‘It took me 20 years to make it in the music industry’ – Lungi Naidoo

2018-04-02 10:26
Lungi Naidoo

Johannesburg - She’s no stranger to trials and tribulations and has spent her fair share of time hustling for work and grabbing whatever gigs she could. But it’s safe to say that after 18 years of trying to make it in the City of Gold, Lungi Naidoo has finally gotten her big break.

Her days of singing in dimly-lit clubs seem to be well and truly over after her recent performance with DJ-of-the- moment Black Coffee.

The pair performed their song, Falling, to adoring fans at a festival in Jozi recently – and now it’s London, here comes Lungi!

We spent some time with the 30-something songbird and found out more about her steady climb and how losing love and the agony of tragedy helped make her stronger.

In the beginning music has always been her first love. Even when times were tough and it seemed she wasn’t going to make it in the industry, she never thought about giving up. Lungi was 18 when she left the comfort of home in KwaDukuza in KwaZulu-Natal to seek fame and fortune, which she naively thought would be instantaneous.

Lungi was then still involved with the father of her child and they lived like nomads for months, going from place to place trying to make ends meet. Eventually they had to come to terms with the fact their relationship wasn’t working. “He was a lovely man but we were more like friends,” she says.

He went back to KwaZulu-Natal, leaving her to raise their daughter, Elissa (now 19), alone while still trying to chase her dream. Being a single mother in the entertainment industry isn’t easy, she says.

 “I always had to consider my daughter. Everything I did was because of her. I sacrificed a lot for our relationship and that’s why my break in the music industry took so long. I wanted the best for her and I didn’t want to sleep my way to the top either.”

 Things were sometimes so bad she didn’t have taxi fare to go hustle for her big break. But she persevered. Giving up simply wasn’t an option.


She released her third album, Black Diamond in 2016 through Universal Music Group– her first two albums where released independently.

Working so hard for so long has made her a stronger and wiser person, she believes. Lungi has been through tough times. ]

Four years ago she and her then-boyfriend, actor and singer Brian Temba, made headlines when their relationship fell apart and Lungi took the split hard. “I didn’t eat and I took sleeping pills day and night. My phone was always off but my family always supported me.

“My sisters drove from KZN and got into bed with me and we cried together,” she says. “At the time I was bitter and thought he was being cruel because the break-up came from nowhere. The newspapers painted me as a bad and violent girlfriend with a temper.”

She lost herself for a while, she says, and it took a huge effort to pick herself up and get back out there. But she’s done it. Time, she discovered, is a good healer – and a little help from friends is pretty good too.


It was a timely call from Black Coffee three months after her break-up that really perked her up. “That is when we did the single Love on Fire,” she says. Her life has been on an upward trajectory since then and she’s determined to make every bit of it count.


 Lungi was been approached by international promoters to perform in London for five nights last year after her performance with Black Coffee.

“I’m so excited my dream is finally coming true and I’m slowly becoming a force,” she says. She always pictured herself on the world stage while growing up and can’t wait to make this dream a reality.

Through it all she never stopped believing, she says, and always knew she was special.

 Lungi – raised by her Zulu mother, Sibongile Naidoo, and her Indian dad, Moonsamy Naidoo – knew she was destined for the big time. And now that she’s on her way to the top, she wants to make sure she takes others with her too.

The singer has a non-profit organisation, The Lungi Foundation, which supplies uniforms, books and food parcels to 20 schools in rural KwaZulu-Natal. She describes it as her “heartbeat” and a way for her to be an example to children back home, so they may also pursue their dreams. This and all the tribulations have made her who she is now, Lungi says.

The Away with Me singer is proud she remained true to herself in the search for her big break in the music industry. She’s proof patience and resilience do pay off.

Lungi’s main goal has always been to make great music while being a good mother to Elissa. Her daughter has been through a lot, she says, as she lost her father just as they were starting to rebuild a relationship.

Elissa’s dad, who Lungi is reluctant to name, was shot dead in a hijacking in July last year. “He was living in KZN and we were in Joburg. Just when they found each other, he died. “I spoke to him three hours before he was shot.

When it happened my sister called me and said, ‘I’m looking at Elissa’s father’s van, he’s just been shot and he’s lying on the ground’.” People started posting pictures of the incident on social media and some of them called Elissa.

“I think she was numb because she just went into her room and told me she’ll be sleeping and I should wake her up when her dad is fine.”

A few hours later Lungi received the dreaded call telling her Elissa’s dad had died. She phoned one of her cousins and they prayed before breaking the news to Elissa. “We woke her up and she looked at me and waited.

Although I could see she knew, I think she just needed me to say it and each time I tried to tell her, I just couldn’t.” Eventually Lungi mustered the courage and said, “Your dad has gone to heaven”. “She fainted. When we brought her round she didn’t scream but let out the most painful cry I’d ever heard in my life.

Then she fell asleep on my lap.” That was one of the worst days of her life, she says tearfully. “I don’t know that pain because my father is still alive, so when my daughter wants to cry I let her cry,” she says. Lungi and her daughter are still on a journey of healing, she says.

“Some days are worse than others. I just make sure I’m there for her.” Motherhood, she adds, is the most important job of all.

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