Durban – The moments when Mthetheleli Gxoyiya does not sing are few and far between.
The 28-year-old petrol attendant sings when he is walking, sitting in the taxi, or while cleaning the windscreens of cars. He has captured the hearts of thousands of motorists who stop at the Total petrol station in Cradock, in the Eastern Cape.
"There is something inside of me that says keep singing, sing louder," Gxoyiya says.
The father of one has touched the hearts of many since a video of him singing opera in his red uniform was posted on the internet. A motorist filmed him.
"I sing for our customers when I pump air into their tyres, when I fill up their petrol tanks, fill water into their engines and when I wash their windscreens. I think they enjoy it. They tip me R5 for the service and an extra R20 for the singing."
Gxoyiya, whose dream is to become a professional opera singer, was born in Cradock in 1988.
When he was in Grade 8, his cousin, Lonwabo, realised Gxoyiya could sing.
"He was the conductor of the choir at our church, the Apostolic Church. We were rehearsing for a church social gathering and he asked me to sing a solo in all the tenor pieces in the song.
"Later I started singing gospel with my brother and Lonwabo told me that I did not belong there, I belonged in choral and opera."
Gxoyiya said he listened to his cousin and started focusing on music.
In 2006, Gxoyiya went back to Cradock and did his Grade 10 at JA Calata High School.
"A teacher recognised that I could sing and in 2007 I was made to sing an opera composition of Mozart's Magic Flute."
He realised then that he was talented and never stopped singing.
While he showed promise in music, Gxoyiya failed his Grade 10 and 12 years.
"I was good at mathematics, but unfortunately my other subjects let me down."
After failing matric, Gxoyiya sat at home until 2012, when he tried to get a degree in electrical engineering in Queenstown. He had to abandon his studies because he needed to provide financial support to his then 1-year-old daughter.
"I went back home and found a job as a petrol attendant at the Shell garage where my father was working, but I was not permanent. In October 2013, the same day that I got my learner's licence, I received a phone call that they needed a petrol attendant at the Total garage."
He has worked there ever since.
Giving back to community
"I can't complain; everything is fine. The long hours are exhausting. I work 07:00 to 19:00 shifts."
His weekly salary depends on how many days he works. He takes home R1300 for working five days.
Gxoyiya's dream is to become a professional opera singer and give back to his community.
"I want to teach children in my community about opera, because in the rural areas and locations they only know about kwaito, hip hop and house music. They forget about classical music."
In his free time, Gxoyiya helps primary schools prepare for choral competitions.
So does he ever stop singing?
"It's rare," he says.
Favourite with motorists
"I sing most of the time. The day does not end without me singing. Sometimes I sing when I wake up and before I go to sleep. I find it therapeutic, it soothes my soul. I sing when I am happy and when I am sad."
His boss and the owner of the Total petrol station, Altus Theron, says Gxoyiya is a wonderful, highly-talented individual.
He was overwhelmed when he first heard Gxoyiya sing three years ago.
"Other petrol attendants join in, but they are not as good as him."
Theron hopes someone in the music industry will offer him a recording deal.
“Motorists love him. Some of our customers stop at the garage and ask to record him. They ask for him even when he is not at work, but unfortunately he cannot work seven days a week."