From busker to big buzz in the space of just a year
Mlindo The Vocalist is shaking the music scene. Buhle Mbonambi spoke to the newcomer about fame, music and fans
MLINDO The Vocalist is struggling with fame. He’s struggling with sharing his private time with people and finds it difficult to strike a balance of when to take selfies with fans. Fame has led to him being injured three times while performing. And yet he wouldn’t change it for anything.
Not that anyone would blame him – his success is the stuff of dreams. It’s incredible to think that in December last year, Mlindo was busking at Durban’s uShaka Marine World, something he started doing in 2013. A year later, he’s one of the most prolific newcomers in the music industry.
We first heard him on Sun El Musician’s Bamthathile, before he released his first single, AmaBlesser, and the current hit, Macala, from his debut album, Emakhaya.
He was discovered on social media after he posted videos singing covers of famous songs, which he would strip down and make his own. That led to him being signed by Sony Music Entertainment.
“I’m surprised it took me going viral on social media before I got a record deal,” he told me this week.
“I had been sending demos and mix tapes to record labels for many years and I wouldn’t get an answer. It’s funny that the one thing I used daily for frivolous things became the platform that led to me being signed.”
He’s surely not the first to be discovered on the internet (Justin Bieber most famously), something that even Fox’s Empire is exploring this current season.
Macala is one of the songs he used to sing on social media before being signed. The song features his brother, Sfeesoh, rapper Kwesta and vocalist Thabsie. It’s now his biggest hit.
“I guess it’s because people want music that is timeless, something they can listen to many years down the line. I don’t conform to genres. I make good music, music with a message, a commentary on what’s happening in society, good and bad. It’s music that is authentic to me and my lived experiences. It’s music many people can relate to.”
It’s important for him to do that because he also wants his father, a staunch, traditional Zulu man and Shembe devotee, to not be alarmed when he hears his music on radio.
“My father is a no-nonsense kind of guy. He wasn’t and still isn’t afraid to discipline us, so at the back of my mind I have to think about how he would react to the music. And so far, so good.”
His next major performance is at the Capitec Live Better Music Festival, featuring some of the most-booked South African artists, at King’s Park Stadium in Durban on December 15 and 16.
The scars referred to earlier come from his performance style.
I wonder if he has a stage persona. “I actually do,” he laughs.
“I’m really shy and I basically come alive on stage. I’m happiest when I’m on stage.
“I wish I could always be that person. He’s fun.”