin Murray
Photography: Sophie Mayanne
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