Lights, camera, action!, and perfectly on cue Vusi Mtokufa mesmerised fans in what was probably the best ever live album recording show by a local artist. It was the night the gospel artist raised the bar a few notches higher and delivered the kind of stuff most had only seen on television. The lighting and sound were impeccable and the stage was huge. The band was magnificent. The wardrobe was OMG! The music was inspirational. The audience were full of spirit. And the whole night was out of this world. There is no better way the one time Botswana’s favourite gospel ‘kid’ could have re-introduced himself to his loyal fans.
He first burst into the limelight in 2005 as a 13-year-old awkward teenager with the song ‘Sefofu’ and instantly became a hit with gospel music lovers and everyone else. He was young, innocent, talented and soft spoken which easily made him the darling of an industry that was at the time dominated by Hip Hop and Kwaito big names like Scar, Vee, and Eskimos, among others.
Fast forward four years later, after just two albums, and following a career threatening scandal, Vusi went AWOL. Arts &Society caught up with the now 23 year old ‘phoenix’ at BRAVE HEART offices following his GICC resurrection to get the real story on his music career, disappearance and subsequent reappearance. He describes his first album, Ntate Rethuse, as having been too successful for a debutant.
“It was at the time the bestselling album and not just in relation to other gospel albums but across all music genres,” Vusi says. Now relaxed with a blue T-shirt, a pair of stonewashed denims, and sneakers – the picture is a far cry from the spellbinding performance he gave just a couple of nights earlier. But how did Vusi find his way into the music industry at a tender age of 13? “I was discovered by another musician (refuses to share names) while singing at church,” he says. He says the singer signed him under his own record label and in the next four years they released two albums, the second of which did not perform as well as his debut.
He says releasing the two albums gave him the big break he needed to make his mark in the industry. But three years after releasing his first album Vusi quit the record label. “I had personal challenges that forced me to pull out of the contract,” he says. “As a teenager I was still going through a developmental stage and during that period there are so many changes that take place,” Vusi says; “Most importantly, your voice changes.” But Vusi (now also a church minister) went through other personal and legal challenges which he would rather like to put behind suffice it to say it was all a test. “It was an interview. God gives us challenges as a way of strengthening us,” he says, now sounding like the minister he says he is. “And it is not about the nature of the challenge but how you overcome that challenge that matters. I’m a typical example of change; that when a man is down it is not necessarily the end of him.”
Vusi says following the scandal he took a break and concentrated on becoming a ‘man of God’ at his ministry, Cloud & Fire, in Kanye where he lived for just over three years. He says it was a call from above. He says he sings because he wants people to know God. He wants people to see the need to reconnect with God. He says his disappearance from the industry gave him an opportunity to understand God better than he had when he first started singing. “When it comes to gospel music there has to be a greater source of your music,” Vusi says. He credits BRAVE HEART for his return to the music industry. He says he had a stint with the company before and when they called him earlier this year with a live recording proposal, he could not resist. “They saw the potential in me and when that call came I knew it was time.”
Now that he is back, what can the public expect next from Vusi? “I cannot say what the future holds for me as far as my music is concerned but for now BRAVE HEART is taking care of all the arrangements. BRAVE HEART, which was behind Vusi’s live CD/Video recording, provides Conference & Event Technology for rental. The services include lighting, sound, stage, audio visual, decor and generators. Universal Music will be responsible the distribution of the ‘Vusi Live at GICC’ CD and DVD. The release date for the material is expected to be in two months.