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Even if you have been living under a rock, logically speaking, The Soil is found there too. Any one South African who is updated on thriving talent in the music scene, will tell you that this band of three are among the freshest and refreshing voices to grace our ears and hearts. I sat down with vibrant Ntsika, incandescent Buhle and jovial Luphindo to converse with the minds behind the mic about faith, dreams, challenges, lessons learned and the one truth that they hold on to.
My friend Jane and I have been driving all over Johannesburg looking for the interview venue, only to find it is 5 minutes away from where we started. Elated by our miraculous punctuality, we arrive at Sony Music South Africa: a venue beaming with an international feel, with frames hung all over, contented with impressive records by some of Sony’s best artists like Beyonce, Lira and Michael Jackson. You might just bump into an artist, as was our experience with Toya Delazy. I immediately knew, I am in for a joy exuding treat. By: Kabelo Khanye.
Kabelo: Ntsika, you’ve once described the music you produce as melodic medication, has the music you produce healed you guys in the way you hope it will heal your fans?
Ntsika: The music has defiantly healed us because we believe it comes from a sacred place. The first and foremost member of this group who is God Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, I bet you know Him …
Kabelo: I’m familiar.
Ntsika: … He’s the mastermind and engineer behind The Soil as a group and The Soil as vessels of change, that He conveys messages of hope, faith and courage. In the process we get healed and you can even tell when we perform on stage, that we’ve felt it [the message] before we want you to feel that which we are feeling.
Kabelo: I’ve also read that you receive some of your songs through your dreams.
Ntsika: Yes, we have shwaka [amazing] dreams, I tell you. And then when you wake up, it’s time to present those songs to these guys and then you emulate each sound that you just dreamt about. It is our winning formula.
Kabelo: I appreciate that you consider God your first member [of the band], Buhle, why is faith so important to you?
Buhle: Faith is very important to us because in order for us to reach out to people and have people connect to us, we have to have some sort of connection with the Higher Power: the Higher Power being God. We’ve been taught from home that each and every team or group has to have a structure and our structure and foundation has to be God. We believe that everything starts with God, and in order for people to be touched, and relate and connect with us, we have to start with the foundation that is God, so that’s why faith is important.
Kabelo: And that has sustained you guys since conception?
Buhle: A lot.
Kabelo: Luphindo, can you tell our readers what it feels like to wake up every day to the reality of your dreams?
Luphindo: It still feels like a dream and it’s one of those amazing moments when you ask, am I really doing this? I had a moment with one of the guys at VOW (Voice of Wits), while I was still there and we got signed, and he said to me congratulations and so forth. Then he said, the life that you think you’re going to live, you’ve already passed it: the life of fame, cars, money. So now it’s time to think of the other life, so it’s what keeps us going through this job and we ask, ok, what next? The way we live has already been long planned by God so we still keep on the motivation that we have to think about the other life.
Kabelo: Can either one of you, share on some of the challenges or set backs you’ve experienced as a group?
Buhle: One of the challenges, it was a long time ago, was while we were still hustling, we had problems with people trying to understand our music and what we were all about because some producers believe in the music that sells these days, it’s no longer about music that touches the soul. So, we were trying to portray an image to the producers but still, they didn’t understand. Luckily enough, we were blessed to have Mr. Sipho Sithole who gave us a chance and allowed us to be who we are and grow in what we’re doing. Those were one some of the challenges, but there were many…
Luphindo: …yes there were many, like sleeping on the streets …
Luphindo: … just kidding (laughs)
Luphindo: Having people rip you off, like telling us to come to their charity gig and you find out that performers are paid to perform at these gigs and we weren’t getting paid.
Kabelo: And what lessons did those experiences teach you?
Ntsika: A lot, because now we know of Service Agreement contracts, that people can’t run away from, whether you have a legal team or not. We also know a lot about our music as well, because acapella is very complex, we now know every detail like who needs to get a certain percentage of royalties and what not. Native Rhythms has played a great role in mentoring us and doing a lot of things that were business focused for us to learn from. It has bee a wonderful journey of pure lessons and when you draw from past experiences, you know that if you were given the chance to go back, you’d definitely do things differently when it came to things that were dealt with under the umbrella of business.
Kabelo: Having a business mind is a lesson you’ve collected?
Ntsika: Yes, and we’ve pushed it. We now have a PTY company under our name and that was also encouraged by Native Rhythms. They did not say ‘we’ve signed you and now why do you want to have your own company’. Instead they said, ‘open your company and in due time we will invest in it and you will be our major competitor in the industry’. So come and rip us off, and you will get it (laughs).
