SAMTHING Soweto kept his word, by sharing his side of the story about no longer being part of acapella group The Soil and how that affected him and his family. “…It was tough. I chilled by myself ekhaya, endlini and I watched it all happen from my TV screen. My Mom will testify, we switched off the TV whenever The Soil came on.”
With deliciously warm lighting on him and the band at the Joburg Theatre’s Lesedi stage, Samkelo was an arm’s length away from his eager audience, creating an intimate setting. At times it felt like being at the Orbit, without the dining.
Like the future of Eskom, Sam’s set on the night at was divided into three sections. He first performed with his band at the centre of the stage, then moved to the corner of the platform where he dedicated his time to talk about The Soil and belted some songs in acapella and for the last section he went back to his chair on the middle of the stage to re-join the band, performing his upbeat tracks backed up by CD jays.
Rocking a Maxhosa cardigan,Sam began his narrative where it all began, at Tetelo Secondary School’s assembly where he heard the choir sing Ndikhokhele Bawo. “So, that’s how I met The Soil. The song was led by uBuhle and I was like ‘yoh, I need to sing with these people.’ Because I had this idea, that we should be this group that sings songs, songs that we can afford to sing. And I say afford, because everything out there was programmed or played with instruments and we couldn’t afford that, so I was like let’s use our voices.”
Samthing sang Ndikhokhele Bawo on Friday night with the audience joining him and for about five minutes, the theatre turned into a church service with most of the room on its feet singing the solemn song.
But two years prior to meeting with The Soil members, Samkelo Mdolomba had been arrested. “…What’s funny is that we were robbing people at a cemetery, e Avalon. It was a scary thing.” He got a suspended sentence, which meant not going to prison.
The reason he thought acapella would work, was because during his detention in Krugersdorp, he and his inmates sang often. “I found out that you could add creativity to acapella. That’s how I learnt that you can take a Kwaito song and sing it using Gumba Fire (prison style of singing) and something else comes out.”
An air of nostalgia swept through the room when he sang The Soil’s Joy, exactly how they sang it as a group-impersonating his former group members. “I think we did that for about six years, unsinged and undiscovered but everyone knew us.”
It’s during this period that the group met Native Rhythms boss, Sipho Sithole who was very keen on signing The Soil to his label. “To be honest that’s where the trouble started,” Sam told his audience.
So while The Soil was on the verge of reaping the rewards of their six year toil, Sam was simultaneously teaching himself how to produce which resulted in his solo project This N That Without Tempo and he was also making music with another clique, The Fridge. “So he (Sithole) set up a meeting and sat us down. He said these songs sound the same. He was talking about the Samthing Soweto stuff, but I think he was mistaking it for The Fridge. He said the Fridge sounds similar to The Soil…and we didn’t agree. Then of course I left, and no one had the guts to say exactly why I left, on both parties.”
Silence on the matter gave rise to rife speculation on why he was no longer part of the group. Stories ranging from him being somewhat of a rebel, to being unpaid for his work and even being dubbed a trouble kid with a drug problem. “For your information, I wasn’t doing drugs at the time-I was actually a vegetarian, I didn’t even drink cold drink. I did stuff before in my younger years. The herb and even harder stuff like madrax, but never when I was with The Soil or doing music, it was way before.”
“I need you guys to know, I never fought with the guys, it was never like that. It was really odd to me also, I’m hoping one day I’ll have a show and I’ll have them here and they can say exactly what happened from their side. We had the meeting kwa Bab’Sipho Sithole, and then tomorrow we’re not talking, I didn’t understand why.”
Sam was comfortable to talk about this now, because he and The Soil members recently started talking. “I was talking to Ntsika and he said sorry. He said ‘now I understand what you were trying to do all those years ago.”
Speaking to Tha Bravado after the show Sam’s younger brother, Musawenkosi Mdolomba said “Seeing him now, after everything [he’s gone through] I’m still in shock that he is where he is because usually, when things go badly for most people, it’s hard to recover and be as big as he is now.”
Sam’s two hours on stage were emotive and quite personal. The structure of the show was indicative of his musical astuteness and his versatility as an artist.
It’s fitting that he addressed the elephant in the room, before releasing his debut album in a few months, so no one brings up his past with The Soil again.
“It’s hard for me to look at things [problems] and then have a simple answer for it. ‘These people hate these other people because of colour or this or that’-nah, it’s often really complex and people don’t wana hear that ’cause that takes thinking,” says Samthing Soweto.
“…Constantly, I find that in politics and a lot of things in life, that we want quick answers. It’s like ‘why do I suffer, I suffer because I don’t pray to God ka khulu if I prayed five times a day, six times a day, maybe things will be better'”
Referring to a Plato quote on democracy, Sam explains how most people want instant and simple solutions to their trials without necessarily understanding the process and order of things in life. No one is better positioned to talk about patience and process like Sam, who for a long time, carried the insipid tag of being a ‘former The Soil group member’ this is while the acapella trio sold-out shows, won awards and toured the world singing songs he wrote.
