Ukhozi FM’s annual New Year’s Eve countdown has, over the decades, become the most important signifier of the biggest hit of the year.
Artists clamour to be included in the radio station’s Top 10 list. And with nearly eight million listeners, featuring on the station’s Record of the Year list means you have a bona fide hit song.
So imagine South Africa’s surprise when a song that most people had not heard before was voted the Record of the Year by Ukhozi FM listeners.
As people captured the moment we crossed over to 2022, videos showed their faces going from excitement to confusion as Isibani by DJ Hlo blared from their speakers. Conversation soon started, with many asking about the song and who the artist was and how they had managed to beat fan favourite songs like Adiwele by Young Stunna, Osama by Zakes Bantwini, and Wena Nkosi Uyazi by Jumbo.
DJ Hlo, real name Hlosiwe Mthalane, released Isibani featuring DJ Manzo and Sboniso in October last year. By winning Ukhozi FM’s record of the year 2021, she has made history by being the first female DJ to take home the title.
The 24-year-old from Seaview in Durban released the track as a single and went on to top the chart on Radiomonitor.
Radiomonitor tracks the worldwide airplay of songs, with the information given to record labels and radio stations. Isibani was easily the most popular song with Ukhozi FM listeners in their poll.
DJ Hlo said her love for music started at the age of seven as she was raised in a musically-inclined family. She said she grew up under a lot of musical influence and that she grew up listening to icons such as Brenda Fassie, which made her fall in love with music even more. She said she decided to become a DJ after completing her degree in Industrial Psychology and Management at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
“The journey has had its ups and downs, but I am continuously learning and gaining new knowledge as I grow in the industry. I am looking forward to learning new things and exploring my musical talents,” said DJ Hlo.
Asked about the type of music she does and the whole meaning behind Isibani, she described her music as an alignment of emotionally raw lyricism and intensely moving instrumentals that cut straight into the listener's heart.
“It is very dynamic and can be enjoyed by everyone, from the young to the old. The word ‘Isibani’ is basically translated to ‘Light'. Overall the song is a dedication to our loved ones as they bring light into our lives and encourage us to be better versions of ourselves. They push us to do more. I just hope the song brings something positive to listeners.”
About the win, she said she feels extremely content to be the first female DJ to win the Ukhozi FM record of the year.
“Honestly it is taking time to kick in. It is a huge achievement and will definitely be written in the history books. It is my legacy. I am just so thankful to everyone who voted for my song to be number one. It is also hard to believe that I do not deserve to be in the top ten because those who voted for the song clearly thought otherwise. After all, voting lines were open to the whole of South Africa, so everybody had an opportunity to vote for their favourite. I have a very strong support system, so I do not mind any criticism directed towards me. I do not put any negativity to heart because although there are people who are criticising me, there are also those who are rooting for me with all the positive comments.”
What does the future hold for her?
She is currently working on an EP and will be releasing it amidst the song of the year hype as a token of appreciation for her fans.