Celebrity – Lebo Sekgobela

Gospel singer, LEBO SEKGOBELA, 36, re­flects on her tu­mul­tuous child­hood, mar­riage and reach­ing in­ter­na­tional star­dom.

True Love - - Content - By PHILA TYEKANA

It’s rare that a gospel song hits the num­ber one spot in a Top 40 chart of an ur­ban ra­dio sta­tion like Metro FM. What’s even rarer is that the same song com­peted against kwaito, hip hop and house mu­sic for Song of the Year at the re­cent Metro FM Mu­sic Awards. Lebo Sekgobela’s hit track, Lion of Ju­dah, is chang­ing the game. Even more ad­mirable is that it isn’t just top­ping lo­cal charts – it also fea­tures in Nige­ria’s top 10 most-played songs on ra­dio.

“I first heard the song at a con­fer­ence in Dur­ban in 2015. Singer and song­writer Mat­setse Matthews wrote it and when I heard him sing it, I was in­spired. It spoke to me. The lyrics men­tion how we shouldn’t be fear­ful but rather put our trust in God and let Him lead us to where we are meant to be,” she says.

In that year of meet­ing Mat­setse, Lebo had been work­ing on her cur­rent dou­ble-plat­inum al­bum, Re­stored, which she re­leased in July 2016. By Septem­ber, it had reached gold sta­tus and to­day it’s Mu­sica’s top sell­ing al­bum. The ini­tial plan was to col­lab­o­rate with Mat­setse on the song, but that didn’t work out. Mat­setse had writ­ten Lion of

Ju­dah in 2000, but it would be 16 years be­fore it’d take off. The songstress’ mu­si­cal ca­reer dates back to 2000 but it was with her 2011 third al­bum, Ithemba

Lam, that things started pick­ing up. “I be­lieve Re­stored has done won­ders not just for me, but for oth­ers in the gospel


fra­ter­nity too. Lion of Ju­dah shows that all of us can make it. I pinched my­self ev­ery time it reached num­ber one on the charts or lo­cal iTunes rat­ings. I wanted to em­pha­sise to lis­ten­ers that they must be­lieve in God. Know that He is in con­trol of ev­ery­thing in our lives, and al­low Him to put you on a path He wants for you,” says the mom of three, who’s an in­de­pen­dent artist that prefers be­ing hands on and in con­trol of her sound.

Lebo’s never ven­tured into other gen­res and won’t do so ever, she says. To her gospel is quite in­ti­mate and it’s as if she’s singing a love song. What about other work she’s done out­side of mu­sic? “Af­ter ma­tric I worked as an ad­min­is­tra­tor in an IT com­pany. Af­ter that, and for most of my adult life, I was a per­sonal as­sis­tant for a pas­tor at my lo­cal church. I loved see­ing lives be­ing trans­formed through the work of God as it af­firmed to me that things have a way of work­ing them­selves out. Work­ing in church made me be­lieve my mu­sic ca­reer would sky­rocket.” Lebo has also worked as a back­ing vo­cal­ist for Vicky Vi­lakazi and Wil­liam Se­jake, and did you know she’s the voice be­hind pop­u­lar Khum­bulekhaya’s open­ing jin­gle?

Born in the Vaal in Gaut­eng, Lebo and her five sib­lings were raised by their do­mes­tic worker mother. Their shack in Res­i­den­cia burnt down in 1986 and they sought refuge with their grand­mother in Ever­ton un­til they moved to Orange Farm, where she started singing in church and at school. The singer re­flects on the harsh re­al­ity of grow­ing up with a mother who worked away from home. “My mom missed a lot of mile­stones in our lives. We’d visit her work­place on week­ends. It’s painful hav­ing the an­chor of the family away,” she adds. “My el­der sis­ters looked af­ter us; they too had to ad­just and as­sume parental roles. In hind­sight, we all grew a strong bond as sib­lings. Now that we’re grown and have our own fam­i­lies, we make sure we don’t miss out on any­thing. As a mu­si­cian, I al­ways feel guilty that by be­ing away for gigs, I’m do­ing also miss­ing out on my chil­dren’s mile­stones. I make sure that when­ever I’m home I spend time with my kids: my first-born is 20 now, and study­ing law. My sec­ond child is 14 and my last (and only boy) is nine.”

