Anyone who hears the soulful Lulu Dikana for the very first time would be forgiven for assuming she’s an international act. And this is not to suggest that international is better than local, but Lulu is one of the few South African musicians who manages their brand, image and craft like a well-oiled corporate company. And there’s no reason why the international market wouldn’t embrace her music with open arms.

Lulu’s carefully and beautifully crafted lyrics – something she and her younger sister, Zonke Dikana have in common – are known to speak directly to the heart. She quickly admits to being a fan of penning love jams. “Love is the one human need that constantly must be fed reassuring words in order for it to grow,” she explains with the passion of someone who actually invented love. “I think it’s time I take up the responsibility of feeding this need through music.”

In addition to celebrating the recent release of her third album, I Came To Love,  Lulu will also be opening for nine-time Grammy-award-winner John Legend on the Johannesburg leg of his All Of Me tour this month. And considering that Lulu’s always been a die-hard fan of Legend’s, this opportunity was bigger than a dream come true for her.

Perhaps this opportunity to share a stage with her icon is a reward from the music gods for all the hard work she put into I Came To Love. “I wrote, produced, sang and did all the layering myself on this album. There were times when I’d kick myself for not hiring people to work with me,” she recalls. But when those great reviews start rolling in, she will at least be able to bask in the warmth of the compliments, knowing that the time and sacrifices that went into the album are finally paying off.

Lulu cover
Lulu Dikana as she appears on the cover sleeve of I Came To Love

On her 2012 SAMA award-winning album Ina Ethe, Lulu’s sister Zonke also produced and wrote her entire album, an approach only true musicians dare to take. There’s clearly a special music gene that runs in the Dikanas’ bloodstream that makes people sit up and pay attention when they sing.

“We got our story-telling ability from our late mother and the melody-making from our late dad. In fact Zonke is the better lyricist, my sister is a word warrior. I’m more of a minimalist,” says Lulu.

She goes on to share anecdotes of how their late mother would write brilliant school essays for them, which they would then pass off as their own.

On the subject of why local R&B and soul aren’t as big as, say, local hip-hop, which has grown in leaps and bounds over the past two years, Lulu believes that sometimes, when the message in a song is too deep, fans get lost and lose interest.

“I think as soul artists we sometimes want to carry the whole genre on our shoulders and as a result, we end up complicating the lyrics because we forget that we shouldn’t only be writing for ourselves, but for the people who consume our music as well,” she says.

And Lulu guarantees that there are no boring songs on her latest album, which she dropped last month. “I’m often referred to as a jazz musician, but I never want to box myself in. If my life depended on me describing what the sound on my new album is, I’d say, expect a very soulful offering, that varies between being old school and funky,” she says.

Lulu’s previous albums, My Diary, My Thoughts and This Is My Life, may have enjoyed radio success, but this new 11-track album has the potential to make her a household name. Mark our words!

I Came To Love is also available on iTunes.