JOE NINA was born Makhosini Henry Xaba in Kwa Thema on June 12th 1974.
HIS FATHER – Skhuthuzi Solomon Xaba was a musician and played with a local band. He was on guitar and his mother was a backing vocalist in the same band.
JOE had an early introduction to music as his parents would take him along to most of their concerts. Naturally Joe’s father encouraged him to learn about music and he began by experimenting on the Drums.
Later in his career he picked up keyboards as his second instrument. He was fortunate to be taught by his uncle – Mac Mathunjwa – who is also a musician and producer.
JOE’S FATHER loved music. He was, however, aware of the problems and pitfalls that can come along when you choose music as a career. Instead, Skhuthuzi encouraged Joe to pursue his school work – hoping that he would follow a career in medicine.
IT was not to be. At the age of 16 – completely sold on it – he told his Dad that he had decided to look for a full-time career in music. His father was not happy but Joe persuaded him to allow him just one year to make his mark. If he failed – he would return to school and finish his matric.
AND SO – it started. Initially there was little success and he got by recording demos plus supporting himself with the session fees he earned from playing keyboards on other artists’ recording sessions.
HIS very first break came when he met producer Cheeseman Gerdes.
He was impressed. Unfortunately the first album T-McCOOL – released in 1988 was the start of a series of flops under names such as KING RAP and NINA FREAK.
1990 would be a special year. Joe met Arthur Mafokate and they joined forces. They entered The Coca Cola Full Blast competition – and won. This lead to a successful working relationship with Arthur and both careers took off. Joe’s first hit – MARIA PODESTA (DING DONG) was released in 1994 and became a chart topper.
HE began to branch out and while he continued with his own projects, he also started producing. This opened the way for other new artists including his sister, Nhlanhla Xaba (Nina Sister) and Nina Bros – a group made up of his brother and cousins. This collaboration produced the smash hit – SGUBHU – which was a platinum seller (50,000 plus copies). During this time he also helped to launch the careers of groups like TWINS, BLACK LIST and LAFANCY. He worked in many different music genres from Kwaito to House to instrumental dance projects such as the highly successful BOSS OF THE ROAD.
THE word spread. He was soon being approached by the majors with offers to produce big name established artists – many of whom were his idols. One of these was memorable as he was asked by Brenda Fassie – at the peak of her career – to produce her album ABANTU BAYAKHULUMA. He went on to produce for diverse names such as Patricia Majalisa and The African Jazz Pioneers and started writing for several top names.
IN 1995 he got together with the legendary Ray Phiri of Stimela fame to form a new label – Killa Jo. Careers were launched on this label for new groups – LUV, CYDER and D-STYLE. He also found a rap group from Swaziland – XY CHROMOSONES who featured on the successful track KILLA JO IS ON THE SHOW. In 1996 Joe Nina scooped a SAMA Award for the Best Dance Performance – Joy (Kuyasheshwa La)
IN THE middle to late 90’s Joe came to a crossroad in his career and business relationships suffered. He took a break, went home with his musical instruments and did a lot of thinking and re-assessing. He was determined to break back – but on his terms.
JOE was a survivor so once again he packed his bags and headed back to the streets of Jozi. He eased back into session work and landed a new contract with Gallo Records. An effort to get back into the Kwaito market with the 1998 album EGOGOGWENI was not a success. However something strong came out of it. Joe’s jazz collaboration track with Fana Zulu on bass titled BUT NOT OUR SOULS. The duet with Steve Kekana lead to them teaming up on his ‘live’ shows.
STEVE KEKANA had been out of music mix for many years – but his talent remained. He asked Joe to produce a new album and the result was – AFRICAN LADY.
BETWEEN 2000 and 2001 Joe recorded two successful albums. First MABABAZA which included the hits SBALI, ZODWA, PHUMA KIMI and THANK YOU MY LORD. This was followed by NOMTHANDAZO with the hit track TWISTER. NOMTHANDAZO saw Joe Nina winning a SAMA Award for the Best African Pop Album.
IT WAS the turn of the century and Joe had been gradually honing his musical skills. It would lead him on the path to true brilliance. In 2002 Joe Nina released PASCALINA (Phola Nami) – an album that found him digging deep in his soul and pushing new boundaries. Classics were created – including GIJIMA NSIZWA.
TOWARDS the end of 2002, whilst on tour with Steve Kekana – Joe met up with a long time friend of Steve’s – vocal genius Nana Coyote. Nana is famous for his work with Sankomota and Stimela.
NANA COYOTE teamed up with Joe and Steve for sold out concerts around the country. The relationship was to work well. When Joe launched his own label Kisanji Entertainment – he first signed Nana and produced the album MAJAJA.
WITH the label up and running Joe started his first solo effort for Kisanji. It was released in September 2003 and titled ANGEKE NG’PHINDE.
IT was a great mix – satisfying old fans but claiming also new admirers. It featured danceable African pop tracks plus remixes for the party nights. IZIDAKAMIZWA was a message for the youth and KHEHLA LAMI a pure jazz tune. This was dedicated to his father. Coming together with romantic soul tracks – it was an exciting return for Joe.
THE years 2004 to 2007 were a quiet and introspective period for Joe – spent exploring his music and his development as a musician. He concentrated on producing his “own kind of music” and avoiding outside influences and trends. His great love for jazz, Afro Pop and world music were to come to the fore.
HE has been focusing on his growth as a musician and the imprint that this could have on the growth of “good music” in South Africa.