The singer wed­ded young to Lucky, in 1997 and says it was love at first sight. “Twenty years later, we’re still crazy in love. Prayer and trust is the glue that keeps us to­gether.”

Lucky is her man­ager so the cou­ple are al­ways to­gether. “He’s car­ing and spoils me to bits. Af­ter each per­for­mance, he in­sists that I rest. He’s a very hands-on father; he takes the kids to school and makes sure they are ready ev­ery morn­ing. He’s a bless­ing in my life.”

Life, as Lebo re­flects, hasn’t al­ways been this great. She’s gets emo­tional she re­lates how she ba­came a vic­tim of sex­ual abuse. She was raped twice by dif­fer­ent men dur­ing her child­hood. “You never get over rape; it lives with you for­ever. I re­cently drove past the street where the sec­ond in­ci­dent hap­pened. It’s such a busy street; why didn’t any­one Why didn’t any­one see me?,” she breaks down. “I ac­cept it; I have to. The first time it hap­pened I was eight. My sis­ter had asked me to ac­com­pany a male friend of hers to get money from a house in an­other area,” she con­tin­ues. “On the way, we took a quicker route t through the neigh­bour­hood’s school. Dur­ing a stop at the school’s loo that’s where it hap­pened,” she says tak­ing a deep breath. “When he was done, he threat­ened to kill me if I ever said a word about this. As if noth­ing had hap­pened and he hadn’t changed my life for­ever, we set off again. When we got the money, he sent me off on my own.”

Trau­ma­tised and stunned that a family friend would do that to her, Lebo says she didn’t tell any­one. With the sec­ond in­ci­dent, the singer was 11 years old; the cul­prit, a neigh­bour. This time her sis­ters had gone some­where and her mother wanted Lebo to join them. “The neigh­bour said he knew the place and of­fered to drive Lebo there. While wait­ing for her sis­ters to come out of the house they were in. He raped me in the car. He also threat­ened to kill me if she said a word to any­one.”

Then Lebo met and Lucky and showed her how a woman should be treated. Feel­ing safe in him Lebo con­fided in Lucky. He con­vinced her to tell her sis­ters and later her mother, who were all un­der­stand­ably shocked. “I read an ar­ti­cle on rape in one mag­a­zine, and that’s when I knew I had to speak out. It ex­plained thor­oughly what had hap­pened to me. I got a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing that I wasn’t the only per­son who had gone through it. I un­der­stood I shouldn’t be ashamed, as it wasn’t my fault. It’s sad that rape isn’t spo­ken about and that there’s a belief that you did some­thing wrong and some­how al­lowed it.”

“The shame that comes with rape is un­bear­able. I didn’t em­brace my body and al­ways wanted to hide it. I didn’t want to be at­trac­tive or sexy. I used to sus­pect any guy who ap­proached me. That’s why I didn’t date in my teens. My hus­band is my first boyfriend, first kiss and ev­ery­thing else.” The gospel star says she speaks openly about her sex­ual abuse to help oth­ers.

Lebo’s in a great space and now holds her head up high. This year she’ll em­bark on a na­tional tour to pro­mote Re­store and keep in touch with fans. She con­tin­ues with com­mu­nity work by giv­ing do­na­tions to var­i­ous or­phan­age homes in Orange Farm. She also has hopes to re­lease a DVD. It’s clear the songstress is mak­ing her mark, as many fans fea­ture her mu­sic in their feel-good playlists. A video of a lit­tle girl singing

Lion of Ju­dah word for word went vi­ral re­cently and celebs like Manaka Ranaka posted the lyrics of the song on their so­cial me­dia plat­forms to in­spire oth­ers.

“What’s hap­pen­ing now with the track re­minds me of the book of Jeremiah, where God says to him, ‘When you were formed in your mother’s womb I knew you. Be­fore you were born I set you apart and ap­pointed you as my prophet to the na­tions.’ I didn’t know I’d be a ves­sel used by God to touch peo­ple. I’m still amazed when fans ap­proach me to say how much my mu­sic in­spires them. Things like that mo­ti­vate me to do even bet­ter,” she beams.

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