All eyes on Unathi

2011-01-22 16:10

New Idols judge Unathi Msengana has her work cut out for her. She must prove that she is a worthy ­replacement for the controversial Mara Louw, who was axed from ­M-Net’s top show this week.

Despite being endorsed by ­fellow judge and 5FM jock Gareth Cliff, questions about Msengana’s singing abilities have been raised.

Said celebrity blogger and TV personality Lelo Boyana: “She’s an interesting choice. A friend of mine sent me a text message after ­hearing the news, saying: ‘I respect idlozi lika Unathi (I respect Unathi’s ancestors).

She can’t sing, but gets paid for it, she’s not a great DJ, but gets paid for it, and now Idols?’

“Some people have questioned her singing skills, asking how she would have the guts to tell people they can’t sing if she herself can’t,” said Boyana.

Tashi Tagg, editor of, said Msengana had much to prove. “She hasn’t got decades of ­experience behind her as a singer, so she’s going to have to prove that she can spot and nurture raw talent when she hears it.”

Msengana, however, is confident of her abilities.

“I have an understanding of both sides of the spectrum due to the fact that I make music and sell ­music through the career I have crafted for myself.

“I have an understanding of the anxiety one feels in preparation for a performance.

I think this will help me in understanding our ­contestants and empathise with them as this can be an immensely stressful platform to perform on.”

Cliff agrees. “I know Unathi and like her very much. She will add credibility, energy and sexiness, but we must give her some time to settle in.”

Louw’s last season on Idols was controversial for a number of ­reasons:

» She admitted to appearing on the show after taking an energy drink with vodka, and strong pain medication;

» She wore fake Louis Vuitton on air;

» She came under fire when she told a newspaper that the Idols franchise should be sold to the SABC; and

» She caused a storm after ­comments on the tendency of South Africans to vote for contestants along racial lines.

But M-Net said this week the ­decision to dump her was not the result of public pressure alone.

“There were requests from the public to replace Mara, but at the same time, it was evident that ­Mara had a loyal following.

M-Net always takes the public’s opinion to heart, but the decision not to ­include Mara in Idols Season 7 was not based solely on pressure from the viewing public,” said spokesperson Lani Lombard.

Lombard said such changes were needed to keep the show fresh.

“The three judges from last season have been on the show since Season 2 and we felt that it was time to bring more judges onto the show to mix up the dynamic ­between the judges, and the judges and contestants.

“The panel forms an important part of the show and we were ­concerned that the show could ­become stale and predictable.”

» According to audience ratings ­released this week, American Idol’s viewership dropped by 13% to 29.9 million following changes to the judging panel.

» Last year’s local season of Idols was the most watched programme on M-Net, peaking at 350?000 viewers, according to

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