Sabelo Mthembu is a musically dynamic South African singer and songwriter whose passion for music can be traced back to his very early childhood. Like most artists, he started singing at the tender age of five in church and became an instant favourite. He holds a strong background of Classical music as both a singer and a writer having sung in the University of Johannesburg Choir for 6 years, conducting and directing an acapella music group called Quava and writing and arranging numerous choral pieces widely sung across choir competitions in southern Africa.
“I have this dream of one day writing a symphony”, Sabelo admits. “Most of what I know about music is self-taught. I remember in my late teens spending hours after classes in the Johannesburg Music Library flipping through music theory books trying to figure out how things work. Music always fascinated and still fascinates me.” Growing up he discovered a variety of sounds, ranging from vocal jazz to world music, which can easily be traced in his music style. A self trained jazz singer, his music oozes high standards of excellence with strong traces of Afro-jazz, soul, classic and world music. ‘I’m influenced by great musicians from all over the world. I make an effort to open myself up to different styles from across the world, from Senegal to Israel, from Cuba to America, from England to South Africa. This is the only way I can realize my full musical potential and stretch my capabilities’, says Sabelo.
In 2007, after being voted one of the top 12 contestants on South African Idols, he managed to get good reviews from a variety of radio dis across the country. It was at this point that he decided to pursue a solo music career. He has since worked and performed on various stages with various artists such as Zamajobe, Louise Carver, The Muffinz, to mention but a few. “Establishing a career in music is probably the hardest thing to do. Unlike other careers, there are no (or very little) adverts in the classified section where you send your CV and get a call for an interview. You need to use all the networks you have”, says Sabelo. In June 2010 he was invited to perform on the opening night of the launch of the SONY 3D make.believe television technology for the 2010 FIFA world cup, with guests including general secretary of FIFA, Jerome Valcke, Shakira, Lucas Radebe, and many SONY executives from across the world.
He performs regularly with his band at weddings, private corporate functions and clubs and restaurants. He performs with a culturally and musically diverse band, allowing him the ability to create music that is uniquely South African and internationally appealing. His ability to capture and interact with his audience through his ferocious energy sets him apart as a world class performer yet to be discovered. One of his fans described him on his facebook page as a singer with a clean voice that effortlessly exudes utmost quality and a pleasurable musician to listen to. With much laud from such adoring fans, it became apparent that he produce a music offering that encapsulates musical memories his fans can keep cherish forever.
Songs of Brotherhood is Sabelo Mthembu’s debut album project. This project is a culmination of seven years of planning, hard work and music experience accumulation under his own music company, Sabelo Mthembu Music. The recording of the project started in August 2011 and was only completed a year later. It was produced and recorded at Figure of 8 Productions by Ryno Zeelie, a guitarist and founding member of the Graeme Watkins Project. The sound of the music in the album is leaning towards a jazz/afro-soul/classical/pop influence and cross-over, thus making it locally relevant and internationally appealing. What makes the album special is that it is sung mostly in isiZulu, making it a truly South African offering.
“The inspiration behind the title of the album is the role that men, of all ages and races, play in society. Men, due to multiple societal pressures, find it difficult to find their place in a complex and demanding society. Men are also afraid to reveal the emotional being within them, lest they be labeled by society as weak and inferior”, says Sabelo. “It is not to say though that the album is for men, but is written in honour of men. Anyone can enjoy it thoroughly. My wish is that through this album we can learn to love and accept one another without any reservation and conditions”.
Since its launch in February 2013, Songs of Brotherhood has received great reviews and exposure from the media. Sabelo has performed, appeared and been play listed on radio stations such as Kasie fm, Thetha fm, Ukhozi fm, Kaya fm, Radio Today and television programs such as Morning Live and Weekend Live on SABC2, Sunrise and Craze on eTV. His music video for the first single, Ofana Nawe, has been aired several times on Soweto TV and Bay TV. On the 29th of July 2013 he performed at Yfm’s LiveNReYired live session which was broadcast live to over 2 million listeners across the province of Gauteng, South Africa.
He has also been featured in an article in the Sunday Sun, much to the delight of many of his loyal fans. A Kasi Times online article described Sabelo as “the next big thang to hit the music world”, while Destiny Magazine credited him for writing “music that is able to touch the soul”. With effort and sheer dedication and with no distribution and marketing support from a major record label, the album sold in excess of a 1000 units after the first year of sale. This is testimony to the growing demand and appreciation of his music. In October 2013, he was invited to be one of the performing acts in the M.A.D festival in Ooty, India, and was the only act to represent the whole of Africa. He has since focused his efforts on getting much of his music to the rest of the world.
An Evening With…, which takes place every last Saturday of the month, is an exclusive series of one night only performances with South Africa’s most talented vocalists. In this one time only performance, vocalists, accompanied by their bands perform two 40 minute sets with a 20 minute interval.