Hot breakout stars to watch in pop culture next year

Siobhan “Sio” King has been a favourite for many lovers of her sound, which travels through hip hop, soul, house and electronic music.
Siobhan “Sio” King has been a favourite for many lovers of her sound, which travels through hip hop, soul, house and electronic music.
Image: Supplied

Emmanuel Tjiya, Patience Bambalele, Masego Seemela and Thango Ntwasa pick the hot, new, young and talented breakout acts to watch in pop culture next year.

Siobhan “Sio” King

The sultry and ethereal voice of Siobhan “Sio” King has been a favourite for many lovers of her sound, which travels through hip hop, soul, house and electronic music.

The young star has catapulted herself into stardom with a career built on an authentic identity and a love for storytelling. Something she has done not only through lyricism but also fashion.

Other than being one of Thebe Magugu’s muses in his recent collection for autumn/winter 2021 featuring all-women gangs with pangas, Sio slayed in multiple fashion shoots including Dolce & Gabanna.

Barely a face to forget, Sio has also transcended her fame to TikTok where she went viral for a video on her multiracial upbringing. A topic she often tackles on the platform.

A lover of Seoul Korea, Sio has also amassed a South Korean following in her ability to infuse the contemporary take on Africanism and the Asian country’s pop culture and fandom. 

Image: Supplied


Nkao Tempela has yielded a viral dance challenge that has music lovers swaying from side to side from all corners of social media.

In the process, the amapiano and hip-hop-infused song has pushed muso Ch’cco to astounding fame.

Real name Shiko Matlebjane, the 21-year-old prides himself with being part of a cultural movement that is helping put the SA sound on the global sonic scale. 

Ch’cco’s sound has been heavily influenced by his early childhood years of living in Soweto and later moving to Tshwane.  

“I grew up in Soweto, my grandfather, who was Zulu, couldn’t pronounce my name. He would often call me Ch’cco and somehow all my family members started calling me that,” Ch’cco explains how his stage name came about. 

Ch’cco, who features FakeLove, Mellow and Sleazy on his smash hit, admits that he has been left overwhelmed by the positive reception. 

Having now set his foot into the industry as one of the most recognisable acts to come out of 2021, Ch’cco has set himself apart by dubbing his unique sound “cheese boy piano” infused with bacadi beats.  

“I’ve been working and honing my music skills for years. So far, I am happy with my career and people should expect more from me,” he teases

“I would like to feature artists I share good chemistry with. These include Focalistic, Blxckie, K.O and Okmalumkoolkat.”

Akhona Ndlovu
Akhona Ndlovu

Akhona Ndlovu

Fresh-faced actor Akhona Ndlovu (Herbert) paired with Nozuko Ncayiyane (Nox) won the hearts of hopeless romantics with a modern-day onscreen love story on DiepCity.

The storyline has been reminiscent of Sbu (Sdumo Mtshali) and Thandeka (Nomzamo Mbatha) in Isibaya. 

Ndlovu from Umgababa in rural KZN has been a breath of fresh air on the small screen. The 24-year-old star studied at the Creative Arts College. Before joining the show, he was participating in community projects at Ekhaya Multi Arts Centre in KwaMashu.

DiepCity gave me a great experience in which now I have financial freedom, I'm able to fend for myself and my family. It also saved me from a lot of wrong decisions I would have taken to better my life,” Ndlovu says.

“I could feel that 2021 was my year and that my time had come, mostly because of the work I always put in towards my craft and how I always have faith in God's timing.”

Playing opposite unmatched performers Hamilton Dlamini and Mduduzi Mabaso on the show is something he doesn’t take for granted. He has been observing and studying most of their acting techniques.

But his future plans is to one day take on Hollywood, have his own production company and be dubbed as one of the top five directors in SA.

Samkelisiwe Mhlongo
Samkelisiwe Mhlongo

Samkelisiwe Mhlongo

The career trajectory of a fashion designer can be harrowing, especially when it comes to the success of a brand. There are expectations for well-made garments that have an international appeal that is often paired with fame and fortune.

Samkelisiwe Mhlongo, who is the founder of accessories brand, St Reign, has never been shy of this issue and has turned her ups and downs into a learning experience for all.

The talented leatherworker has seen a number of successes this year. She was able to raise the South African flag on Brazilian soil as part of the virtual AfloLab Digital campaign. The campaign sought to combine black designers from both continents.

While Twitter often lends itself as a space for fashion designers and enthusiasts to boast about their favourites, Mhlongo along with other local aficionados have founded the inspiring Fashion Spaces. 

