November 22 2013 at 11:13am By BRENDEN LEDWABA
BATTLE OF THE VOICES: Brenden Ledwaba (left) and Musa Sukwene are the final two standing in the ninth season of Idols SA. This Sunday, they need to sing their hearts out to bag the title on Tuesday.
THIS 19-year-old from Graskop has been a firm favourite since reaching the Top 10. And he has the full package: great looks, star confidence, an incredible voice that lends itself easily to an Usher-esque R&B vibe and a marketable personality.
I caught up with him shortly after Sonke Mazibuko, 21, graciously exited Idols SA as South Africa celebrated an elated Ledwaba and Musa Sukwene making the Top 2.
“It was traumatising. It was incredibly scary. The weird part is, I know how good Sonke is. It felt wrong that one of us had to go out in that regard. I didn’t know that was going to happen though – I thought I was going to be leaving,” he says.
On him being one of the favour- ites in the competition – even with the judges often being putty in his hands after a stellar performance, Ledwaba, commenting on the pressure, admits: “It has definitely put a lot of pressure on me. I think it is the kind of pressure that makes you want to do well next week. You ask, ‘can I really live up to the expectations?’”
Ledwaba says judge Randall Abrahams has been his biggest critic. But defends: “I think he is like that with everyone.”
Singling out his best performance since being in the Top 10, the young singer says: “I think my best performance, was John Legend’s All of Me. And it’s for one simple reason; that’s who I am. That is my vibe. I love playing the piano. That is how I started off. Because it is a competition, you have to try new things.”
Gareth Cliff praised: “Somewhere in all the craziness of this Top 4 I think you had a stroke of genius when you sat down and said: ‘Take away all of that stuff, leave me alone at that piano and let me do what I do.’”
He admits that his worst performance was belting out Zahara’s Lengoma. That was in the Top 6 Spectacular Showstopper.
“That put me in the bottom three. So that wasn’t a highlight. But I like to try new things.”
On his clever song choices and staying true to his R&B strengths in the competition, Ledwaba notes: “It’s actually funny you ask. I was talking to a friend and he was saying I haven’t been trying to prove myself. I think that is the biggest mistake some people make. You try too hard and end up doing things that aren’t you.
“I try to be as natural as possible and just enjoy and live it. Being in the Top 2 is a big deal.”
For the finale, the singer says he wants to take it back to the performance by it being just about the music.
He explains: “I’m a very emotional person. So for me, it is about carrying a message through song and, in so doing, affecting people. I see music as a very high form of communication.”
Ledwaba says he feels privileged to be up against Sukwene in the finale as he is “such an amazing vocalist”.
“Winning Idols SA will be the icing on a very delicious cake. I would have the resources to do what I’d like. It would be a really good jump start. When you win, though, that is where the work begins.”
BEING a father of a little boy, Sukwene, 26, from eMalahleni, Mpumalanga, exudes a very calm personality on and off the stage.
In paying homage to traditional music throughout most of his Idols SA journey, he has earned a huge fan base.
He was all smiles when we chatted on Tuesday. And he should be – he didn’t have to go through all that angst of waiting to find out if he had made it through or not.
Sukwene smiles: “It was a major relief when they said my name first. It was a breather.”
Reflecting on all the ups and downs of trying to hack it in the cut-throat competition, he says: “For me, it has been a very humbling and exciting journey at the same time. And it is a huge achievement and probably one of the proudest things in my life.”
Prior to his audition for Idols SA Sukwene was still pursuing his dream to sing, but performing in restaurants and doing corporate gigs meant everything was moving at a snail’s pace.
And last Sunday he shone on stage when interpreting The Soil’s Inkomo; Meropa, a remix of an old Mahotella Queens song by Oskido and Brothers of Peace; and Love by Musiq Soulchild.
On his rendition of the former song, Cliff praised: “You’re in your element, man. There’s very little that can put you off your game.”
“I’m very authentic. I love traditional music. I love R&B and inspirational music. From here on, I will make sure the music is beautiful and has crossover appeal. I want to inspire the youth.”
Shedding light on the musos who helped shape his musical landscape, he says: “One would be HHP. I admire everything he is going through and the consistency he has kept and what he believes in as the cycle of his life. And The Muffinz as well.”
Excited and nervous about the video shoot of his single (it was shot on Wednesday), he revealed that the song is very pop and country sounding.
Although he is missing his little boy a lot, he says: “Winning Idols SA will be something that changes everything about my life. This is a new start. I am missing him a lot, but he is going to be there in the front seat next week.”
Ledwaba and Sukwene are two formidable contestants and, irrespective of who wins, this time around “race” will, thankfully, not have a bearing on anything as winning is based exclusively on the best vocals and performance.
• The Top 2 will be singing their hearts out on Idols SA on Sunday at 5.30pm on M-Net and Mzansi Magic.