When a new talent erupts on to the scene and is likened to Lebo Mathosa, it usually signifies the start of a career worth watching. If you haven’t heard Kamo Mphela’s music, you might think that is a blasphemous statement.
She can’t sing as well as Mathosa, but she is definitely turning the heat up in the amapiano lane. A few months ago, we profiled another amapiano sensation with a touch of pop – Tyla. As the genre grows, so too does the demand and those willing to service it.
Mphela (21), who some might know as Kamo Manje – a nickname she has since abandoned – first made a blip on the radar with her sharp dance moves that she showcased on social media.
“Manje was a nickname given to me and I wanted people to know me. I refer to myself by my actual name, which is Kamo Mphela,” she says matter-of-factly.
The video for her song Nkulunkulu, which is an absolute heater and is also the title of her second EP, has been viewed more than 1 million times on YouTube since it dropped last month. Her use of a prayer as a chorus is hard to ignore and although she may not have vocal prowess, she is still an easy listen. What of the bold comparisons to the legendary Mathosa?
The Durbanite responds calmly: “I feel like me being compared to Lebo Mathosa is somewhat a compliment. I do also feel like it kind of overshadows me and my potential to become what I am supposed to be.
“I want to be known as Kamo Mphela, but I am not complaining about the comparison as I see it as a big compliment to be likened to a legend like her.”
We appreciate her choosing to unveil her talents in a full body of work with her EP Nkulunkulu, as opposed to a single. Her debut EP was Twentee in 2019, a four-track offering that was lukewarm compared with the more aggressive-sounding Nkulunkulu.
“The reception of my music is so different to me, because it is the first time that I’ve actually put a body of work out independently. I feel the people are receiving my EP very well, especially the women who have always been my target market. People are really loving the vibe,” she says.
Look, we didn’t introduce the comparisons, the public did, and it should be noted that Mathosa had vocal capability of note and her dancing was crisp. Mphela’s dancing is irrefutable – you might need to go fetch Sho Madjozi or Babes Wodumo to check her. Even then, it really isn’t certain. Vocally, however, she is closer in range to the aforementioned artists.
Her SBWL collaboration with Busiswa Gqulu was probably one of the better combinations last year. A few people even thought Mphela gave the queen of gqom a run for her money. She’s also worked with Killer Kau and Nadia Nakai.
Her main tool of artistry – her dancing – has also seen her bag a deal with Spotify. Her choreography was performed across the globe in Lagos, Nigeria, the UK and the US – all with a little help from the beat provided by Focalistic’s Ke Star.
“Sometimes, it’s hard to balance the music and dancing, you know? What I try to do is that I make dance videos that translate my music. I’m always recording new music, and always creating new dance routines.
“That’s just how I balance, I try to make sure that every song I make has its own signature dance choreography; it balances the music and dance equation. I almost do it simultaneously.”
She says she was exposed to the media by her father, who worked at YFM radio station back when it was a pioneering institution.
“I was studying media practice at Boston Media House, which covers everything – from production in radio and TV to digital and print media.
“I studied it partly because I wanted to become an actress and I was really interested in studying acting as part of my academic pursuit. But as I started, I was not really enjoying it as much as I thought I would. I do love entertaining, hence my budding career in the entertainment industry.”
She is not planning on dropping an album just yet as she is growing her own sound.
“I still want to grow in my artistry before I release an album or a bigger project. I have some international features coming up in the next few weeks. Amapiano features. I can’t really reveal much because we don’t really plan but just vibe out together – you know, go with the vibes and then it becomes a hot song.”
Mphela has already toured Nigeria as that market has a taste for ’piano. She isn’t concerned about competition or sharing a lane: “I don’t feel like I am in any lane with anybody musically. I don’t feel like a brand, either. As a musician, I am neither competing with anyone, nor inspired by anyone – reason being ’piano is just ’piano.
“I’m trying to create my own sound – a version of amapiano. People have some dope music out there, but I’m really about creating a unique Kamo Mphela wave.”
. Nkulunkulu is available on all streaming platforms