ASPIRING maskandi artist Sphiwe “Mantolwane” Chonco, who has a voice that echoes a unique combination of traditional music and afro-soul, has been hailed as one of the most current music gems in the music industry. In 2007, Chonco joined a recording company called Thambisa nabameli before he joined the Mantolwane music group last year. Chonco said his latest music is splashed with flavours of indigenous music and makes his fans feel energised and like dancing around the room without a care in the world. Growing up in the rural village of Mahlaba in Msinga, outside Greytown, motivated him to raise high a flag of his village in the music industry. Chonco released his first single last year, called Imali Yami, which is currently being played by radio stations. The 29-year old said his aim is to open his own recording company in the years to come. “It’s funny how some of us end up in careers we never really expected. My love for music began when I was still at Gangeyane Primary. I completed my matric at Esethu High in Msinga. I grew up at Mahlaba village in Msinga under the chieftaincy of Majozi,” he said.With roots in the hilly countryside of Msinga, some of Chonco’s fondest musical memories were influenced by records and tapes of senior artists. “My parents played a crucial role in my life. I am also pleased that the community has been supporting me all the way,” Chonco said. A great deal of his inspiration comes from musical influences like Maskandi artists Vezuthando and Mantaliyane. Speaking on his musical journey so far, Chonco said: “Since I was working on my album last year, I came across many challenges and I ended up releasing a single CD last year. Three years to come, I see myself owning a recording company.” Chonco believes that the music industry requires courage, self-worth, but also the will to strive to be great in life.“To the youth out there who are willing to follow on my footsteps, they first need to have the required skills to become successful artists in the industry. “Choosing a career must be something that comes in your heart, and you must be passionate about it,” he said.Chonco said he wants his music to be an inspiration to the youth of his rural community.