Singing to make SA proud

Buhle Mbonambi meets Idols South Africa win­ner Musa Suk­wene

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - ME­DIA& MAR­KET­ING -

IT’S JUST a few min­utes be­fore Proverb, the host of Idols South Africa, an­nounces who win­ner of the ninth sea­son of Idols SA. The fi­nal­ists, Musa Suk­wene and Bren­den Led­waba, stand next to him, hid­ing emo­tion from their faces.

Be­hind me sits a young girl, who looks about 11. Wear­ing a pur­ple top, she had been scream­ing her lungs out for her favourite, Musa, for more than an hour. She has her eyes closed and her hands are clasped to­gether. “Please can it be Musa,” she prays. And it is.

Moreleta Park NG Kerk bursts into thun­der­ous ap­plause. The con­fetti is sud­denly ev­ery­where. Peo­ple hug. Musa is con­grat­u­lated by his peers. The judges are stand­ing, clap­ping their hands. There are tears from Bren­den’s young fans, some even stomp­ing off, frus­trated. And on stage we see Bren­den also try to fight back tears, but it proves dif­fi­cult. He turns around and looks at the screen as Musa starts singing his new song, I Still Feel It…

The day af­ter it is still a blur for Musa. “It hasn’t sunk in yet just how much my life has changed,” he says, tak­ing a gulp of his coffee. He is nor­mally a wa­ter guy, but feels he needs the coffee boost for the stress­ful day ahead. We are at the Tsogo Sun Stay Easy ho­tel in Pre­to­ria.

Ho­tel staffers point ex­cit­edly at him when they see him. It’s some­thing that he has to get used to quickly. “Luck­ily I had pre­pared my­self that this could hap­pen when I en­tered the com­pe­ti­tion. I’ve had to con­di­tion my­self that I will now at­tract at­ten­tion, even un­wanted at­ten­tion at times. It’s part of the game.”

The fame game can be a bit­ter pill, and how you treat the first few months of your new­found celebrity can shapes the way peo­ple see you. Musa says he is ready for it. “The big­gest ad­vice I re­ceived from the judges was when Ran­dall ( Abra­hams) told me to stay grounded. I now re­alise what he meant. This could all go to my head and I’ll be­lieve my own hype, but then we’ve seen how those sit­u­a­tions turn out, so I know that my suc­cess will be in me stay­ing grounded, and still be­ing able to re­late to peo­ple.”

This sea­son of Idols was the most South African and it’s mostly thanks to Musa’s mu­sic choices. He (and third placed Sonke Maz­ibuko) sang as many lo­cal songs as he could, which not only made for a wel­come change, but also en­deared him to vot­ers. It turns out, that was his plan from the be­gin­ning. “I sat down and planned it. There must have been a rea­son for it to be called Idols SA. Surely that meant we could sing lo­cal songs? And so I set out to do that. No one was do­ing it in pre­vi­ous sea­sons.

“There are so many great lo­cal songs and to be hon­est, the world al­ways wants to see what South Africa has to of­fer, and I’m cer­tain that they watch our per­for­mances on YouTube. See­ing that, I re­alised that I had to make sure that I rep­re­sented South African mu­si­cians on the show and in my way, I also paid trib­ute to them.” His ren­di­tion of Ringo Madlin­gozi’s Ndiyagodola is still one of the best per­for­mances of the sea­son.

The sur­pris­ing thing is that Musa was go­ing to be fine with be­ing elim­i­nated if it was be­cause of singing lo­cal songs.

“That’s just how much I wanted to do it. If I got elim­i­nated, then so be it.” Maybe it was that never-say­die at­ti­tude that won peo­ple over. And of course, that voice. No mat­ter what genre he took on, he gave a solid per­for­mance. His per­sonal favourite per­for­mance was his take on Some­thing In­side So Strong by Labi Siffre and he says that most of his fans loved his ren­di­tion of Marvin Gaye’s Sex­ual Heal­ing. “Both are beau­ti­ful songs, so I don’t mind,” he says, smil­ing.

Musa was a ses­sion artist in Joburg be­fore try­ing his luck on Idols. “I moved from Wit­bank to fol­low my mu­sic dream. I would per­form at restau­rants, pri­vate func­tions and be a back-up singer at gigs. I lived the life of a mu­si­cian.”

Mu­sic is im­por­tant to Musa and he re­veals that mu­sic helped him with a learn­ing dis­abil­ity.

“I was born dyslexic and I learnt ev­ery­thing through mu­si­cal melodies. Mu­sic has al­ways been part of my life and I have honestly never imag­ined do­ing any­thing else but sing. Or ra­dio. I love talk­ing, man. I can talk for days,” he says, laugh­ing.

At the fi­nale, peo­ple were chant­ing his name. Ev­ery time Bren­den’s fans tried to shout Bren­den’s name, chants of “Musa” would over­whelm them. Nat­u­rally, the lit­tle girl be­hind me was lead­ing the Musa chants with her two friends. It’s those chants that have pushed Musa to do his best ev­ery week.

“It felt so great hear­ing those chants last night and the thing is, they just kept get­ting louder ev­ery time we shot an episode. So it re­ally feels great that on the last day of Idols, the peo­ple were still there and they had my back.”

The big­gest thing he learnt on his Idols jour­ney is to re­spect fel­low mu­si­cians. “And not just mu­si­cians alone, but ev­ery­one.

“Re­spect and con­fi­dence are what got me through this sea­son.”

At the press con­fer­ence, Musa and Bren­den showed a unique brother­hood, sim­i­lar to the one be­tween Elvis Blue and Lloyd Cele.

Bren­den even called him his mentor.

“We are close. Peo­ple saw me as the un­der­dog and Bren­den as the pop­u­lar guy. But to us we were friends, broth­ers. We come from the same prov­ince and we were hav­ing a great time fol­low­ing our dream.” So it is no sur­prise that they have a gen­tle­man’s agree­ment and Musa will share the prize (worth more than R1 mil­lion) with Bren­den.

Although his new sin­gle, I Still Feel It, is very R&B, he is still de­cid­ing which genre to fo­cus on.

“Soul is me. Soul mu­sic is part of who I am, but I also want to ex­per­i­ment with other sounds. I’m spend­ing the next few weeks in stu­dio work­ing on my four-track EP and I’m go­ing to see what I can do, play around, do mash-ups. I want to make great mu­sic and mu­sic that South Africa will en­joy, so I’m go­ing to be spend­ing a lot of time in the stu­dio.”

Sea­son eight win­ner, Khaya Mthethwa has had a suc­cess­ful year and pre­vi­ous Idol con­tes­tants such as Elvis, Lloyd and Za­ma­jobe are suc­cess­ful in the mu­sic busi­ness.

Musa also has high hopes for him­self. “I’ve been given this great prize, this amaz­ing hon­our. I’m go­ing to make sure that I don’t waste it. I’ll make sure to make mu­sic that ev­ery­one will love. But most im­por­tantly, I’m go­ing to stay the per­son I was even be­fore I en­tered and won Idols.”

But for now, he’s fo­cus­ing his all in mak­ing his EP, which will be re­leased be­fore Christ­mas, avail­able on Sam­sung de­vices and the Kleek mu­sic app.

He says that he will prob­a­bly ti­tle the EP I Still Feel It, like the lead sin­gle.

The 10th sea­son of Idols South Africa has been con­firmed and au­di­tions start soon.

Musa’s sin­gle is avail­able for down­load on Kleek and iTunes.

DED­I­CA­TION: Hard work re­ally paid off for Musa Suk­wene.


BIG DREAMS: Win­ning

is just the be­gin­ning.

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