I have an interview with Samthing Soweto on the upper level at the Joburg Theatre; the red carpeted floor would have you thinking we’re inside a casino, but our conversations aren’t a gamble. The chat is the most earnest I’ve had with the artist, ranging from African history, audiobooks, and content creation to religion. This while rain gently comes down outside, all over Johannesburg. For two nights this weekend, Samthing Soweto will be performing at the Joburg Theatre for his Samthing Soweto Tribute.
In the last 24-36 months he’s detach himself from that aforementioned tag, rebuilding his brand and introducing himself to the greater South African public.
“They call me the feature guy now,” says the vocalist on Akanamali, bursting into laughter. “It’s nice man, it’s like a drug. There are very few things in life that you could do, to make people happy just to see you. Like literally you showing up, makes someone’s day. I only started understanding this recently to be honest. It’s a privilege at most, and it’s not something to be taken lightly. It’s fleeting- today that could be the case, but tomorrow I know that it might not be. Because now it is, I’m just happy to live through it-do I wana prolong it? Of course, it’s nice.”
The small contingent fans of the man’s music, long thought of him as a great artist, but the Sowetan has newfound fame and fans, who have faces of bewilderment when seeing him in a queue at a retailer or at the ATM. “People lose their minds and ask ‘why am I in line’. I guess ’cause people think nice song means money, but I’d ask the same people nami, how many of them actually bought the song? I’m not mad about that, I’m really happy.”
“…I truly believe music should be free, because like, everything else is money. I think having a song should be like a bonus to life. Like uvuke one day, if every artist drops music you can get it for free and then you pay to go see them perform or whatever.”
Samthing remains an independent artist, but signed a distribution deal with Platoon. “They are a distribution company and their core business is also artist development.”
The last three to four years haven’t only seen Samkelo Mdolomba become a celebrity, but the artist has also become accessible to his fans, whether through his One at One shows on Facebook or through the media where he’d detail his multifaceted past in interviews. His vulnerability indicates his growth. “I just know what it feels like not to have fans, like have fans that are fans of your music but not know who you are, I just know that….and because I come from that, The Soil. People knew my songs, they didn’t know I was the one singing there. Even the video ye Baninzi, abo Ntsika are literally singing like they’re me on that thing, and they had to do that because I wasn’t there and I respect them for that.”
He’s cool with his former crew, but says he’ll talk more broadly about his time with The Soil this weekend at the Samthing Soweto Tribute. “I think I’ll be talking about everything, I’ll talk about The Soil-because no one knows really. I have to talk, I’m tired of holding it in, and people need to know. And now that we’re fine with the guys and everybody, I think it’s time to speak now.”
His album is nearly done and should be out in the middle of the year. Late last year he released two singles, Telefone and iFridge which are lyrically Samthing Sowetoesque, but are sonically upbeat, something his new fans have gotten use to thanks to the collaborations he’s done with House producers. “It was a direction I wanted to take last year, but I’ll be honest this year I’ve taken another direction. I recently started working with DJ Maphorisa. We’re working on really dope songs, I can’t wait for everybody to hear them.”
“…He’s [Maphorisa] an amazing producer. He has an amazing team that does amazing work. He has this ear you know…he hears music in a different way and he’s very conscious of what use to work k’dala. He’s the type of producer who’ll say ‘ku mele siyenze ingoma efana na le’ he’s very nostalgic based and that’s where he wins ka khulu,” says Samthing.
WHAT started out as a simple live performance sessions on the internet just over a year ago, has now become a staple on South African television. Last night saw the television debut of JR’s Feel Good Live Sessions on MTV Base.
Feel Live Good Sessions is a live performance platform founded by artist JR. The first episode was released last year in April, with JR himself as the first performer on the stage. He started the sessions to create a bridge between the studio and the stage.
Busiswa was the featured artist on the TV debut last night. The Fell Good Live Sessions have broadcast over 20 artists on their YouTube channel, including Reason, Samthing Soweto, Shekhinah and A-Reece among the long list of performers.
JR received a lot of love from industry persons on the big move. “Congrats Papito,” said Refiloe Ramogase, who is the GM and Director at Sony Music Entertainment. Even narcissistic beast AKA showed JR love in a Tweet saying “Congratulation @JRafrika on the debut of #FeelGoodLiveSessions on TV…I know you and your team work extremely hard to make this a reality. Proud of you bro.”
While some people thought the move could’ve been better at the public broadcaster. “I have a feeling #FeelGoodLiveSessions was gonna do well on @SABC_2,”said one Cyegolicious. Poor girl probably just wants Afro Café canned.
The show will be broadcast every Thursday evening on MTV Base.
AFRO Punk released the line-up for this year instalment of the festival, to a mixed reaction from South Africans who have a couple of names they also would like to add to the bill.
The three day festival returns after it made its debut on the mother land last year in Joburg. This year’s AP will be headlined by The Internet, Flying Lotus, Kaytranada, Thandiswa Mazwai, Thundercat and iconic rap clique Public Enemy. More artists will be announced as we get closer to the festival.
