Dr Sipho Sithole studied at the famous Lincoln University in the US more than 30 years ago.
Dr Sipho Sithole has returned to the US – the country he lived in 34 years ago as a young student at Lincoln University of Pennsylvania – this time around as a lecturer at Howard University.
“When I was in the United States, I was 27 and a student. Now I am 62 years old and coming back a lecturer at an American university is life changing moment for me,” Sithole told The Citizen.
The co-founder and owner of record company Native Rhythms said that after acquiring his Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology at Wits University, he had the intention of going into academia.
“I will be here for the next seven years. But this is the beginning of my academic pursuit, which is mostly going to last for the next 20 years or so…and will be focusing on Zulu language and culture” he said.
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The institution Sithole studied at those many years ago is a historical black university where the first President of Ghana, Nkwame Nkrumah attended and which poet laureate, Willie Kgositsile, went to as well.
In 2020 the former Prasa Chief Strategy Officer joined the University of Johannesburg at the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Studies as a Research Fellow.
After rapidly building an academic profile, he wrote and published Maye! Maye! which details the history and heritage of the Kwa Mai Mai market.
“To my surprise, I was contacted by one professor who asked me if I would be interested in joining Howard University. The rest is history,” averred Sithole.
He doesn’t know where the journey will lead him after his contract at Howard comes to an end. “Maybe I will end up at Ho Chi Minh University in Vietnam – who knows.”
These are early days but Sithole is certain that he’ll miss his trips to Thokoza Hostel to watch ungoma busuku (iSicathamiya), while living the expat life.
“Or walking my dogs in the park in Parkhurst, let alone being in my recording studio producing the next best artist.”
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Sithole’s label, Native Rhythms is home to The Soil and was also an abode to artists such as Zuluboy, Sphokazi and rapper Zakwe.
With him expected to be in the US for an elongated period, Sithole said his wife, Velile Sithole who is also partner and co-founder of the business, will keep things running, despite heading to the US together.
“When an artist is done with recording and the album is released, she takes over the marketing and publicity, including day to day management of the artist,” said Sithole about his wife who is known as the boss lady.
The label’s biggest artist, The Soil released a single, Malaika ahead of their anticipated album. What’s further driving the anticipation for their fifth studio album is that the group has a new member Theo Matshoba, who joined the group after the departure of Buhlebendalo Mda.
Theo has seamlessly fit into the group. The Citizen was present when the trio hosted a handful of media for a listening session of some of the music on the upcoming album and Theo doesn’t sound out of place in the ditties we heard.
“She was always going to fit. Remember she was initially chosen from a fiercely contested audition process when Native Rhythms and The Soil were looking for a singer to join the group as a fill-in when Buhle was taking time off,” said Sithole.
According to Sithole, he is only involved in signing artists and managing the recording process.
“After that, it is out of my hands,” said the culture enthusiast.
His daughter Luyanda deals with the touring and she travels with artists, locally and abroad.
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