‘I felt like what I am doing is ruining me’ — Sjava opens up about sobriety, mental health, music and fame

08 February 2023 - 11:00
By Joy Mphande
Sjava speaks on the inspiration behind his album 'Isibuko'.
Image: Supplied Sjava speaks on the inspiration behind his album 'Isibuko'.

When Sjava, real name Jabulani Hadebe, was recording his first album he was a young man excited to get his big break and getting drunk with his friends. Fast forward to today when he is sober, mature and much more responsible. 

The artist reflects on his life's journey in his latest body of work Isibuko, inspired by a mirror he bought at a store which broke to pieces moments after he bought it.

“I took it back home with me while its packaging kept the broken pieces together, granting me the opportunity to self-introspect in front of a broken mirror every day. I remember spending countless hours looking at myself in that broken mirror trying to figure out how I could heal the broken parts in my life I had been holding onto,” he said at the his album listening session held at Circa Art Gallery in Rosebank, Johannesburg

It was during the lockdown when Sjava recalled his journey to stardom. 

“As a person you can get to a point of hating yourself. When you look at things like depression and mental health, it's about you fighting what is happening in your head and the way you see things but when someone looks at you, they can't see it.

“It can happen that you look at yourself as a person and hate yourself and there was a time where I felt like that, where I felt like what I am doing is ruining myself, being famous and not having privacy. There was just so much to a point where I felt like if I did not do this thing I would have lived a better life,” he told TshisaLIVE.

When he met his Emtee and producer Ruff, who are featured on his album, Sjava admitted he was not as invested in his music as he is today as he “used to drink and have fun for a living” but he's since changed his ways. 

“In the first album, I never had problems. The only thing I didn't have was money but I was happy. I was with my friends recording music in the studio that's why the album itself is so free and happy. Then came fame, money, wrong deals and other things, and that channels your music in a different direction.

“I decided to stop drinking. I don't think alcohol is the problem. I think the person is the problem because there are so many people who drink who don't do bad things, but if you do drink and do things that are out of line that means you have to stop drinking. I couldn't handle my alcohol so that's why I decided to stop and that really helped me as an artist because I was able to focus on what I am doing.”

With the mission being to heal through his music Sjava said his gift is to pen his experiences in a song to “help people” who could relate to his music.

“As people we go through similar things. I can talk about what I went though personally in a song but you might find there a lot of people who have been through it so when they hear the song they get to relate and heal from it.”