“The Internet, Kaytranada and Thundercat is reason enough for me to go…but my expectations were very high,” said Psykaytic Ròes on Facebook. While Thabang Magodielo said she was expecting singing sensation H.E.R, Solange, SZA and Tom Misch, but was happy with some of the artists on the line-up.
Last year’s AP took a huge knock, when headline act Solange said she wouldn’t make it to South Africa for the festival due to health reasons. AP organisers together with Solange then promised to have the Don’t Touch My Hair singer for this year’s instalment. But dololo Solange.
Moonchild, who has taken the country by storm is also on the line-up. Her name though, brought confusion for some people as they thought it was the international group, not our very own modern Brenda Fassie. There was an air of disappointment from some people that it’s not the Los Angeles trio on the line-up. “Moonchild Sanelly? Andizi Jonga, Andizi,”said Lesia Obiwan-Kenobi Kalane.
The inclusion of Public Enemy left me a tad puzzled. Although the group last released an album in 2017 (Nothing Is Quick in the Desert), I’m a bit sceptical about the old guys pulling a strong performance.
I was expecting to see names of Zoë Modiga, Samthing Soweto and at least Ikati Esengxoweni on this year’s line-up. While The Brother Moves On’s performance last year was one of the stand-outs, having them back wouldn’t have ruined anything.
Other names that excited people were Youngsta CPT, Soweto band BCUC and the younger Mazwai sister, Nomisupasta who was the host at the final of Battle of the Bands final, in Tembisa last year.
People had been eagerly waiting for this line-up to come out, that early bird tickets were sold out instantly after AP made the announcement.
Unlike other brands that come to the country to make a quick buck, AP made a commitment to be in the city for at least five years, so this is just the second episode of AP Joburg and this one promises to be a step-up from last year’s. Hopefully there won’t be any last minute cancellations from the artist’ part, the people would infuriated.
Being the last day of the historic youth month, throngs of young people gathered at the Constitutional Hill to enjoy some of the country’s finest artists, express themselves at the three day festival which kicked-off on Thurday.
Saturday was the much anticipated music concert that featured what you could say are different eras of South African youth. From the likes of Skwatta Kamp, Samthing Soweto,BCUC, Sho Madjozi the BLK JKS, Moonchild and Muzi.
The latter was playing his last gig in the country, before heading out to Europe for his month long tour. While he was playing Basha for the first time, Muzi gave the buoyant crowd reason to dance on Saturday night with a set that included a remix of Margret Singana’s We Are Growing (Shaka Zulu theme song) to Ye’s All Mine and some.
“It’s dope…getting people that really vibe with the music. But that’s the thing about umculo dawg, the shit is universal. You can connect with everyone if you do it proper,” said Muzi. The producer from Empangeni was irritated though, by someone who he says interfered with his set. “There’s a guy that kept tapping my shoulder, telling me about time and that I have to finish up. Which I really didn’t like,” said the producer.
“I like enjoying my music. So I’m not the stay behind decks, and look cool typa guy. Sometimes I leave it, I just press play because I’ve mixed it proper, and vibe with the crowd.” He did that by grabbing the mic in the first half of his act, to perform one of his songs.
His European tour will see him play at Northstar in Scotland, Beatherder Festival in England and Base in Milan, Italy among others throughout July and returns just in time for Oppikoppi in August.
He doesn’t prepare different for an overseas audience, juxtaposed to the audience here at home. “…Even us as black people, we’re still kinda indoctrinated so we still have to relearn our culture. When I play a song uZenzile for instance, which I couldn’t play here, I get the same reaction from everyone. Nathi as abantu abamnyama, we’ve sort of assimilated to whiteness and that’s what we think success is. It has to be honest music…it can’t be sugar coated to suit a certain crowd.”
Madjozi’s performance which was just before Muzi’s was enjoyable, whilst Skwatta Kamp’s energy on stage was impressive for men who no longer perform week in week out. Bar the fact that singer Relo, looked a tad uncomfortable throughout their performance. A young looking Pro (Kid) performed some of his new songs, but the crowd were eating off the palm of his and when he played classics such as Wozobona.
The BLK JKS’ performance was also a big crowd puller. They had the crowd singing ‘aweyawo’ when they performed Molalatladi while everyone was charged up by Mzabalazo. The festival lived up to its theme, Join the Movement, which each performer did in their respective style. A scantily dressed Moonchild gave a great performance, as though channelling her inner Brenda Fassie. Black Motion’s stage presence and showmanship is right up there with some of the country’s best.
It was embarrassing though, when the night’s MC butchered DJ Akio’s name before his set began- the crowd kept screaming the DJ’s actual name to correct the blunder. It’s always a good sight seeing an artist who isn’t on the line-up, attending an event just to have fun. I spotted Kelly Khumalo, Petite Noir and Lunga Shabalala among others in the crowd, having jump at the festival.
I was impressed by the security presence at the event, not only that but how they never imposed themselves on the patrons. I never saw one being manhandled for rolling a joint unless, they were staring trouble. I was a victim of pick-pocketing on the night, after my cell phone was mysteriously stolen, but was fortunately able to recover it with the help of a security guard and crowd members who were ironically victims of the dude with a number of phones in his pocket. He was taken-in by the security.