Matshepo Mohlala is a woman living her dream, thanks to her angelic voice! Growing up in Belfast [Emakhazeni] in Mpumalanga, she had a dream to sing before thousands.
Like any other journey of a thousand steps, beginning with one, she started signing within the walls of her church, Family House Ministers. Fast-forward ten years later, she is the new woman in the local gospel industry.
Those that have been to Belfast will know that it is a small town with not much entertainment. It is a one-street town with no infrastructure. But out of it, a gospel songstress has emerged!
“I am a step in the right direction, I know the dream will be fully realized and I can take a bow,” she tells Republic Mail. The 36-year-old vocalist says she drew inspiration from the likes of Rebecca Malope, American songstress Lauryn Hill and talk show hostess and entrepreneur Felicia Mabuza-Suttle.
In any case, the arts were always been her fascination, through her high school years she participated in plays and choirs, something she believes boosted her confidence. She says it also taught her to learn as much as possible about her posture when addressing or singing to a crowd.
“When I came to Gauteng to further my studies, I worked on this dream too. I admit it was difficult to rehearse, gig and study at once but this made me the strong woman I am today,” the soft-spoken muso says. Mohlala is, without a doubt, shooting for the stars with her latest 11-track album Ngcwele, which is sold on digital platforms including Spotify and Deezer. She insists it is the first of many.
For many people, listening to music is an activity that they participate in daily. Gospel music, she believes, has a smooth and calming effect that affects the brain positively. It can elevate one’s mind and the lyrics have a way of helping inspire one spiritually to the next aspect.
“Music once admitted to the soul becomes a story of spirit and never dies,” she says as she borrows the wise words of Edward Bulwer Lytton, a former UK politician and writer. She is convinced the musical path she has taken is an innate gift deposited by her maker at birth.
“I did not choose this path, it was embedded deep within me from the moment I screamed at birth,” she says. The adventure has been bittersweet as she faced challenges along the way. “I grew up in a singing environment, it was a happy space and I loved it,” she said.
“This genre has permitted me the connection with the Higher Being and I constantly have to check on myself if I am in alignment with the word of God,” she says.
From her church doors to the universe, Mohlala has constantly known that this was the avenue she had to walk on. She is at peace knowing that her voice and songs help people to draw closer, and be in touch with God.
“I attempted to venture into other genres, sadly it was not for me. I was lost. I do, however, would love to explore the art of jazz one day,” she adds.
The songwriter has had the opportunity to share the stage with heavyweights like Solly Mahlangu and Derrick Ndzimade while growing up.
In 2018 and 2019, she was part of the Gwanda Gospel Festival, one of the biggest gospel shows in Africa, alongside the late Neyi Zimu, Omega Khunou, Dr Tumi, Mkhululi Bhebhe, Shongwe, Takesure ‘Zamar’ Ncube, Mathias Mhere and Deborah Fraser.
“The journey has had many potholes and detours, but I would not change anything, looking back, the setbacks have saved me from a lot of things,” says Mohlala, a diploma holder in food and beverages management.
She now looks to mentor upcoming musicians. For her, the lesson is simple: ‘don’t force your way to the top, everything works with times and seasons’.
Interestingly, music is not all she does. She is also an entrepreneur who runs a hair salon and food outlets. She explains that the entrepreneurship drive was mainly to support the music goal.
“My greatest achievement is the ability to start a project, nurture it and when it is no longer feasible to continue, the ability to decide to cut off and move on to the next adventure,” she says.