HE “silently” produced and released two albums during this time – MOMENTS and TRAVEL THE GRAVEL. It was his intention to let these albums speak for themselves. There was no active promotion and he was not seen on TV. Joe hoped that music lovers who discovered these would translate to the direction he was going.
HE did continue with “live” shows and his band grew from an 8 piece to a 12 piece – now featuring brass and percussion.
HE could not stay out of the studio for long and one project was the last album in 2006 by STOMPIE MAVI – STHARARA. Sadly, Stompie passed away in 2007. “He was a great person, friend and musician,” says Joe. “He will be missed – may he rest in peace”.
ANOTHER production at this time is titled THE RED BOX. “It is completed”, says Joe “but we will hold it over for future release when the time is right”.
EARLY in 2007 Joe started work on JOE’S JOINT – NOSTALGIA. It is an outstanding collection on jazz titles.
IT’S a journey of creation, tone of its own mode and purpose that roves within the senses of an artist whose desire for fresh values keeps him on his fingertips and toes all day long. It shuttles between the melodies of the piano and the gentle strumming of the guitars. They sway gently with the rattling and the raving of the African drums and the improvisations of the synthesizers. Then you have the sweet and romantic vocals.
IT’S a kind of music that takes you back in the day. JOE’S JOINT has recreated the Ol’ timer’s music with growth and transformation without doubt and compromise.
NEVER out of the studio for long – Joe released new set called UNCHAINED.
IT’S an experience you have been waiting for.
Unchained draws on pro forma Afro Pop subject matters such as love, breakup, makeup, hardships and life. What makes this effort so special is Nina’s ability to relate to listeners with identifiable messages. Every incident sounds true and every line seems open and genuine.
Why the title? Nina says the album which took him years to craft is his freedom from the chains of sound.
“Because the album took me so long to make, when I finished, it felt like a load was taken off my shoulders. I felt free from all the thoughts and the passion that was burning within me. The album is the podium for me to free the feelings that have been chained inside for years,” he says.
All the tracks of this expertly penned album are his craftsmanship. Unchained basically carries on where his previous offerings left off with his seductive lyrics that earned him a substantial female following and made him a regular on the charts and a recipient of celebrated awards.
Fans will be pleased to hear that Nina is back doing what he does best, dishing it as sexy and soulful as ever. As he has with his previous albums, he has made love and relationships his prime musical theme. With the album enlisting an all-star production line-up, with beats coming from the likes of Professor (Jezebel) and of course, the legendary Steve Kekana and Benny Phalime on the helm, what could possibly go wrong?
Nina also deeply explores the progressions of his life and the lives of those around him. The album may be more revealing than you think. It encompasses a broad range of song styles ranging from afro pop to jazzy leaning sounds.
The first cut is a fun song, with a carefree attitude. Things kick off on a romantic note with Manje Nguwe - Nina’s favourite featuring Professor. This track is a fun, in-your-face song. It is a wonderfully soulful vibe which addresses the matters of the heart. Here Nina pours out his heart to the one he loves.
Then Hudodifha follows with lots of oomph. This is a feel-good song where Nina consoles those who are going through a rough patch.
Though Amanzi Awekho is a gloomy and haunting track that talks about lack the beat is pleasing to the ear with a lulling melody. Accompanied only by an acoustic guitar, the song shows off the singer’s vocal abilities and allows Nina’s talent in its rawest form to come through boldly.
Ngaze Ngathandwa is a wonderfully laid back love song that oozes maturity and class. Here Nina is head over heels in love. You can actually sense that he is convinced that the sun will shine as long as his woman is by his side. This is the kind you can dedicate to a lover who has been with you through thick and thin.
In the next song the sound is abrasive and harsh; the story is bleak; and the moral is hard: Gijima, here Nina laments witchcraft and the evil that is haunting his family. Another song that seems to hold true in many cases is Themba Lami. Hear Nina reminisces about his hey days when things were going well in his life before his lover dumped him.
Ngihambile, one of the album’s highlights, is set to be a signature mark for Nina. It is a rhythm-filled song where he takes us through his journey in his search for true love during his trying times.
Yimi Lo changes the complexion of the album. The song is a heartfelt ode to the Creator. Here Nina pours out his love to God for pulling him through difficult times in his life. The guitar and soft melody in this song compliment the song’s intentions perfectly.
Nonto Swidi Lami sees Nina going back to what he does best: beat and lyrical genius. The song is a cry to his ex for forgiveness. In the song, the singer drives a long, lonely highway and thinks about the girl he let down. He is begging her to come back to him.
In a typical Nina fashion Sondela Eduze is a plea to his lover never to leave him. In return he makes a promise never to let her down. Tell me (where Are you) is a cry to Nina’s lover asking about her whereabouts. He cries about how much he misses her. The song has the power to disarm and reward you anew on repeat listens.
Rich in vocal Svichanaka is a song of hope. It comforts those who are going through difficulties. The sprinkle of Ragga adds spice to the song. Ding Dong Reloaded will take you down the memory lane. It will transport you back to the 90s when kwaito was still in its infancy.
The album wraps up in brilliant style with a beat-filled excellent track, The One. Here Nina pleads for his woman’s affection. This album has been popular with his fans and recently won him a SAMA Award for Best Alternative Music Album African.
“2010 is a wonderful year for me.” says Nina. The release of The Greatest Hits including songs from The Best Of is an answer to all of my fans wishes.