The Thokozani Samson Nzima aka Zano Urban DHLA innerview


This has been a long time coming. I 1st heard a Zano track in 2009 on a Dj Black Coffee mix. Think it was on a Real Tones mix. The track was "Ekhaya" produced by BC. The baseline, the vocals was just out of this world. We went on a stalking spree and it did not take too long to track him, pick his brain a bit and purchase his 1st album "Hate me Not". 

Fast foward to now, our brotherly friendship is still going strong. Ladies and Gentlemen, l present to you the Thokozani Samson Nzima aka Zano Urban innerview....
DHLA: How did you come up with the name Zano and why you added the 'Urban' to form Zano Urban?

Zano: I was actually given the name by the late Lebo Mathosa and Shota when I was still a backing vocalist and vocal director for Lebo back in 2005. 
The Urban came later as a social media identity and my love for urban music of all types.

DHLA: Tell us how you started off in the industry. Did you study music?

Zano: I studied music at Ochrim School Of Music in Pretoria and graduated with a diploma in Jazz and Popular Music.
While I was studying I started working as a backing vocalist and studio sessionist.

DHLA: We have seen so many male house music vocalists come and go yet you are always on the top 3. What is your winning formula?

Zano: My formula is simple, I Do Me… All the time. 

Thing is there’s a lot of talk in any genre of music; house music specifically is filled with a lot of people who are “self-appointed controllers” of how house music should sound like. 

My edge has always been that I studied music and even when I graduated I continued to learn, observe, and absorb. This ultimately comes out in my writing and production.

DHLA: Tell us how you met the maestro Black Coffee?

Zano: I met Nathi Maphumulo in 2014 when I arrived in Pretoria to study. He, along with Shota  and Demor  , had also just arrived in the city to finish off their music degrees at the then Pretoria Tech. 
We met through Shota, who at that time was my vocal teacher at music college. Our music philosophies were the same so it wasn’t long before we started bouncing ideas and working together on songs which are now SA house music classics.

DHLA: Your live performances are packed, full of heat! How do you prepare

Zano: I’m always online checking out live performances and listening to music in different genres. I get inspiration everywhere, from fellow South African live acts to international artists. I strive to make sure that my live performances are original though and creative all the time.

DHLA: Your current top 5 tracks and why?


Jullian Gomes ft. ZIYON – Nothing’s Gonna Break Us
[This right here is a future classic]

Kaylow Official – Soul CafĂ© 
[The songwriting on this song is next level, just what house music needs]

DJ KENT SA – Don’t Let Go 
[The simplicity of the music production and creativity in choice of sounds used in the production make this one a winner for me]

Nastee Nev – Show Me 
[ Nastee Nev ’s music ear is unmatched. His melodic and harmonic interpretations on his production are phenomenal. The twist he took on this one with the fusion of Congolese vocals and deep house is fresh and appealing to the ear. He’s the classic example of “Stay Silent And Let Your Work Speak”]

Mrluu Pointfive Rululu & MSK – 888

DHLA: Any chance of seeing you behind the decks? Would you venture into production?

Zano: Behind the decks, I’m not sure. Production, I’ve been producing for a while. It’s just not something I’ve been vocal about a lot which would explain why a lot of people get surprised when they find out that I produce music.

DHLA: What’s that one track that you created that has is your personal favorite?

Zano: It’ll forever be Black Coffee’s “Someday”. That song came at a very low point in my life and every bit of lyric on that song was a word of motivation for me and life spoken to my career.

DHLA: Your top 3 favorite producers?

Zano: Black Coffee , Mrluu Pointfive Rululu & M.S.K Point 5, Nastee Nev

DHLA: How has the digital age changed the way you do music?

Zano: It’s made it easier for me to have my music available to a wider audience than before. It has also changed how I do business and approach music marketing.

DHLA: What your future prediction for the house music genre?

