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Two ex­pres­sions res­onate well with the rise of one Bongek­ile Sime­lane – “be­ing in the right place at the right time” and “be nice to peo­ple on your way up, you might meet them on your way down”. Up un­til April last year, Sime­lane was an un­known video vixen known only in Dur­ban cir­cles. But the re­lease of the song Wololo – which came about af­ter she went to the stu­dio by chance – put Babes Wo­dumo, as Sime­lane is known in the show­biz in­dus­try, on a level she and her team could not have imag­ined.

Her ar­rival on the mu­sic scene hap­pened when the in­dus­try was hun­gry for a fresh sound, and Babes be­came the first young woman to in­tro­duce qgom mu­sic – a catchy dance sub­genre pop­u­lar in Dur­ban.

With her gy­rat­ing moves on the dance floor, Wololo be­came a hit, dom­i­nat­ing the air­waves through­out the coun­try. It was on the top 10 on all charts and re­mained there for long.

Her moves also earned her loads of lusty male fans, who de­clared that she was a “na­tional key point” – a ref­er­ence that she couldn’t be­long to any­one ex­cept her male fol­low­ers.

Her pop­u­lar­ity went vi­ral, with chil­dren of all races fall­ing in love with her raunchy dance moves. Her moves reignited the eu­pho­ria last seen in the early 1990s dur­ing the times of Boom Shaka – the pi­o­neers of kwaito mu­sic.

So pop­u­lar was Babes that, in Oc­to­ber last year – six months af­ter the re­lease of her song – she took to so­cial me­dia to an­nounce that she wasn’t tak­ing any more book­ings un­til 2017. The rea­son? She was al­ready up to her neck with shows and gigs and sim­ply couldn’t do any more. That’s how in de­mand she was. And the money was rolling in.

Babes’ pop­u­lar­ity should be cred­ited to Mamp­intsha of the pop­u­lar Dur­ban kwaito group Big Nuzz, who dis­cov­ered her dur­ing a tal­ent show five years ago. She would be­come Mamp­intsa’s first sign­ing to his record la­bel, West Ink.

“I no­ticed that, when­ever she spoke, there would be a punch­line. That is how I iden­ti­fied her singing tal­ent,” he said of his star.

In all of this, Babes knew she was not ready for fame and for­tune. “I knew where I was go­ing, but never imag­ined that my mu­sic and danc­ing would be ap­pre­ci­ated this much. I still get shocked by how starstruck peo­ple are when they see me; it can be over­whelm­ing at times,” she once ad­mit­ted.

Be nice to peo­ple on your way up

TALK TO US Do you find Wo­dumo’s be­hav­iour af­ter not win­ning an award in­ap­pro­pri­ate?

Babes has been in the head­lines for all the wrong rea­sons. It started late last year when she pulled “no show” stunts more than once at big venues. She was also caught in a feud with the Buyel’Ekhaya Pan African Mu­sic Fes­ti­val or­gan­is­ers, where she charged R100 000 for a per­for­mance that fans were not im­pressed with.

This marked the be­gin­ning of her be­ing un­pop­u­lar with a le­gion of fans who were dis­ap­pointed with her be­hav­iour.

In the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try, one’s suc­cess is owed to one’s fans. Fans are the ones who buy your mu­sic, buy tick­ets to watch your per­for­mances and who vote for you to win awards. You’re noth­ing with­out fans. If you want to be suc­cess­ful and nur­ture your longevity in the show­biz in­dus­try, don’t un­der­mine or dis­re­spect your fans. But Babes did the op­po­site and they lost hope and faith in her – quickly.

This was ev­i­dent when she walked away with noth­ing at the Metro FM Mu­sic Awards and the SA Mu­sic Awards (Sa­mas) re­cently.

Even ahead of the Sa­mas – where she had re­ceived four nom­i­na­tions – she made it “loud and clear” that if she didn’t win, she wouldn’t sub­mit her songs to any awards panel again.

Sur­pris­ingly, ac­cord­ing to a ra­dio mon­i­tor chart dated March 1 last year to Fe­bru­ary 28 this year, her song Wololo was at num­ber four with 5 414 spins, but still


VIDEO VIXEN Babes Wo­dumo

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