Kabelo: What’s the collective dream for The Soil?
Ntsika: Let us start by saying, the very one vision that we have, including God as our bond: that has kept us together. The vision is drawn from the soil itself as matter: the soil covers a lot of ground, and it is exactly what we want to achieve with the songs that we get on a daily basis. We would love to perform on all world stages and introduce this melodic medication to everybody out there: whether you’re a kid or old, across all races and genders. That’s the core vision, and of course a few Grammy’s along the way, and then Buhle can go do her Kwaito album and Phindo, his Gospel album.
Buhle & Phindo: (Laughs).
Kabelo: (Laughs). On that note, is that a possibility, pursuing solo careers?
Ntsika: Not as yet, maybe when we’ve fully grown and The Soil is a household brand. It will be a very joyful decision, a venture we will all decide on. For instance, if Buhle wants to pursuit one, then as The Soil will produce her album and we [Ntsika and Luphindo] will be her backing vocals (laughs).
Luphindo: I will do The Soil forever, no turning around, no solo’s, nothing! Standard.
Kabelo: Acapella is your style, it’s not common in mainstream music, what do you think attracts your fans to your sound?
Ntsika: It’s genuine. The content of each song is drawn from real experiences, real feelings and things we come across from a day to day basis. We are faced with a lot of issues, from crime all the way to puppy-love situations and we sing about all of those things and people relate and want to hear more of that. This [acapella] is a rare commodity, and as a result, our fan base is growing: locally and internationally. It’s really humbling to know that people are in tune with just a beat box and a few melodies and harmonies.
Kabelo: You’ve achieved a lot of success from your debut album, is there any pressure for your second album?
Buhle: I wouldn’t think so: we have songs for days. Not to brag, but we have songs to maintain the very same effects we had on the first album. So we don’t feel pressured, there is still that love, that soul, that connectivity. Whenever we want to bring something new, we try and test those songs in our live performances and check the reception, and they love this.
Ntsika: We have 253 songs to date and they are all drawn from the same well of songs. You will still get the signature sound from The Soil. It might definitely be enhanced, but we can’t go any lower than what we’ve presented.
Luphindo: Definitely, second album we are going personal.
Kabelo: So you guys come together and share on personal experiences and then express it in song?
Kabelo: Luphindo, the group has expressed interest in opening a music academy one day, and I understand that you have a Fine Arts degree, how important do you think it is for a musician to be educated?
Luphindo: It is very important because in the industry, you have people who are rippers. You need to know how an artist should get royalties, what’s there for you when your song is being played on radio. About the academy, we are doing it for all those kids who love the arts and we believe that South Africa has a lot of talent: we want people to embrace their talent and go further, they shouldn’t have to stay local but they should be able to stretch their wings internationally and we will be the start.
Kabelo: How soon is this academy?
Buhle: We are building it very soon.
Ntsika: In a space of three to four years, if we get sponsors.
Kabelo: Buhle, being the only female member of the group, I’ve noticed you don’t project a sexual image like other female singers are known to do, what do you think of other female artists using their sexuality to sell their music?
Buhle: I think if it works for them, it is cool. If it feels ok in their hearts to do that, then it’s good. But I believe I would be pleasing God if I used what He gave me and if I praised Him the way He wants me to. What pleases me is pleasing God.
Kabelo: Ntsika and Luphindo, being brothers, are you able to separate work from your personal relationship or does it make it easier to work together because you are brothers?
Ntsika: It’s awesome! It really is awesome, because we no longer fight but we had our fair share of fighting …
Kabelo: By the way, who’s the older one?
Luphindo: I am.
Kabelo: By how many years?
Luphindo: One year.
Ntsika: No, eleven months (laughs). But the fights were in our teenage years and now we are mature young men. When it’s time for us to be serious, we do just that and when it’s play time, we become fools, we become kids and play. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Kabelo: What is the one truth that you hold on to?
Ntsika: This is the one I am willing to die for: Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. Knowing that He is my soon coming king, that He is coming back for me, my man, I can’t wait for that day! For now, I will continue to work until He says ‘Ntsika, usebenzile, nyuka mntanami [you’ve worked well, now come home].
Buhle: I’m not living for me. Whatever I do, I might do it for me now, but the main person I do it all for is God.
Luphindo: Wow, people are deep. The one truth is God gave us each a purpose and I know mine, that this is our purpose and we’ll keep doing it up until He says stop.
Buhle: Everything happens in Gods’ time.
Kabelo: And The Soil is happening in Gods’ timing?
Buhle: Yes. Definitely.