In less than three years, South Africa’s The Joy has become known for its ability to spread instant euphoria with a unique sound that has the ability to transcend genre and continents alike.
The five member group’s first release was the 2021 EP Amabutho, a combination of traditional Zulu music with a modern a capella flourish that perfectly encapsulated the band’s spirit. The reviews for the EP were uniformly glowing with Clash, a UK-based music and fashion magazine, describing single “Isencane Lengane” as “a gorgeous piece of music, so relaxing in its gentle flow and subtle distillation of sound”.
The group’s next recording, the single “Egoli”, was released in November 2022 and took The Joy into a rich, melodic, and uplifting music terrain. Produced by Tiago Correia Paulo (Bongeziwe Mabandla, Tumi and the Volume), “Egoli” beautifully showcased what happens when The Joy’s signature harmonies are supported by Maskandi-influenced guitarwork and delicate production flourishes. “The song is about leaving the rural areas to move to the big city for a better life,” said The Joy of the song. “In South Africa this is a reality we face from a young age, often growing up separated from our parents who work in the cities to send money back home. For us the big city represents hope and dreams and Egoli means ‘place of gold’ in Zulu, a name given to Johannesburg because of its gold mining history”.
“Egoli” was followed by “Mountain”, a sparse but deeply affecting track that was released in April 2023 and has been included on Spotify’s Gospel Greatness playlist and reached number 2 on Redeemed. The next single comes in the form of “Umona”, releasing April 25th, with a new EP, Hammarsdale – named after the KwaZulu Natal township where the quintet is from – following in August 2023.
The Joy is also currently expanding its reach through an uplifting international collaboration and several high-profile live appearances. The collaboration is with The Blessed Madonna on the single “Shades of Love” which, after its release on February 22nd, spent more than four weeks on BBC’s Radio 1 Playlist and charted on PROUD on Amazon. In May, The Joy joined the lineup of The Great Escape’s Spotlight Shows, playing alongside Arlo Parks and EEE GEE on Saturday 13th May in a show presented by Rolling Stone UK.
With music as deeply affecting as that created by The Joy and captivating live performances to match, it is no wonder The Joy has caught the attention of artists like Alicia Keys, Sam Smith and Jennifer Hudson.
The Joy ended 2022 by performing a medley of “We Give You All the Praise” and “Umacashelana” on The Jennifer Hudson Show – an hour-long show that airs five days a week in the USA and is hosted by Emmy, GRAMMY, Oscar and Tony winner Jennifer Hudson. Barely able to contain her excitement at having the five-member group in her studio, Hudson described The Joy as her favourite South African group. “Christmas came early for me and I want to share what I consider my Christmas gift with you all,” she said on the show. In 2020, Sam Smith shared a video of The Joy singing happy birthday to him, saying “Made my day @thejoyofficialmusic ❤️” and, in the same year Alicia Keys, also shared a video of the group on Instagram saying “This is soooooooo good!!!! Spirits high! Have an amazing day!!!.”
The Joy was selected to perform at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham mid-year. Early November 2022 came news that the group would perform single ‘Isencane Lengane’ on a very special edition of Later… with Jools Holland. The 30th anniversary of this iconic UK music show took place in front of over 3000 people at West London’s Eventim Apollo and also featured performances by acclaimed and award-winning singer-songwriter Michael Kiwanuka, Mercury Prize winner, Benjamin Clementine, and Swedish sisters, First Aid Kit.
Originally from a small town just outside of Durban in South Africa, The Joy met at high school after entering a singing competition together and is made up of band members Ntokozo Magcaba, Melokuhle Mkhungo, Sanele Ngcobo, Phelelani Sithole and Sandile Sphelele Hlophe. The teachers and other students loved their music and encouraged them to continue to sing as a group.
Through the band’s Instagram and TikTok accounts, their music began to spread globally, soon catching the attention of high profile names within the worldwide artist community who instantly fell in love with the quintet’s repertoire of uplifting songs, unique arrangements and traditional dance moves.
One of those, inspired by their energy and authenticity, was producer Two Inch Punch (Kali Uchis, Jessie Ware, Years & Years) who flew his equipment over to Durban, setting up in a hotel room and recording the band for their first session. Soon after, TIP made the band his first signing to label imprint Love You Up, in partnership with his management team at September (Adele, Rick Rubin, King Krule, PA Salieu) with Transgressive also joining the fold as The Joy’s publishing partners. Through Love You Up, the quintet released their debut single “Isencane Lengane” in May 2021 with Amabutho following in September of that year – both helping set the group on course to become a global phenomenon.
It was on social media platforms that The Joy built their now rapidly growing audience, and it is there that the group’s members frequently say, “Life made us friends, music made us brothers”. The music made by these musical brothers is undoubtedly a revitalising, soul-enriching tonic for our times; the perfect medicine for music lovers spread right across the world.