The music industry in South Africa for local artistes is not easy to navigate. LeAnne Dlamini should know, having been in it for almost 20 years now, she has done it all to find her own niche. Yet, does she have it all?
“In South Africa, I think people get so used to seeing your face and hearing your voice, that you are almost nothing to them anymore, and when you go outside the country, you get appreciated more which is so sad,” she rues.
Dlamini lived in Dubai and Los Angeles for a number of years before realizing the harsh truth that people back home were soon forgetting her.
“When you are out of sight, you are out of mind, that’s why I needed to come back.” But she also saw opportunity in returning home.
“I saw the potential. Other places are developed already, they have everything they need. I needed to come back to SA and be the next best thing in RnB because it is lacking [here]. Africa is definitely where it is happening. It doesn’t matter if everyone in LA knows you if back home no one knows who you are,” says Dlamini.
Growing up in a middle class family in Eldorado Park, one of Johannesburg’s infamous colored neighborhoods, Dlamini’s career began at the age of 13. She was part of the church choir, and also started a girl group in high school called Cherry.
“We wanted to be the Destiny’s Child of South Africa, but that didn’t happen, we hustled, went to record labels, everyone thought we were crazy,” says Dlamini.
The group did not make it but at least Dlamini’s solo career took off. She started singing for famous local artistes, one of them being Loyiso Bala.
“That’s when I was bitten by the bug, just being around Loyiso, just being in that studio environment, I loved it,” says Dlamini.
When she was only 22, Dlamini married her producer, Sipho Dlamini. While being a mother (she has two children) and wife will always be her first priority, it did somewhat lead her away from the path to stardom.
“I felt like my career needed a boost. But I wanted to do something that was out of my comfort zone. I didn’t want to record a track with a hip hop artiste or a house DJ, I wanted to do something I wouldn’t necessarily do here [in South Africa],” says Dlamini.
And she chose an offbeat route to make a comeback. In 2012, Dlamini packed her bags and headed to the United Kingdom, to enter the X Factor reality show. She received praise from the judges and qualified for the next round, almost making it to the final stages of the competition.
“Just for me to be there and hear the producers and judges tell me that was great, it was a boost,” says Dlamini.
It was just what she needed.
“I am now 30 and I can fully dive into my career and I feel like now is when my life is fully beginning. It feels like this is the first album that I’ve ever done. It’s insane,” says Dlamini.
And she proved just how ready she was in 2014 when she participated in Strictly Come Dancing South Africa. Dlamini made it to the semifinals, before she and her dance partner were sent home.
She is now working on her third album and hopes to release it later in the year.
Determined to be the superstar, Dlamini’s journey has been a long one and if she were to do it all over again, she would, she has no regrets.