Making it to ‘Popstars’ top 9 a ‘shock’

Dunedin musician TJ Zimba says he wants to make his city proud.

And it seems he has.

The 21-year-old made it through to the top 9 in TVNZ2 television show Popstars last night.

It is the first revival season of the original New Zealand reality show, which is back for the first time since 1999, when girl group TrueBliss was formed.

It was a "shock" for the former Otago Boys’ High School and University of Otago student, who thought he was going home.

Former Otago Boys’ High School pupil and University of Otago student TJ Zimba has made it to the...
Former Otago Boys’ High School pupil and University of Otago student TJ Zimba has made it to the top 9 in TVNZ2 television show Popstars. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
"During my performance I was just in another world — I was like ‘I am meant to be doing this and even if I go home I’m going to give them a performance where, if I go home, people are going to be mad’," he said.

"Then I didn’t.

"I was just in shock — I had to hug all of them [the judges]."

Zimba, who goes by the artist name "ZExÏÏ", pronounced "Zee", said the Popstars experience had been "insane".

He grew up watching shows such as American Idol and The X Factor, but never imagined he would be on one.

"For me Popstars has been a growth journey.

"We’ve had master classes; we’ve had mentoring; they’ve taught us how to record, how to handle press and media.

"It’s been an amazing journey — I know that I have a career outside of the show."

It was a giant leap from almost giving up on music last year.

Zimba’s computer crashed and he lost all the music he had made over the previous two years.

"It was the first time I cried since I was, like, 13," he said.

"I was like, I’m giving up, that’s it, I don’t care anymore."

It was an advertisement for Popstars that, thankfully, drew him back to music.

But pursuing one dream meant another had to be put on hold, Zimba said.

He was three years into a physiotherapy degree at the University of Otago before the show began.

"I’ve always wanted to do medicine and be a doctor and a physiotherapist.

"That is the hardest thing about this year — I’ve had to defer and stop that dream."

He wanted to spend his life helping people but felt he could also do that through music.

"I’m always throwing around the word ‘agape’, which means unconditional love, and that’s what I talk about in all my songs too."

While he had not ruled out going back to study, music would be his focus this year .

He had three main goals he was striving for as an artist, Zimba said: to make Dunedin proud, win a Vodafone New Zealand Music Award and give back to the community "whether that is giving instruments back to schools that literally gave me this opportunity, or giving free concerts".

"I hope I make my city proud."

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