Somizi gets it right, somewhat

2011-09-16 09:44

Inspired by Lady Gaga’s flamboyant and overly over-the-top fashion sense, Somizi Mhlongo has a renewed confidence.

The renowned dancer/choreographer and actor sits on the judging panel of the SABC1 reality dance/weight loss show Dance Your Butt Off and has just released his latest album.

Unlike his previous attempts, it is clear that Mhlongo has finally found his voice and rhythm in the studio.

“This is what I’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t afford it. I also didn’t have a label that believed in what I wanted to achieve. I have invested money in it and it’s all about realising the dream.

“I’ve realised that I needed to stick within my range and sing low. I learned not to try to sound like a singer or like someone else. My voice is what I have and I have to use it properly and be honest.”

Not that it is flawless, but it is a big improvement from the other releases.

He could do with some vocal training. For instance, he could hold back on the vocal gymnastics on some songs and he could have better arrangements on others.

Bottom line is that this album is decent enough to play in public, thanks to the work of musical director and producer Nqubeko Mbatha.

Mhlongo’s musical theatre background is evident.

“I love sprucing and jazzing things up. That’s my nature,” he says as he explains the reworked covers of Brenda Fassie’s Zola Budd and Winnie Khumalo’s Live My Life. He believes that these mid-tempo cabaret-style songs will get him corporate gigs where he can perform with a live band.

The biggest gamble on the album is his cover of Busi Mhlongo’s hit, Intandane. The late singer is his aunt. “I loved that song from the first time I heard Urban Zulu. And I promised myself that one day I would record it.”

And now the song enjoys massive radio airplay and has got critics to notice Mhlongo for his singing abilities and not antics and gimmicks.

“I am the most fortunate living person in entertainment right now. I’ve lived and slept in the same room with Miriam Makeba, Brenda Fassie, Lebo Mathosa, Sibongile Khumalo, Sophie Mngcina and Abigail Kubheka. Doing their music is inspired by my personal interactions with them. It’s sentimental. Zola Budd is a tribute to a friend
and an icon.”

Mhlongo, the son of the late comedian Ndaba Mhlongo and veteran actress Mary Twala, was first on stage at six. Now 33 years later, he says he misses the good ol’ days.

“There is lots of money to be made now and it has taken the soul away from the industry. When I was six travelling with my parents, one could see that these people loved what they were doing, going from hall to hall and staying at people’s houses. There was glamour and there was love. Now all that is gone. It’s all about endorsements, making a buck and living large.”

The title of the album 9 Lives – My Genesis speaks to Mhlongo’s struggles over the years.

“I have been in situations that many would not survive. It has been life-threatening and draining – emotionally, physically and financially. I’ve had no cent left in my account, I contracted malaria in Burkina Faso, I’ve gone through a terrible break-up and the taxman was on my case. I have been given nine lives and I think I am left with three or four.”

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