Introducing 1 Zeal: From Doula to Jozi

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Singer, performer and songwriter, 1 Zeal, born Samuel Suh in Douala, Cameroon arrived in Johannesburg with his two solo demos titled Face of Africa” and “Letter to Mandela.” That was back in 2010, he came here to further his studies in advertising, after studying for a law degree back in Cameroon. His mission though was to break into the music industry and Jozi offered the possibility.  It did not take long for him settle and by 2014 he put out an EP title The Lion Boy EP Vol I  followed by Volume II in 2016. He wasted no time in honoring the city of gold with a track and a video ‘Welcome to Jozi‘, in which he captures the spirit of Jozi through visuals and witty rhymes. His latest video for the single ‘I Do’ received critical acclaim from established Reggae Dancehall blogs as well as getting rotation on Channel O.

Below is the interview conducted with 1 Zeal by MissLee for MzansiReggae.

Who is 1 Zeal?
I got the name 1 Zeal back in High School from friends and classmates. I am a great lover of hip-hop and rap music. My friends used to call me Jay Z as they felt my style of rap at the time sounded like him. Although it was more of a compliment, I wanted a name of my own and my sister proposed the name Zeal, I liked it and added a 1 to it as it signifies my unique style of delivery.

How and when did your journey as a musician begin?
My musical journey began in 2009 when I recorded my first solo demos titled “Face of Africa” and “Letter to Mandela”. Since then I decided I’d like to pursue a career as a singer and writer, as I believed and was confident that I had something to offer on the music table.

When did you relocate to South Africa and how are you finding it?
After High School, I attended the University of Douala where I studied Law and in 2010 relocated to Johannesburg to further my studies as a creative writer. I was more interested in studying advertising rather than law. In Cameroon, there were few institutions at the time that offered creative writing as a full course so I opted to move to SA, where I studied and worked as a creative copywriter. I am loving it as It’s a hub for Urban music and creativity in Africa..

What is the difference (dancehall reggae scene) between your country of origin and here in SA?
Reggae and Dancehall music is appreciated in Cameroon, but compared to South Africa, the Reggae scene is still developing as we do not have prominent local artist mainly doing this genre.  I have listened to other dancehall acts from home and their music sounds very promising and with artist like myself, I’m confident about the future of Dancehall in Cameroon and Africa in general.

Did you feel that you had to make major adjustments or was it smooth and easy going change?
I think as a creative or an artist change is always important as it exposes us to more cultures, people and languages. Although there a some minor hurdles and differences in terms of the languages, and cultures, I’d say the transition was easy going as it’s still in the continent and it’s great to learn from my brother and sisters from the other parts of Africa.

We first got to know you in 2014 with the Lion Boy EP with the lead single welcome to Jozi. Did you have any work released prior to this?
While working in Advertising, I recorded my first EP in 2014 titled “The Lion Boy EP Vol 1”   and the second EP IN 2016 called the “The Lion Boy EP Vol 2”. I had drop songs like “You Weh”, “Runnin’ Water” ,“Face of Africa” ,“Letter to Mandela” “Green Red Yellow” which I recorded between 2009 – 2010. In 2011,  I was also featured on the single “Can’t Take it Away” by Adolf Fayaman alongside the artist Denzyl, which made it to number 3 on the Trace Urban Africa Countdown.

You have been around in the dancehall scene for a while now, but seem to be gaining prominence lately. What has changed?
I think in the prior years I was focused on other things outside of the music. Music has always been my first love but I couldn’t do it full time as my reasons for moving to SA was firstly for studies. I think the experience of working in advertising has groomed me into a better writer and a music critic and I now working on producing more quality music now with better content.

What would you consider your highlights and down-lows in your musical journey or in general?
My highlights this year has been the positive responses and feedback for my new single “I Do” The video also been aired on major platforms around Africa and the Caribbean. For the down-lows, I think I had released quality audio content but not enough visuals to back it up and this year I plan on doing more of that. Both quality audio and visuals.

Tell us a bit about the Reggae scene in Cameroon.
In Cameroon, rootical reggae is still not major and currently, we do have very few Reggae artists. Makossa and Bikutsi are the two most popular genres of music, but I have always been a great fan of Dancehall ever since listening to artist like Sean Paul, Shaggy, and Wayne Marshall. I loved their songs and had wished to make this sort of music more loved where I’m from.

What is your take on the Reggae Dancehall scene in South Africa in general?
I think the Reggae Dancehall scene is rapidly growing in SA and other African countries like Zimbabwe, Kenya, Ghana, and Nigeria. I feel it can be much vibrant with more Reggae & Dancehall festivals and artist across the continent.

What type of music would you describe yourself doing and for who?
I’ll describe my style of music as ReHop Music, which is the fusion of Reggae and Hip Hop. I always loved Reggae and Hip Hop music as I grew up listening to artist like 2Pac, Bob Marley, Jay Z, and Sean Paul. My target market is lovers of Urban Music in general, from Dancehall, Reggae, Hip Hop, Trap, House Music and more.


Tell us about your new album/project.
I am currently working on my next project, its an EP of 5 songs titled “Born In Bonaberi”. I am working with producers like O’Magic, he produced my current single “I Do”, also DJ Rapid and ANG. They helping with production, recording, and mixing of the project.

Which is your favourite song from all your recordings?
Actually, I always love to take my time to craft the lyrics and make sure I personally love the song, the melody before I record. Whenever I record a new song, it becomes my favorite (laughs) as I always try to improve on my vocals, chords, and sound in every song I record. Currently, my favorite song is “I Do” and “The Sun” which is soon to be released.

Which artist would you like to work/collaborate with and why?
I’d love to collaborate with artists like Akon,2Baba, BujuBanton and Chronixx as their music is usually pro-black and always makes references to Mama Africa and the everyday struggle of the black man and woman.

How can promoters get in touch with 1 Zeal?
For more inquiries, you can contact via +27730437501 or