Music helped Njelic stay off the streets growing up in Soweto

‘My love for music started at home, solidified at school'

Masego Seemela Online journalist
Njelic explains how music saved his life.
Njelic explains how music saved his life.
Image: Supplied

Music has always been more than just an art form for amapiano vocalist and producer Njelic, it was a means of escaping the social ills that are rife in the streets of his hometown, Soweto.  

From the minute he hit his puberty stage, he knew that integrating with the wrong groups was a move he didn’t want to partake in, instead he chose to join a youth band group led by Ms Pooe who helped cultivate him into the artist he is today.

Born Tshwarelo Motlhako in Mzimhlophe, Orlando West, Njelic,34, was seen by many from his neighbourhood as the “down and out struggling musician who’ll never amount to anything”.

“My love for music first started at home… I was that 5-year-old kid who would always dance at people’s request. I was sort of the entertainer of the family. I then grew up to realise that I also had a nice singing voice which motivated my decision to join the school choir,” explains the soulful musician.

Njelic says that the youth in his neighbourhood faced a lot of demons and for one to become a success story, they would have to fight tooth and nail for a better life.

“Music was for escaping all the drugs, alcohol and dodgy deals that were happening in my neighbourhood. I knew that in order for me not to fall into that trap, I had to focus my attention on something that I know best, which was music.

“I started singing in primary [school] because I didn’t want to do sports. I then took my passion for singing to high school. I was also part of a band called Band of Hope where I used to sing tenor. It was through being a part of the band singing choir and gospel songs that I fell more in love with music and my craft,” he says.   

“We used to win a lot of competitions and for me, that was validation that Im meant to be a musician rather than an academic or even a doctor.”   

Njelic first captured the hearts of music lovers with his catchy lyrics from the 2019 smash hit he collaborated with De Mthuda Shesha Geza and his soulful voice on Wamuhle, which he sings alongside sultry songstress Boohle.

His first stage name was “Nje Nje” but he chose to change after learning that someone else in Soweto was using the same moniker.

“I wanted to be unique and stand out, that’s why I chose to switch to Njelic.”

“Fame is nothing new to me, I’ve always known how to adapt to it. I started being popular in my hood through deejaying and creating house mixes… those mixes would be played at radio stations such as YFM, and that’s where I started getting more popular. I met De Mthuda during these times and, with us working together, I started getting more exposure.”

He claims there's no secret behind his many hits as it is all “pure luck”. He is the curator of this years Boiler Room and Ballantine's True Music Studios experience showcasing the authentic sounds of amapiano from Soweto.

“Some things can’t be explained but I believe God had a role to play in it (success) somehow. My music is a godly thing that I can’t really explain and I am glad I can touch people with it.

“Another element to success is being able to understand music and keeping up with the times. That’s why I wish to one day collaborate on a song with Black Coffee… that man is on another level when it comes to his musical knowledge.”  

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