Mi casa. Su casa. The musician fostering belonging with language

 
 
 

There’s something about Joao da Fonseca that has endeared him to South Africans. Born in Portugal, his family arrived here and settled in the Eastern Cape. Seven years old at the time, Da Fonseca spoke only Portuguese. But instead of sticking to what was familiar, he immersed himself in the communities around him. “I was exposed to different experiences and cultures,” Da Fonseca says. “From being part of traditional initiation rituals to learning new handshakes and greetings.” His diverse childhood had a huge influence on him as a musician, today performing as J’Something.

“Languages for me is probably one of the most important things in life,” Da Fonseca says. After learning to speak English he moved on to Afrikaans, and didn’t stop there. “Today I speak a bit of Xhosa, Zulu, and Tswana,” he says. “It’s part of who I am, and I want to show that with my songwriting.” The video for his first single with the band Mi Casa, “These Streets”, was shot in Alexandra and Da Fonseca sang in isiZulu. “A lot of the time I find I’m the only white guy in my surrounding, but I never felt out of place,” he says. While Da Fonseca’s skin colour stood out, his sounds blended in.

“I think that what got me to where I am today is my interest and respect for people,” he says. “If we all just try to be a little bit more understanding of one another, it goes a really long way.” Together with his bandmates, Dr. Duda and Mo-T, the artist has transcended cultural boundaries to appreciate, but never appropriate, the diversity of our country. Music to Da Fonseca isn’t just a performance; it’s about belonging. “When you go to a show, you see people together of different ages, different colours,” he explains. Growing up in a foreign place, Da Fonseca had to create his own sense of family. Mi casa. Su casa. We can all find home with each other, despite our differences.

Footage courtesy of Soul Candi Records, directed by Dan Odendaal, was used in the making of this film.