Local singer to open for Sam Smith

26 March 2019 - 10:26
Bongiwe Mpanza, aka Bonj.
Image: Nokuthula Zwane Bongiwe Mpanza, aka Bonj.

With no album or hit singles under her belt, virtually unknown Bongiwe Mpanza got the gig of her dreams when she was chosen by international pop star Sam Smith to be his opening act for his upcoming South African tour.

Mpanza, who is known as Bonj on stage, said she had been struggling to sleep ever since Smith selected her to raise the curtain at his five shows in Mzansi. She got the life-changing call last week Thursday.

"This is my big break and it's still such a surreal moment.

"I had to keep the news a secret from my family, which was driving me crazy. I couldn't even tell my friends," she said.

"It was overwhelming knowing this information and how amazing and big it is but not being able to share with anyone.

"I wished in that moment that I could tell the whole world," she said.

She said Bonj's journey started in an unlikely place when she was spotted by award-winning singer, songwriter and producer Tresor Riziki while she was performing at one of Joburg's oldest bars, Kitcheners in Braamfontein, in 2017.

"When I saw her for the first time it was really a small room but her personality was really shining so loud and required my attention," recalled Tresor.

"I thought she was really amazing. I wanted to be part of her journey and her dreams and help her achieve whatever she wants to do as an artist.

"Obviously as artists we can't be boxed . I committed myself to join her on her journey, to find out what exactly she wanted to do as an artist.

"As an artist you always want to remain true to yourself but also you want to move with time and keeping the core of yourself intact. She has really grown amazingly as a songwriter. She is gifted," he said.

Tresor believes that Bonj will blow away many with her craft once they start noticing her work on stage.

Bonj appears like a quiet person at first glance but the minute she steps on stage she becomes a force with her husky and strong, yet rich, seductive voice. She describes her sound as a blend of electronic with soulful melodies and aspires to make music that uplifts and heals people.

"It was an affirming moment to say that all the hard work is finally paying off and the right people are finally listening.

"That means I am also on the right path," she said.

- SA dates for Sam Smith's The Thrill Of It All World Tour are April 13 and 14 at Ticketpro Dome in Joburg, and April 17, 18 and 19 at GrandWest Casino in Cape Town .