Johannesburg - Nandi Mngoma is that kid every parent would like to have. She is that child your parents would urge you to play with. Once you get past her striking looks you will be intrigued by how oblivious she is of it all and instead taken in by how infectiously pleasant she is to be around. If you have been in this industry for a while, you easily sense a facade, so it is refreshing that with Mngoma, what you see is what you get.
“I am fortunate that my parents come from a very grounded background, yet are also well-educated,” said Mngoma.
“I have a very rural background in terms of my parents; very conservative, very cultured. (With) urban living in townships… in general, (people) tend to lose basic things like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. So yes, I am a Durban girl because I grew up in Durban, but I have strong rural ties that my parents instilled in me.”
With the release of her self-titled debut CD, a compilation of 13 house tracks, Mngoma still manages to be humble about her achievements and the positive feedback she has received.
“There has been so much love without a video,” she said.
“It is overwhelming for a new artist. (You) get it, if you are well known, but I am new, as this is a debut album, so it is amazing to get this much love,” she explained.
To address the issue of no videos accompanying her incredible album, Mngoma said plans were under way to take care of that side of her project.
“You are the first to know that come early next year, we will be shooting a video for On This Earth and I can’t wait for us to get started,” she said.
“If you listen to the song you realise that it is simply saying that you can make it on this earth if you work hard. It’s almost like you owe it to yourself. But then the song comes with a feel-good dance sound and I think that’s important,” she said.
For Mngoma it is more than just making music. She is more into spreading a message that will, hopefully, stay with her listeners for as long as possible.
“I’m not the typical Durban girl who’s going to sing about partying, though I love that kind of music, too. I need to have some substance in my music,” she said.
One glance at her and you can quickly associate her image with the earthy neo-soul singers. It is then a pleasant surprise that her sound of choice is house music, but Mngoma has an explanation for that.
“If you are a Durbanite, you know that hip hop wasn’t big. Our hip hop is house and not like in Joburg. So I grew up with a lot of house, but I’d also listen to a lot of jazz from the likes of Tshepo Mngoma and Sibongile Khumalo,” she said.
Besides her girl next-door vibe, Mngoma may come across as someone you have met before. But if you look deeper you’ll realise that you actually have seen her before.
“I was on an SABC kiddies’ show when I was only 15. It was awesome, because we got to be kids, skating and stuff while on camera. I did it in Durbs and Jozi so that was fun, too, and it didn’t infringe on my school work. I was that kid who played the piano at school,” she explained.
In recent years she has had a slot as a guest presenter on the TV show Club 808 and was featured on Top Billing. She remains interested in doing more work as a presenter on TV.
“I’m grateful that two years ago I entered the Live presenter search, and being runner-up for that gave me awesome exposure. Then being runner-up again for O Access as they were looking for a more urban look and I am very Afrocentric, which was interesting.
“I’m grateful for the lessons those experiences gave me and the truth is there is no human being who has never failed,” she said.
Hers are not just dreams to be on TV, like every other girl at a modelling agency. Mngoma has big dreams.
“I would love to bring substance to TV. I think we are going through an era in TV where people are more interested in how you look than what you are delivering.
“If I could, in my capacity, change that, I’d do that.”
A big part of Mngoma’s passion lies in African fashion, which shows in how she dresses.
“I was inspired by the era of Kensani Nkosi, Noni Gasa and Thandiswa Mazwai. I want to bring that back, but also in a fashionable way that almost makes it pop culture. It is why Top Billing called me, to talk about the Afrocentric fashion,” she said.
Before we signed off Mngoma felt her thoughts would not be enough without a bit of advice to the young people.
“Do not compromise your morals and principles to get where you want to be. It happens a lot in this industry and the moral fibre of this country is in a sad state,” she said.
* Nandi Mngoma’s debut album, Nandi, is available at local music stores.