Singing to make SA proud
Buhle Mbonambi meets Idols South Africa winner Musa Sukwene
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.