The platform is a weekly discussion that unpacks fashion entrepreneurship, debunking the unknown and serves as a networking space that assists designers in their growth. The discussions are held on Twitter Spaces, which allows multiple users to hold podcast-like discussions at any time.

Chrispen Nyathi.
Chrispen Nyathi.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

Chrispen Nyathi

Securing a win at the Royalty Soapie Awards in September was undoubtedly a highlight of the year for Chrispen Nyathi.

The Zimbabwean-born actor, 27, scored an award for his nuanced portrayal of Charleston Ncube, the resident pastor on DiepCity.

“I've always struggled with confidence and I’m a critical actor. I've never seen myself as ‘good enough’ but the award was a reminder that I may not be the performer I desire to be, but am doing well so far,” Nyathi muses.

“I got everything I prayed for. All my prayer requests for the year were answered and I thank God for that.

“It has always been a dream of mine to play in front of camera and tell stories, authentically so. I'm living my dream right now, though it's not an easy thing being recognised everywhere you go.”

Before being cast on the novice Mzansi Magic telenovela, Nyathi had a role in the Megan Fox film Rogue, that debuted in Showmax last year. 

Nyathi had an open audition with show creator Mandla N on Instagram Live. Due to poor network, he failed multiple times to join the live feed and succeed on a fourth try. Mandla N was blown away.

Nyathi says in the next five years he plans to be the best performer in the world. 

Artist Senzo Shabangu.
Artist Senzo Shabangu.
Image: Thulani Mbele

Senzo Shabangu

Visual artist Senzo Shabangu is still on cloud nine celebrating being named Artist of the Month by Melrose Art Gallery in Johannesburg.

It is a new phenomenon for the multi-disciplinary artist from Driefountein, Mpumalanga. 

Shabangu is already seeing the benefits, getting more follows and people viewing his online exhibition titled Kuyobongwa Namaqhawe (Heroes will be Awarded). The exhibition is online until end of December. 

It is dedicated to the influential youth who stand out in their communities. The 36-year-old’s work is a celebration of the heroism of the self.

“The exhibition is a call towards the self as it is meant to be. The exhibition honours young people who are working and making a difference. But again it is about me accepting this gift of interpreting messages through art,” Shabangu says.

The story of Kuyobongwa Namaqhawe is summed in a 250 by 150cm woodcut piece with five of Shabangu’s heroes. The five figures in the piece is his wife, Sadiq Bobo, his brother, American Supreme court judge Ruth Bader and Barack Obama.

Shabangu has also participated in the residency programme at Rhodes University in Makhanda. 

Rorisang Motuba.
Rorisang Motuba.
Image: Supplied

Rorisang Motuba

Rorisang Motuba is set to take on TV acting, explore film and stage directing in 2022.  

For the Joburg-born star it has been a wonderful and fruitful year where she explored her other talents.

Motuba got to write and direct her first theatre play called Diaparo Tsa Mama, an online production for Market Theatre in Newtown. 

The show was a hit and has been commissioned for a full theatre run. Her highlight of the year was landing a lead role in a new SABC 2 drama series Night Shift. She will be juggling the role with TV writing and being the story editor of a Netflix film.

“The past three months have been exciting for me. After focusing on writing for many years, being in front of camera feels good,” Motuba says.

Everything she explored in 2021 pushed Motuba to grow as a writer and director.

Gaisang Noge.
Gaisang Noge.
Image: Supplied

Gaisang Noge

Gaisang Noge was on the verge of letting go of her acting dreams, when she landed the role of Mampho on House of Zwide (HOZ).

The vixen character on the daily drama that launched in July has taken TV ratings by storm and set Noge into sheer stardom. 

Noge bemoans that before landing the job, aside from modelling for fashion house Lufi-D, there wasn’t much action with her acting career.

“One Saturday morning I was in the worst space ever, feeling defeated, tired and unmotivated,” Noge recalls.

“Around 11am I received a call from my agent on that very same morning to tell me I got the role on HOZ and I start on Monday. Definitely a miracle."

Noge quickly found herself lighting up the small screen and exchanging lines with veteran actors Vusi Kunene and Winnie Ntshaba. She has been in awe to say the least.

“Working with experienced actors is also life changing because I get to learn things from them. One is truly learning a lot more about the discipline of television production,” Noge says.

Mampho continue to keep viewers on the edge of their TV seats by scheming her way to the top and seducing rich playboy Nkosi (Wanda Zuma). But the 25-year-old from the Vaal insist she’s nothing like her conniving character and she’s a doting Christian.

“Mampho challenges me but I know I’m doing my job when I don’t recognise myself in Mampho and that’s another thing I love about her, she pushes me as a performer.”

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