Zano: House music was shaken heavy by SA Hip Hop in 2014, in most part due to how house music peeps were comfortable and not putting in as much effort anymore. 2015 and 2016 was very interesting with house music making its way back to the top positions on the radio charts.

The spirit and creativity of young producers is really amazing and I believe they are the ones that will carry the torch forward. We are already starting to see and hear house music experimenting more with tempo, musical influences from other genres, and more solid songwriting.

DHLA: What would you say is the current music production trend in SA?

Zano: Currently we’re still faced with a lot of people copying and sounding exactly like each other [e.g Producers sounding like Black Coffee , Culoe De Song, Heavy-K Drumboss, Prince Kaybee, etc]. Within the noise there’s a lot of gems though,  producers who break music stereotypes. Honestly, the current music production trend is what works for someone else will be duplicated by everyone else. This is not just in house music, but hip-hop as well.

DHLA: Any current projects that you are busy with

Zano: Currently in studio finishing off mixing Klean Kut Kreatives releases for the next 6 months. There’s a couple of collabos on the way as well with Boddhi Satva, Pascal Morais, Tazzy, Chynaman Gumede, and Euphonik DJ .

DHLA: Who should we look out for in terms of upcoming vocalists/djs/producers?

Vocalists: Ayanda Jiya, Sway, Zameka, Komplexity

DJs: DJ Ceeya, Mrluu & M.S.K Point 5
Producers: Enoo napa,

DHLA: You are also involved in theatre plays, how did that come about?

Zano: Got into musical theatre in 2005 while I was still studying. Didn’t have money for rent and I heard from one of my flatmates that there was auditions at a theatre in Pretoria for a “musical theatre show”.

Didn’t even know what musical theatre was, all I heard was “music” in there and I went and auditioned. That was my first audition and I got the job. Been doing musical theater ever since. I do at least one musical a year.

DHLA: You went overseas on a theatre play not so long ago; please shed some light on that trip.

Zano: We did a 4 months Holland, Belgium, and France Tour with a musical theatre show called “Under African Skies”. It was quite an eye opener on how the world is hungry for something authentic.
All our shows were sold out in every city consistently for the 4 months we were on tour.

DHLA: There is very little material about you in the tabloids, how do you stay away from drama?

I keep my private life private, that’s my rule. I might post on social media about my kids but I’m also careful on how much I let the world in on my family life. I only promote my work in the media, anything else remains private.

DHLA: Your advice to upcoming vocalists?

Zano: Be authentic. Be You. Learn, Observe, Absorb. Give the world the best YOU, not a carbon copy of who or what inspires you.

DHLA: What is hindering SA music as a whole from breaking through the international space?

Zano: Breaking internationally involves a whole lot more than an individual’s talent. There’s a very strict and monopolized system that is controlled by the majors on who or what breaks out to different territories all over the world.
You’ll realize this when you check which non-American and non-European acts break out into the international music scene. Above all you should also check which company they are affiliated to.

They [the artists] might be independent but there’s always an affiliation to an international gate keeper that opens access to the international market.
So it’s not necessarily that we are not good enough, we have proven our excellence throughout the continent, but it has to do more with factors beyond our power.

DHLA: If you’re not in studio, where can one find you? What are your hobbies?

Zano: My life is pretty straight forward – If I’m not in studio I’m with my family, or travelling for business or leisure.

DHLA: Your latest album is so different from the Zano sound we have become accustomed to? Do share

Zano: For a long time I had a creative battle within myself. There’s a tendency in house music specifically where the market will make you feel like you can’t do anything else besides house music to a point where you are labeled as a “house music vocalist”.
 I’m of the firm belief that I’m a vocalist, period. I have lots of musical influences that make up the artist that I am.

Besides, an artist, a true artist can never be boxed in to a genre. Study the great painters and you’ll see a pattern where they painted according to eras they were personally going through.

They were never committed to one style or one era. That is also my approach to being a music artist.

DHLA: Do you have a team that you work with? Who are they?

