Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Samantha Mogwe: A Special talent against the grain

Armed with the charming looks of a modern day pop star, voice to match, unpretentious smile and charming demeanour, she has a way of articulating her achievements, struggles and ambitions that speaks volumes about her intelligence. is her name and singing is her game ÔÇô a game this 25-year-old beauty has been playing for a while. She has become quite adept at hitting the high notes and wowing the crowds.

With a degree in Theology she could have easily ventured into either academics or pursued further the religion of her choice. At least that is what I thought; and from a religious perspective it is of course a compliment. But watching her speak so passionately about her music, it’s clear the path she chose was the right one as she is right up the alley to superstardom.

Her first single, ‘Transition’, featuring local Channel O award winner, Game Zeus Bantsi, was released mid 2013.

If the song is anything to go by, then the whole album, which will hit the shelves in March, will be worth every penny.

What am I really going to ask her? I think to myself as I glance for the umpteenth time at my list of questions scribbled on the back of a note pad. Besides her spellbinding performance at the Boosta Bash on December 31st, 2013, and the fact that she once contested in My African Dream, I hardly knew anything about her.

“It all started back in 2003 when a friend (Daphne Namame) forced me to enter My African Dream (MAD),” she shoots as I look up across the desk. It was almost as if somehow she, telepathically, sensed my civil mind war.

“I was a very timid person but she was the exact the opposite,” she giggles. “We did an accapella and we came second.” Mogwe says it was after MAD that she discovered her passion for singing although she did not see herself pursuing it as a career. At least that was before her sister roped her into performing at the Exodus Live Poets monthly sessions. “It was interesting watching all these people who were 9, 10 years older than me because I was only a kid at the time, 15 years old.”

Being a part of the Exodus Live Poets (ELP), Mogwe says, inspired her to write her own music. She says the following year, at 16, someone encouraged her to join the Gabs Karaoke Idols competition which she subsequently won.

“As part of the package for winning the competition I was to get a recording contract but nothing materialised,” she says. “After that time I became a little sceptical about joining competitions because I thought to myself, ‘what’s the point of contesting these things if people do not keep their word’.”

She says she wondered if she really had the “thick skin” to do music and decided to take some time out.

Meanwhile she had continued to take part in the ELP live sessions. She then went to university (Monash, South Africa) and while there she heard about the Mnet East African Idols competition. Again, she had to be forced to enter after losing a bet. “I auditioned and made it through to the next stage.”

Mogwe says she had to put her studies on hold to attend the elimination round in Kenya. “It was a nerve wrecking experience,” she says, “but I told myself that win or lose, it will open doors for me and give me the experience I needed.” Sadly she only made it as far as top 24.

It was two years after the Idols competition that she decided she wanted to pursue a career in music. She organised a show where she did covers for popular songs. She had recorded the show and distributed the copies for free.

Her uncle’s brother-in-law got Oliver Groth (Botswana Craft) to listen to the CD and he offered her the opportunity to use the place for rehearsals. She says that was also where she met her drummer.

Mogwe says since then everything just fell into place. She eventually did a song ‘You Got Me Singing’ with the house music crew, Groove Cartel. “The song was a great success and it was kind of a launch pad for me. But I was also worried that people would think that (House music) was the genre of music I do.”

She says releasing the mellow, slow and soulful ‘Transition’ was a gamble because “people do not usually release such songs as their first single.”

Like every good artist she always thought she could have done the song better despite all the rave reviews.

The song, she says, was inspired by the passing of her uncle who she says had always been her biggest fan. Her debut album, produced under Total Music Solutions and to be distributed by Universal Music (South Africa) is scheduled for release in March, 2014. Besides Zeus she also features Sasa Klaas and Fraklin.

She describes her music as soulful R&B. The album was produced by Charles Motsemme, Tshepo Lesole and Joe Tanyala among others.

On Mogwe’s bucket list this year is a performance outside Botswana borders and a holiday trip to Cape Town. “Can you believe I have been to almost all the coastal towns in South Africa but Cape Town?” She asks rhetorically.

She may not be a household name yet but make no mistake, the 15-year-old “timid” girl who got second prize at My African Dream a decade ago has finally come of age and she is ready to take the local industry by storm.

Good things do take time.

With the dominance of House, Kwaito, Jazz, Traditional music and Hip Hop in the local industry, it takes a special talent to go against the grain and actually pull it off. The local R&B industry is about to get the kiss-of-life courtesy of Samantha Mogwe.


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