Singer Brenda Mtambo (30) has done backing vocals for a host of South African musical stars. In fact, she has sung with just about every artist worth mentioning: Hugh Masekela, Sibongile Khumalo, Judith Sephuma, Lira, Thandiswa Mazwai, Jonas Gwangwa — the list rolls on.
She was an integral part of the hugely successful Joyous Celebration gospel ensemble and, as a travelling singer, she got to see large chunks of the world.
Now it is time for Mtambo to claim her space. Her first album is called Inspired and is released by Joyous Records. She launched the album in Sandton on Thursday night.
The surprise is that this gospel label has released a purely Afro-soul jazz title without a religious message.
Mtambo was born in Umlazi, outside Durban, where she was schooled, later attending the then University of Durban-Westville to study for a BCom in accounting.
She came to Johannesburg to finish her studies and, once there, joined Joyous Celebration — a move that put an end to her office life.
What is your best country in the world?
I have been to Germany, Kenya, Australia — everywhere, actually — almost 10 countries over seven years, but my best place has to be Fiji because I had a good time there. People are so welcoming and so loving. The audience was huge — about 5 000 people came to see us. It was a solo concert by Lira and we were invited by the South African embassy on that side.
What is bad about the music industry at the moment?
I do not think there is anything bad as such, but I have realised that too many artists produce a certain style of music because of what works [commercially]. There are trends that people in the industry follow. When kwaito is trending, everybody wants to do kwaito. Now everyone wants to do house. But with my album, I wanted to follow my heart.
What are the strengths of the South African music industry?
Its originality. We should embrace who we are, embrace our own thing. We are Africans; we are in South Africa. We are a diverse country. We must cater to everyone in South Africa; we must embrace our own.
Who is a strong performer in your opinion?
Thandiswa Mazwai. The lady is phenomenal.
Where do you enjoy hanging out?
I am not a party person. I love being indoors. I can have a good party just being at home. I stay in Northriding, Johannesburg, and there is nothing to do there, really. But when I do go out, my best restaurant is Tashas in Rosebank. Sushi in Sandton is also a favourite. I also enjoy being in Newtown because I love live music.
Do you have a sound system in your car?
Yes, but it is not the biggest. I love to listen to Asa, the Nigerian singer. I play Lizz Wright; I play Lalah Hathaway. I like them divas.
When you want to get out of Jo’burg, where do you go?
If I had money, I would have a house in Cape Town. I go there on vacation, or when I am performing there, they book me around the Waterfront.
What is the last movie you watched that blew you away?
There is a movie by Tyler Perry about marriage, more about love basically. I am a sucker for love. I do not watch anything else, actually. My heart cannot handle the heavy stuff.
When you are drinking, what do you go for?
Red wine: Merlot, shiraz or a pinotage.
If you are snacking, are you eating cheese or chocolate?
Not chocolate. I do cheese, with crackers. But I snack on chips. I have my moments. Some days when I am done, I just buy myself a lot of junk.
Do you have a soap opera you follow on TV?
I love entertainment, so I will go for Vuzu, or E-entertainment, just to relax. I am not a soap follower because I am hardly home, but I watch Generations sometimes.
Are you single, or married with kids?
I am single. I might get myself a dog, or something, just to keep me company.
Brenda Mtambo performs at the Theatre on the Square, Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton on April 26 and 27 at 7pm. Tickets: R120. Tel: 011 883 8608