South Africa is richly blessed with a variety of music and women are playing a major role to sustain the legacy that has been left by the previous generation. And one female artist who vowed to represent women in music for better or worse, in sickness and in health, is the phenomenal and ambitious Thiwe Mbola – whose polished and amazing voice earned her a recording deal with the country’s well-established record labels such as 999 Music, Soulistic Music, and currently with Sony Music/Sound African Recordings.
The Free State-born singer, 29, caught up with The Voice of SA (Tvosa) Nthabeleng Puling to speak about the new single Sikwanele, her ten years music career, and the upcoming album which is set to be released early next year.
New Single: Sikwanele
What is the new single all about?
THIWE: Sekwanele is about a woman in a relationship with a man that society is not good enough for her and she is reassuring him that none of that matters because he makes her happy.
Who produced the song?
THIWE: The song is co-produced by Mondli Ngcobo and Demor Sikhosana. Mondli is also the brilliant songwriter behind these beautiful lyrics.
Is this your first project with Sony Music?
THIWE: Yes, this is my first project with Sound African Recordings family, which is a division of Sony Music. So far so good and I look forward to the journey ahead.
How long was the process of recording Sikwanele?
THIWE: It took a day for pre-production, down in Durban with Mondli Ngcobo. Demor was then requested to re-work the music and that is the result of what everyone has been listening to and enjoying for the past month.
Are you satisfied with the response?
THIWE: I am overwhelmed with the response, it’s not what I expected at all.
What is it that you did with this song that you haven’t done before?
THIWE: I didn’t write the song (lol). So maybe going forward, I should let other people write for me. I also sang in vernac for the very first time since I started recording house music and the public is very happy to hear me sounding all soulful in Zulu. Gosh, vernac sounds so romantic! What do you think?
(LOL) I agree! You are working on your second album due for release in early 2015, who are you working with and what can we expect from it?
THIWE: I’m working with Demor Sikhosana on production and he seems to understand me as a vocalist and as an individual. So I trust that it’s going to be smooth sailing in the studio. I’ve requested one of my favorite songwriters locally and I can’t wait for us to get into the studio.
What makes Sekwanele stands out from the current big hits?
THIWE: Honestly, I’d like to believe that we’ve gone back to where the vocals are not overshadowed by the production. We’ve gone back to creating something more musical on a house beat… simple but musical.
Where can people buy Sikwanele?
THIWE: It’s currently available on iTunes, though we’re looking at other avenues to ensure easy accessibility to all.
Part Two: Music Career
How was the competition when you first joined the music industry 10 years ago compared to the competition right now?
THIWE: Competition has not really changed. It’s just that the younger ones have come to the front and they’re running things. The young ones are open to suggestions and therefore able to move with the times. They’re not forcing their “creativity” on the general public, instead they’re meeting them halfway.
Is your family musical?
THIWE: My family is very musical. My parents were both in the church choir and I traveled with them to competitions. My cousin Press who played a big part in my being in the industry is one of the most talented producers/songwriters/singer. My baby sis may not be in the industry but she is a better singer than I was when I was her age.
What are the highs and lows of being in the music industry?
THIWE: The lows: until you really make it, you struggle unless you find something else to get an income. The highs: getting long, positive messages from strangers who tell me what impact my music has had on them.
Which local and international musicians do you look up to?
THIWE: Locally, Zonke is that woman right now who has taken charge of her career and is steering it in a direction that one can clearly see that is her vision. Her songwriting is incredible. Internationally, there’s too many to mention.
What inspires your writing or what is your favourite subject to write and sing about?
THIWE: I write about my life. I write what I feel at that very moment. I write what I can relate to. I write from the heart. Love, I write about love in all forms. Self-love is the one topic I want to preach about going forward.
Your song Crazy is still one of the biggest songs to have come out of South Africa, what memories do you have for that song? And how was it like working with prominent producer Black Coffee, who also signed you to be part of his record label – Soulistic Music?
THIWE: Crazy was a song written for me by my cousin Presss for my debut album, released by 999 Music back in 2007. When Nathi ( Black Coffee) decided to remix it, I was not excited at first because house music was my least favourite genre but I knew his name would work wonders for my career.
The more time I spent with him and the Soulistic Music team, the more I realized that house music was more than what I was hearing on radio at the time which was terrible music accompanied by even more terrible lyrics. Soulistic Music made me fall in love with house music and now I’m that girl that goes crazy about the simple elements on a house beat.
Apart from the artists you have worked with, which other musicians would you like to collaborate with in future?
I’d love to work with Joao from Micasa, he’s an incredible songwriter and performer. I would love to work with my bubu bear (Bucie) who has been running things when it comes to vocal house. I would love to work with Zonke who is one of the best songwriters of our time.
What would make Thiwe quit music altogether?
THIWE: Nothing! Absolutely nothing! I have seen it all, I have been through it all and I haven’t quit in the last ten years so hey, clearly nothing will stand between me and my craft.