- Article by Sunday World (July 5, 2016)
After a seven month sabbatical Buhlebendalo "Buhle" Mda is making her way home to The Soil.
She announced in January that she was leaving temporarily for a greater ancestral calling and, after a nationwide search, Theo Matshoba, from Soweto, stood in for her.
But the strong-willed singer says her training to be a sangoma is something sacred that she prefers not to share with the public.
Her official comeback is in August when she will tour with the acapella group with their ongoing #ExperienceTheSoil tour which kicked off on April 29 this year at Umfolozi Casino in Empangeni, KwaZulu-Natal.
Over the last few months they continued empowering wannabe singers by helping them post their videos on Facebook singing their songs. Winners are given the opportunity to perform with them as they travel from town to town.
The winner(s) will not only share the stage with The Soil, but also get a chance to collaborate with the group on one song.
"The group felt the need to do this as a form of giving back by affording them an opportunity to be on stage with a world-renowned band, making their dream even closer.
"South Africa is rich with talent. I was so moved by all 10 ladies that were picked from social media, but there was this one young lady who stood out. Theo Matshoba - she's amazing and I'd like to thank her ," says Buhle.
The 28-year-old says she was always that girl you'd find in a cypher (jam session) full of boys, adding a harmony or two to a beat.
"So we used to have those every Friday after cleaning our classes. We then met during school holidays and just sang under a tree at Ntsika and P's house in Protea Glen.
"We sang at poetry sessions around the neighbourhood and universities. We sang almost everywhere until we were in the right place at the right time. And the rest is known by everybody," she says.
She is a natural who never required formal music training but she dreams of mastering the bass guitar.
"Nothing is as sexy as a woman holding a bass guitar."
In fact, her dream was always to be someone who will be remembered.
"Let's just say I always wanted to be Brenda Fassie. I want to be a legend," she says.
But it's a case of being careful of what you wish for. Buhle regards herself as a private person.
"I regret being in the public eye simply because people feel entitled to your personal space, your whole being. And I feel obliged to always explain myself or what I do. But I've learnt from that."
Her story began in 1988, when she was born in Joburg.
"I grew up in so many places. My childhood started in Eastern Cape, I came back to Joburg to stay with my parents at my grandmother's house in Dobsonville, Soweto.
A few years later my parents built a shack in a township called Snake Park - now that's where I call home," says Buhle.
"At the age of seven we moved to Protea Glen where things started happening for me."
The mother of one says she always loved singing in front of people.
"From way back when I was in crèche in Port Elizabeth, my mom's birth place, I was once selected as the conductor of the choir during graduation. I look back and laugh at those pictures.
"I only realised that my voice could connect with people's souls when I reached high school. Tetelo Secondary is where I met these amazing guys. Since then I never stopped making my voice heard," she says.
About balancing motherhood and a busy music career, her calling, she reckons - it's all about balance.
"I have an amazing support system which I'm forever grateful for."
Buhle is never afraid of flaunting her curves and has, apart from her other interests, started a clothing label.
"I am learning to sew and focus on my clothing brand, Cihoshe, under my company SoilSista Projects which aims to empower young women and women pensioners."
With a distinct African vibe, she looks as if she stepped out of a scene from the 1940s Sophiatown.
"When it comes to fashion, my colourful continent inspires my look. I don't own a model's body structure, so I've learnt to draw inspiration from the creation that is me - from my curves, my skin colour, my skinny legs, the texture of my hair right down to the tomboy in me. I try to create a unique style that an ordinary girl from ekasi can relate to," says Buhle.
And the secret to flawless beauty? It is simply drinking tea and loving yourself with all your flaws.
Catch The Soil on August 5 and 6 in East London and PE, respectively.
- Article by Sunday World (July 5, 2016)