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.