Singer and Songwriter Sistah Roots Tafari from the Eastern Cape talks to MzansiReggae about music, arts and being a Rasta Woman. She is currently busy rehearsing for the Women’s Month Edition Gig that will be held in Bloemfontein at the end of the Month, as she is one of the headline act. We caught up with her for a little chat to find out Who is Sistah Roots.
Eh it go so…
Who is Sista Roots?
Sistah Roots Tafari (Zikhona Mgoqi) is an Afrikan daughter who was born and bred in Port Elizabeth and fell in love with music at a very young age. I used to sing iSipostolo in a local choir called ‘P.E Spiritual’.
My dream back then was to sing in a choir called ‘Barorisi ba Morena’ but all that changed because I eventually became a Roots woman.
How did your stage-name or alias come about?
“Roots” is a name I was given by a brother in my hood when I was still in high school. I had tinted and relaxed hair but he continued to refer to me as Roots because he saw the red, gold and green bangles I wore on my left wrist which he read as a sign of my interest in Rastafari. I would later meet Rastafarians who would tell me everything I needed to know about the Rastafari movement.
When and why did you to embrace Rastafari?
I joined the movement soon after finishing school. I’ve never liked the way the system oppresses people and the fact that there are no equal rights and justice. I could only relate to the Rastafari movement because Rastas never hide the truth neither do they actively seek to recruit new ‘members’. I’m a black woman who is standing against oppression. My heart is still troubled by the events of the past like slavery and apartheid. After all is sorted maybe I will unlock my hair for now it is a symbol that shows I am free and I don’t want to blend [in].
Tell us more about your music
My music is a gentle flow of truth and rights, untold stories, brilliance and wisdom that is reggae music. I’m a writer, so instead of reciting my thoughts or poems, I sing them. I’m also a composer and I’m currently recording myself in my home studio and learning to make my own beats. My aim is to start and finish my project on my own and cut out the middle man as much as I can.
Tell us about your latest project(s)
I released Sista Roots Tafari Volume 1 which has 7 songs on it that were produced by Blaq Tone (Thando Matina). I launched it in 2012 at an event featuring Port Elizabeth’s finest artists including the Reggae ambassador; Jah Crucial (Jhb), Chantty Natural (Botswana), Queen Sensi Fayah (Tshwane), Jahkongo Shango (Cape Town), Queen Shebba (Uitenhage) and many more. In the year that followed I added 3 new songs and re-released it. The launch for the re-release was in Qwaqwa alongside Sistah Puleng (Ancient Rain) and Sistah Mampoi amongst others. I’m now working on Volume 2 which will be out next year.
You have toured extensively within South Africa, performing in places like Qwaqwa? Tell us about your travels and the reggae scene in different parts that you have travelled to and performed?
The experience has been amazing. In April of this year  I performed at one of biggest events in Cape Town, the Paarl Festival that spans 3 days. It was hosted by the Nyabinghi House of Paarl. I was blessed to be a part of that event. I performed in Fingo Festival, Grahamstown July 12. I am also on the line up for a show in Bloemfontein on the 30th August.
Which artist do you think you sound like?
Let me say most people assume I’m more like a Jamaican singer and every time they hear my music I prove them wrong, I do not sound like anyone. I do not like to be in a shadow of any artist if did, it would mean there is no Sistah Roots Tafari.
Why do you make music?
Music is the platform I use to correct [the] lies we were told by our colonizers.
And do you make a living from music?
Music is not a major source of income for me. I push other works to support myself and my family.
How do you approach the song-writing process; do you write the lyrics first and then find a suitable Riddim or vice-versa?
[The] Rhythm always comes first
What keeps you busy when you’re not performing?
I’m the owner of Roots Creations that funds everything I& I do. It’s a craft shop. I’m a dress maker so when I perform I wear my own designs. I have a salon where I start, fix or maintain peoples dreadlocks with products made out of Tea Tree herb.
Name one reggae artist that inspires you
Which do you prefer: live performances or studio work?
Ndithi Makube Chosi Kube Hele!!!