By: Zama Khumalo
Born and raised in Carletonville, Music Imbizo Project Manager; Sphe Mbhele has spent his life dedicating his passion towards ensuring the attainment of the greater goal of musicians by ensuring that they receive not only their fair share from their hard work but also instilling in them what the music industry entails.
“Music has always been a part of my life. I am grateful that my “cousin-sister” introduced me to it. She would carry a big book filled with plenty of lyrics, from different songs and would let me read them. From a young age, that is how I first got connected to music. Gradually my interest grew as I wanted to investigate the songs that my “sister” wrote about. The icons I looked up to are the likes of; Brenda Fassie and Michael Jackson, as they had this persona I really admired” Mbhele explains.
Growing up in Carletonville, people from Bergville (where his father grew up) would come to the area seeking employment, as their home became the “Half-way house” and this is where his father was known as the “middle man”. “People would often come past our home because at the time, my father would assist people with employment”, he states. Through this, Mbhele heard various types of music that people came with such as the Lady Smith Black Mambazo and other prominent acts during the Apartheid Era.
As time progressed, Mbhele had noticed the different aspects of music. He attended a music conference in Johannesburg, where Reggae Fusion Artist K’Naan would speak about his struggles of being a refugee and how music shaped his life; it was there where Mbhele had learnt that if a musician can speak about their struggles, it would help fellow musicians learn to cope with any struggles they may encounter.
Travelling back to Kwa- Zulu Natal where he worked, Mbhele hooked up with a few friends and together they decided that the Music Imbizo was the perfect platform for musicians to state their frustrations and gather the knowledge they required. Thankfully, the Music Imbizo has done tremendously well, from getting artists who receive gigs from international management, to witness live sessions and listen in on what South African artists have to say. For example: In 2015, Maskandi Rap Artist, Dr Bone, signed a recording deal with Warner Music (a subsidiary of Warner Bothers) for his music to played on their platforms. This was done through the Vice President of Warner Brothers, who attended the Music Imbizo and heard the magnificent music that was being played.
His biggest woe when it comes to the industry, is the lack of efficient industry leaders providing upcoming artists the mentorship they deserve.
Mbhele explains “You can have an artist who has been in the industry for quite a long time but they can’t provide the necessary information for an upcoming artist to thrive in the industry. We need to hear of their struggles and why it is so important to equip yourself with the correct information to make a living for yourself”. Within the music industry, there is still much room for improvement and as times goes on, things will change.
Being that it is the 10th year in existence for the Music Imbizo, Mbhele is nothing but proud for this milestone. “It has not been an easy ride but overall it was worth it because more people are starting to recognise the main objective that Music Imbizo is working towards. The objective is to basically ensure that artists are aware of their rights as musicians and understand the industry they are in. It has been nothing but a pleasure working with people from all walks of life, who want to see the greater good of the music industry grow in the right direction”, he said.
He further adds; “For the future, I most certainly see the Music Imbizo growing at an exponential rate, having it even in a large conference set up such as the International Convention Centre (ICC). It is possible, if the right mind set and work ethic will be applied to it. We are not doing this for ourselves but for the greater good of music itself. Indeed, we are a global village but we are one ultimately and it is time for Africa to shine the way that it deserves”.
Indeed, it is a great time for musicians to shine and prosper.