Zano: I have a very small team. It’s myself as the Founder and Creative Director of the company, Themba Mahlangu who’s Road Manager and Bookings Head, and Kabelo Nzima who acts as Label and Operations Manager.

DHLA: What is on your technical rider?

Zano: Because I travel with a semi-live band it’s:








MIXER – PIONEER DJM900 or 850 or 800
CDJ – PIONEER 850 or 900 or 2000

DHLA: Whenever you are locked in studio with Culoe De Song, you'll produce hits, how has your experience been?

Zano: Culolethu Zulu has more or less the same energy as Black Coffee; they both know exactly what they want from any vocalist or songwriter that they work with. That makes it even easier for me because I gel well with a producer that knows the exact music concept he wants.

DHLA: two things that we don’t know about you?

Zano: I’m always scared of how any of my music would be received before it’s released

I’m a horrible perfectionist

DHLA: Your social media handles?

Zano:  @ZanoUrban across all social media platforms

DHLA: You always recommend Mrluu Pointfive Rululu for production. How did your collabos come about?

Zano: Met Mr Luu in 2012. He sent me beats on my e-mail, before I even knew exactly who he was and his music history and I was very drawn to his creativity. He really blew me away with all his musical ideas. I truly believed in his talent and collaborated with him.

DHLA: Tell us about Klean Kut Kreatives?

Zano:  Klean Kut Kreatives is not a record label, it’s a music production house and a music business solutions company which I started in 2014 as ZanoUrban Global Music then later changed its name to the current one.

Our aim is not to sign artists or “own” people, but it’s more to create content with talent that we believe in and expose that same talent to the world. It’s a win-win situation.

Nobody feels tied down to a contract or rules.

DHLA: The last time we had a chat about the drop in physical cd sales, you mentioned other formats of music that fans are consuming. Do share

Zano: Music downloads are gaining a lot of traction but it is to be noted that in South Africa this only applies to Urban Music genres. Genres such as AfroSoul, AfroPop, Gospel, Jazz, and Indigenous South African Music still sell quite a substantial amount of physical copies. Gold and Platinum sales are a norm in those genres.

The urban music scene is driven by a younger audience who are computer literally and gadget-savvy which would explain why sales in online music downloads are up year by year.

DHLA: Are you currently signed to any Label?

Zano: l'm currently signed to Klean Kut Kreatives.

DHLA: Gareth Cliff is no longer part of SA idols. Who would you recommend to fill the void?

Zano: Wow. That’s a tough one. I would maybe consider Anele or Zonke.

DHLA: So many musicians are caught up in the "traxsource" hype. They feel as long as their music is available on digital music platforms their work is done. What’s your take?

Zano: LMAO!!! That’s my take * smiles *

 DHLA: Is there talent out there that you feel Mzansi is sleeping on?

Zano: No one is being slept on; I learnt this in my career. Mzansi will always respond positively to any talent that puts itself out there. Artists sit and wait for others to do the dirty work of hustling for them and then blame others for their failures. The masses are not fools; they know what’s rocking when they hear it.

DHLA: You are always free to share your music knowledge, any workshops in the near future

Zano: Not a fan of workshops. I’m more drawn to mentorship programs. They last longer than workshops and the results are tangible.

DHLA: Would you say Radio is still relevant? Do videos on platforms like YouTube propel sales?

Zano: Depending on the genre of music you’re doing, yes and no. The urban music market is the one that is breaking the hold that radio has on music and how music is accessed by the masses.

Urban musicians are using YouTube, SoundCloud, datafilehost [hate it or be disgusted by it a lot of good music is known by the masses today because of this platform] to get their music to the people –
 in turn the people demand the music on radio and radio stations are like the government, their core duty is to serve the public and advertisers.

 What the people demand on radio they get. The adult contemporary and indigenous styles of music still rely heavily on radio.


#ZanoUrbanDHLAinnerview #DHLAinnerviews #DHLA

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