AFDA | Interview | Sound Designer

Zisandra Rose Gushu – or simply Zaza as she’s known to her peers – recently turned twenty-six. Born in Port Elizabeth, she grew up on the coastal streets of Jeffreys Bay. She is doing her Honours this year at AFDA, and she’s majoring in sound design.


When I ask Zaza about the most beautiful sound she has ever heard, she shares a precious memory: ‘The sound of my late uncle’s singing. He is the man who raised me for most of my life, and he was also the one that gave me the second name ‘Rose’. In simple terms, his singing voice felt like a warm hug, and his hug felt like home.’

Her uncle was also one of the most important persons in her life. ‘He was one of the smartest people I knew, he knew a lot about almost ANYTHING. He was also good at fixing things and that is something that he taught me to do. We also bonded over books. He was an avid reader so we would exchange books and discuss it.’

These are but some of the happiest moments in her life, but it has also brought on some of the saddest moments in her life. ‘The weekend of my uncle’s funeral, my whole family came to town. I was so happy because it was one of the few moments we got to spend as a family.’

‘Although it was a sad weekend, my family was able to make jokes and laugh and tell stories and also get drunk and just enjoy each other’s company. One thing that every single person said was that my late uncle would’ve loved seeing us all being together because family was everything to him.’ The funeral weekend ended with the whole family singing the song ‘L.O.V.E.’ by Nat King Cole; it was the same song that her uncle would sing to them all while they were growing up.


Zaza decided to study at AFDA because she is passionate about sound design. ‘It’s something I only discovered when I studied journalism at Rhodes University.’ She also found her love for radio and has been ‘crazy about it ever since.’ Her biggest motivation for studying at AFDA? ‘My failure at Rhodes University and I wanted to prove to myself and my parents that I can achieve anything when I actually try.’

But is it really a failure? When I ask what part about AFDA she likes the most, she shares that she has discovered the recipe for trying again: ‘I like that I get to be creative and make mistakes but still be encouraged to try again. Even though it can be frustrating at times, I do love being able to collaborate with different people with different mindsets to create a work of art.’


Zaza’s research thesis for this year focuses on the following question:

What methodology can be developed to protect the (dialogue) intelligibility of low-budget indie, and specifically indigenous productions using open source software DAW and plugin solutions?’

She explains why she chose this topic: ‘I realized that although South Africa has one of the oldest film industries, we have some of the lowest budgets when it comes to film and especially in the sound department. Sound has always seemed like an afterthought in film. I wanted to help sound designers with low budgets to be able to create the best quality sound with what is accessible and find cheaper ways of achieving this great sound.’

Zaza dreams of being recognized as a good sound designer and also to help and teach other aspiring sound designers in South Africa. ‘And I love that I can make people laugh.’


Another important person in Zaza’slife is her beautiful girlfriend, Sipho. ‘She has been quite the light in my life. She has made every single day beautiful and it’s even better that we both do sound design. It feels like I found my other half.’

We now know what was Zaza’s uncle’s favourite song, but what is Zaza’s favourite song? Surprisingly, it’s ‘River Flows In You’ by Yiruma. She tells me, ‘’I have cried many times to this piece of music because the song is just breathtaking.’ When I ask her to describe this song to me, she uses the following words: ‘I would say it’s like being given a blank canvas and being able to paint any emotion you feel and turn it into a masterpiece.’

Thank you, Zaza, for sharing your precious memories and moments with us. This has been an insightful and heartfelt article to write. I am touched by who you are and what you carry.

I end this article with a link to ‘River Flows In You’. Please take a moment and listen to this unique, deep piece of music.



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