Music a lifeline for Samthing Soweto

Samthing Soweto has impressed with his new song
Samthing Soweto has impressed with his new song
Image: Moeletsi Mabe

Exceeding the behemoth of a masterpiece is never an easy task, but Samthing Soweto is doing it.

Real name Samkelo Mdolomba, his 2017 smash single Akanamali with Sun-El Musician turned him into an overnight success.

But with his new amapiano hit Akulaleki, he's proving that he's not a one-hit wonder.

The first single from his long-overdue debut album Isiphithiphithi is currently sitting comfortably on top of Radio Monitor SA - the official airplay chart for 180 radio stations in the country.

The upbeat number that will have you ready to "kokota piano" is a total departure and introduces a more vibey style for Samthing.

He called on the big amapiano guns DJ Maphorisa and Kabza De Small to make the song a vibe.

"I'm working with the loudest and most energetic producers on it. I don't know anyone who is making that much noise right now," he says.

"They are consistently pushing urban and on-the-ground music. That type of energy helped with whatever I was trying to do.

"I'm more reserved and my approach to music is very rigid. Working with them helped me make my music more relaxed."

As a result, Samthing says, in the past month he has performed in more clubs than he has in his entire career.

"I've never really played at clubs. I maybe played two clubs last year," he says.

"It (the success) feels great but also nerve-wrecking. You can never prepare for such a thing.

"It feels like I'm reinventing myself in front of everyone's eyes. The response I have gotten from people is that 'I don't like amapiano, but what Sam is doing is nice'."

Today, he releases his 13-track album. Pre-order sales on digital music platforms have been overwhelming, he says.

He describes the record as a fusion of amapiano and Afropop. He has two other amapiano tracks on the album, Lotto and AmaDM. He features artists such as Shasha and Mlindo The Vocalist.

"The album is about my life right now, where there is a lot of up and downs in music, and on a personal level I'm going through so many changes.

"So this album comes at a time where the changes are required. I just want to make people happy through my music."

Samthing's biggest fear with the album is that he will lose his loyal fan base such as the adult market.

But he assures that he still caters for them, especially on his favourite cut on the album, Sebenzela Nina.

"The first responders are always loud. But I'm just worried about the general public, the mothers and fathers at home," he says.

"Is the message going to translate because my album is about a number of things and not just dance?"

Samthing started his career as a member of a cappella band The Soil. As a solo artist, in 2018 he won three South African Music Awards (Samas).

He says music saved him from a life of crime. He got a criminal record for armed robbery as a teenager. His criminal record was lifted last year.

"I really didn't have a choice but to make music. I interacted with a lot of bad things and got a criminal record along the way. Music was a thing," he says.

"I could have gone to school but no one was ever going to employ me because of this thing. My criminal record only got removed last year - 10 years later.

"So music saved my life. Music gave me the discipline I required, because I could have been at home unemployed and knowing myself I would have done something stupid."

Born in Protea North, Soweto, Samthing is one of four children. He was raised by a single mother, who is an English teacher.

"She did what she could. She just didn't have the time. Most of my life inspirations were drawn from media such as TV," he recalls.

"I didn't have a heart-to-heart with my folks. I'm super sensitive."

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