Mpumi - The birth of Mpumi

Nompumelelo Mzobe, affectionately known as Mpumi, proudly admits that not only is the voice on the track hers − she also wrote the song. And the success of Wena has been just the beginning. She recently composed a track called Busa with DJ Euphonik and, from writing songs for others, has just released her own single, Somandla. Wena hasn’t only opened more doors for the 32-year-old SABC sound mixer, it’s also very close to her heart: the song is about her life and her late father.

Born in Ndwedwe, KwaZulu-Natal, life was a struggle for Mpumi and her four siblings. “My mother worked as a domestic worker so we could go to school,” she says. “I remember I had only one shirt and I had to come back every day from school and wash it for the next day. My father left us when I was a little girl. I don’t even have a picture of him. I think of him as an instrument that God chose to bring me to this Earth.”

“When I was a little girl I used to perform in concerts at primary school,” she continues. “I would go on stage to sing and then go back to class because I was from a very poor family and I couldn’t buy a ticket to see the concert. “The song, Wena, was very much about him and the things he used to say when I was a little girl. He had faith in me,” she explains.

When political violence hit the area, Mpumi and her family were forced to move to Ntuzuma Township in Durban. Even though life continued to be a struggle and her mother ensured that they were educated, Mpumi never gave up her passion for singing. “I would join music groups just to sing,” she says. “We would rehearse every day without having been booked for anything – we did it for the love of music.”

Mpumi longed to pursue a career in music. “But that wasn’t going to be possible since we were poor and I only wanted to study and get a job to support my family.”

She enrolled at the Durban University of Technology (then Technikon Natal) to study video technology but after a year, she could no longer afford the tuition. Forced to drop out, she joined theatre veteran Mbongeni Ngema’s Academy of Performing Arts. Instantly she knew that she had found her calling. It was a turning point for her. “I was trained to sing like a professional and I realised that I could also actually act. It was exciting. I enjoyed every minute of it.”

However, Mpumi was not yet ready for the fame. There was something important she had to do first – save money and complete her studies. “In 2002 I went back to school. I had to choose between performing with Mbongeni’s cast and focusing on my studies. I decided to focus on my schoolwork,” she says. “I knew from there that I was destined for bigger things,” she laughs.

Credit: Drum magazine 


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