Ntokozo Mbambo. You hear that name, and the first thing that comes to mind is her vocal range when she does praise and worship.
And the second is the smile she seems to always have, no matter what's on her mind.
For those who might not be clear on who she is, Ntokozo was part of popular Joyous Celebration group and sang Esiphambanweni, My Blessing and In the Shadow of your Wings while with the ensemble.
Drum catches up with Ntokozo, who chats to us about parenting, new music and dealing with a devastating loss.
Ntokozo and her husband Nqubeko Mbatha have two daughters, aged 10 and 8, and she says parenting is one of her most fulfilling journeys in life.
“Oh, my word, parenting our girls is amazing,” she says.
“I mean for me, it is amazing to see how two people come from the same people, raised in the same household can be so different. Even how they respond to things is so different. One can be so calm while the other freaks out. Or how one of them loves animals and the other hates them.
“Ha, but it is so amazing to watch them grow and to be able to nurture them in a way that helps them become the best versions of themselves as possible.”
She says she is the fun parent, but quickly says she is also strict with her little ones.
“I’m fun but I am also strict when I have to be. Phela I don’t want to raise kids abazo hlupha umhlaba (that are going to give the world problems). Parenting has been and continues to be quiet a journey.”
She and Nqubeko do their best in making sure they raise well rounded individuals, she says.
“My husband and I are a great team. We work together as well so we have a great flow. Even in our parenting journey we always do out best and where I fall short, he takes control and vice versa. I grew up in a home where birthdays were a big deal and that helped with my self-esteem and when you become a teenage and start having doubts, it's great to have a home where you are loved unconditionally and celebrated. We do the same for our girls. We do not even work on our daughters’ birthdays so that we can be with them and just celebrate together as a family.”
Last year, she lost her mother and though she prefers to keep that part of her life private, she does share that the loss had quite the profound effect on her life.
“I think the loss has made me more aware of my girls. If anything is off, I am able to pick it up quickly because I have become more aware, even of their daily routines.”
The last time she released music was last year, The First Noel and but she was unable to do another live project like she wanted to because of Covid-19.
“The pandemic happened, and I suffered loss and things changed. But things are slowly moving, and I have even started writing again.
“I [had] stopped writing. I cannot pour from an empty vessel, so I had to refill. I had to take time out. Generally, I think as people we do not take care of ourselves as we should. Yet we want others to love and take care of us when we are not doing it ourselves.
“Self-care and self-love are very important and being able to do an introspection where I ask myself if I am taking care of Ntokozo the way she needs to be taken care of.”
With everything that has happened, she believes the message has changed from what she had planned to put out last year.
“My music is spirit lead. I am in tune with the spirit, I pray about it a lot that I do not just release music just for the sake of doing so, but I release God’s message to his people at the time that they need it. So, it has to be God speaking to his people through my music, not just something from the top of my head. I strongly believe that every step I take should come from the divine direction of God.”
Though she cannot give details on exact dates, she promises she'll be releasing some new music soon.
But she hasn't been idle. She was recently a guest judge on the popular singing competition, Idols and says it was lots of fun.
“It was not the first time that I was judge, I was a judge on I want to Sing Gospel many years ago, but this was completely different,” she laughs.
“I had so much fun. It was really an interesting experience. It was great to be able to reassure some of those who can sing, but they were not sure of their talent or capabilities because many people start out in the industry unsure.”
She lets us in on some things that fans don't know about her.
If she wasn’t into music, Ntokozo says she would be a psychologist.
And she is a great dancer, she says.
“Many people do not know that I am actually mean on the dance floor. Like I could give some people a run for their money, and I am not talking about church vibes kind of dancing,” she laughs.
“I love dancing with my girls and learning some of the dance moves that we see on TikTok and their dad just laughs at us.”