From extreme trials and tribulations to even greater triumphs, Busiswa’s story is all the inspiration that anybody needs to reach their goals today.
In Busiswa: An Unbreakable Story, she narrates her journey from childhood up until she became a household name in South Africa – collaborating with none other than Beyonce Knowles.
From Umtata to Durban
Busiswa’s story begins in Umtata, where she was raised by her mother. Things changed when her father took all of his children (in the back of a bakkie, imagine!) to Durban to begin their new life when he got married. From an early age, Busiswa could tell that other children had resources that she simply didn’t. “The only thing that I had going for me is that I was smart,” she recalls.
In the documentary, we watch interviews with some of her former teachers, including those that fought to give her a home after her father threatened to move her back to Umtata following his divorce.
They ended up raising money for her to live in a boarding house in Wentworth, which had its own challenges. She says, “I’ve never felt so worthless as I did in that period”.
Without a career to foresee, she simply didn’t think she could survive.
The wheels began to turn in the right direction when she discovered a love for public speaking and entered a competition that she eventually won, becoming the first black female winner. Although her principal was proud, a young Busiswa was more concerned with the amount of food on offer.
From public speaking to poetry to studio
Her emotionally charged youth paved the way for a love of art and poetry. It was in university that she met her friend and longtime collaborator, Moonchild Sanelly. They both spent a lot of time at the famous Bat Centre, a haven for art and creativity in Durban. Most importantly, this is where she translated her speaking prowess into performing art, and it didn’t take long for big names to take notice.
After dropping out of varsity because NSFAS rejected her funding (and besides, she knew she wasn’t going to be an accountant by this point!). She decided to focus on her art. Not long afterwards, some big names started following the exciting young female poet with an infectious voice and killer delivery. First, Big Nuz’ members invited her to studio to share her poetry on a beat, then some even more prolific names followed.
DJ Maphorisa and Oskido had heard about Busiswa’s talent and wanted to work with her, if she could fly to studio on time. That flight would end up changing her life…
In that same studio session, DJ Zinhle’s beat for “My Name is” was playing, and that’s where she shared the iconic lyrics that would go on to become her first hit song.
“I make music for women”
Busiswa is unashamedly proud of the women that she works with and inspires, and she explains that because the industry is so male dominated, she is determined to spread a very different and empowering message for the women who follow her. We saw a glimpse of this during her and Moonchild’s Women’s Day performance.
This also resonates with her feelings about gender-based violence in South Africa. The hitmaker opened up about the dramatic events that saw her ex-boyfriend speaking about their abusive relationship on social media, and she explained why she didn’t want this to become a public catfight.
Instead, she reframed this as an opportunity to show women that men do not own them in any capacity. She also used this as an opportunity to teach her son valuable lessons about manhood.
How Beyonce came into the picture
Speaking about the biggest collaboration in her life, Busiswa explained that after leaving her label, she and a few musicians were in studio with Mr Eazi and one of his producers took a snap of Busiswa laying down a track. That video was seen by someone who was working on Lion King: The Gift and they replied saying “We’re trying to get in touch with her!”
A few conversations later, Busiswa recorded her verse in record time and sent it through. Before she knew it, she had made the cut to be on Beyonce’s album. And the rest, as they say, is history.
It’s a 40-minute look at the life of an artist
Sitting at 39 minutes, the documentary gives an intimate glimpse into what goes on behind the scenes of Busiswa’s performances, with cutaways to hair salons and in wardrobe, showing us how she pulls off her unique style.
If there’s any criticism of the well-shot movie, it’s only that we wanted more of it: the story could have been fleshed out and extended. But still, Busiswa: An Unbreakable Story is a fitting piece of art about one of our country’s most important artists.