Actor and musician Mlungisi Mathe on his big dreams

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Mlungisi Mathe is an all rounder and this year he wants to show more of his musical side.
Mlungisi Mathe is an all rounder and this year he wants to show more of his musical side.

When he's acting or performing Afro pop music, he uses his real name Mlungisi Mathe. But when he delves into Maskandi music, his alter ego Skandi Kid comes to play. 

He's a man of many talents and is using them all. Mlungisi (30) recently released a single, Nelly, featuring Aubrey Qwana.

Many might be familiar with him through his role of Themba on the drama series eHostela, which explores the mysteries and dangerous world of inkabi (paid assassins).

“Skandi Kid is still around. He is my Maskandi alter ego. But for the kind of music I am making right now, I choose to use my real name. It’s almost like Beyoncé and Sasha Fierce,” Mlungisi laughs.

His new single Nelly is a combination of trap music, soul, and traditional Maskandi.

“It’s really hard to describe the sound but it is new school traditional music. A very similar sound to what Sjava is doing.”

Many people describe Mlungisi as the Maskandi love doctor, and he is owning the title.

“I’m a hopeless romantic. I love singing about love and making love songs. I’m an affectionate guy,” he says.

“When I wrote the song, Nelly, two years ago, it was initially meant for Kwesta, but he lost the file during a dispute in his record label and I decided to release it with Aubrey Qwana.”

Next year, Mlungisi plans to release an EP featuring Kwesta and Aubrey. 

“I don’t want to feature too many people because I want listeners to get the essence of who I am without the distraction of a feature.”

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The last television production he worked on was the gripping Brack Brain Pictures show eHostela. Before that, he played NK on SABC 1 soapie Skeem Sam. But his entry into the acting world was through Mzansi Magic Lokshin Bioscope films.

“Skeen Saam was my big break. But I started acting on small productions; USdudla, where I Introduced myself as an actor. I also did Thata Ama Million and Izikhothane where I acted alongside Sjava,” Mlungisi says.

Last year he featured on Intethelelo, a short film on Mzansi Magic by producer Sayitsheni Mdakhi. But if he has to choose between music and acting, it would be hard. Mlungisi tells us he loves both, equally.

“I’m a creative and can’t be boxed. I started as a dancer at school and I can act and sing because I am versatile. I then became known for acting, and music followed only later.”

Mlungisi says it’s easier to make music than it is to find an acting gig through auditions.

“Acting is a lot more complicated, where you have to audition for someone. And if they don’t like you or if they feel you are not good enough then you don’t work. We all know there are very many gatekeepers in the acting space, but with music, I get to create what I like and release in my own time without being told I’m good or bad,” he says.

“There was a point I stopped auditioning entirely because I felt attending hundreds of auditions and never being cast was discouraging. Sometimes people want a favour for a favour despite you being talented and deserving.” 

But he doesn’t want to get into politics and is focusing on being a great musician and actor.

Mlungisi studied Performance at The Market Theatre Laboratory headed by Dr. John Kani. “I did drama, movement, and writing for two years and completed in 2015. I was then handpicked while on my final years for Skeem Saam,” he says.

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Born in Katklehong, Gauteng, Mlungisi spent some years in Nquthu in KwaZulu Natal with his grandmother and returned to Joburg when he was in high school.

“I was a very shy kid growing up. I always did things on my own. I was a late bloomer and scared of girls. They thought I was cute, but I couldn’t do anything about it because I was too shy,” he says.

The fourth child out five, he grew up in a house full of cousins and relatives who loved to sing. 

“But no one took music or acting professionally. I used to listen and mimic them when they go for choir practice. I attended choir rehearsals with my siblings, but I was never on the frontline. Nquthu is also full of Maskandi artists.”

It was later in life that he decided to try acting professionally.

“I am still shy, but I had to learn to get out of my comfort zone.”

In his teens, he was in a dance and music group with late child star Akhumzi Jezile.

“I have always been good at dancing, and it helped me to stop being shy. But I didn’t know I was talented until later.”

He listens to Maskandi artists Sandile Mbongwa, Busi Mhlongo and loves African Jazz. Mlungisi doesn’t want to stay long as a performer but wants to go behind the scenes as a record label owner and groom talent.

“I want to create opportunities for future artists. I want to be an acting coach and work behind the scenes on my productions."

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