On the 25th February 2017, there is a show you must see, called “An Evening with Samthing Soweto” at the Soweto Theatre in Jabulani, at which an album launch will be held. Samkelo Mdolomba (Sam in the title) so personifies the Samthing Soweto ensemble, getting him to tell me his real name during our interview took all of five minutes. We discussed among other things how, following a 4-year musical hiatus after parting ways with the “Soil” - the highly successful a Capella group he helped found whilst still in high school, and after a deep search - he finally found his authentic voice, and called it Samthing Soweto.
Our interview took place at the Plat4form experimental arts project’s premises in Newtown, on the evening of 31st January 2017 at a Media Launch for the upcoming “Evening with Samthing Soweto”. Fresh-faced, relaxed, highly intelligent and articulate, the interview with Samkelo/Sam soon became a pleasant exchange between old friends. He told me how the Soil started singing a Capella for fun in high school in Soweto, getting invited to perform at functions though not running it as a business till much later.
Soil then graduated to playing formal clubs like Sophiatown, Bassline, House of Ntsako etc before being offered a recording deal by Sipho Sithole. The rest of the group accepted but he did not because he did not understand the business of it, leading to a parting of ways with his friends in 2014.
(They subsequently went on from success to success). Being alone meant he had to come to a new understanding of who he was as an individual and musically.
I asked him: “What were you doing in the two years that you didn’t perform your music?”
“Grew, matured…I’m now 27 years old.”
“And as an artist?”
“I’d say introspecting, or undergoing a creative evolution.” He pauses, “I still love a Capella – and as I say, my break with Soil was not about artistic differences but business directions.” He continued after a short silence, “my music has become more mellow and brooding… more like world music.”
“So your shows will be different than with your previous group?”
“Oh yeah. What I aim for is to give the audience an experience rather than a performance. I want to give each person something to leave with that they came without.”
“And the future?”
“I think Samthing Soweto is evolving, finding new ways of sharing experiences with my listeners. This sound we’re producing now might just be a different one a year or two from now”
After this one-on-one interview ended thirty minutes later, the 4-man Samthing Soweto band (Samkelo, Mduduzi Mathebula, Bafana Mlangeni and Ntsikelelo Matshatshe) got onto the stage and the other twenty-odd journalists engaged Sam in a Question & Answer session.
One of the answers was to a question whether he would use Soil material in his new album Vala’Mehlo, to which he replied that he would but with a new treatment. He made it known that the 25th February gig was also billed to start their nationwide tour. Then the band gave a preview performance of some of the renditions they would give at the coming Soweto Theatre album – launch.
Their music is polished, casually elegant and definitely in the world-music space with Afro-fusion undertones. Sam himself clearly was born with immense talent, quiet dominance of the stage and a voice with incredible range from falsetto to crystal clarity.
If the upcoming Evening with Samthing Soweto on 25th February is anything near as magical as our interview of the evening of the 31st January 2017, the audience will witness a star taking off.
by Thabo Seseane for Johannesburg Today