On their popular single, “Ngeny’ilanga”, which has about 34,000 YouTube views, the up-and-coming Cape Town afro soul duo Soul Kulture tell an emotive story of hope. On the video, they go from performing in the hood, to being discovered by a music executive who’s astounded by their talent. The song sums up Soul Kulture’s story. The Khayelitsha duo was known for busking on trains and taxi ranks. They are now nominated for Best Afro Group alongside The Soil at the second annual South African Afro Music Awards taking place December 11 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.
Afeletsi and Msekeli are day-ones
I meet up with the duo, which consists of Afeletsi Manamathela (19) and Msekeli Velaphi (21), at Site C taxi rank in Khayelitsha, where it all started. “We were given the name Igadi Yobomi by our producer then,” says Afeletsi. “But that changed and we named ourselves Soul Kulture,” adds Msekeli. “Soul” in their current name comes from how they give it their all when they perform. “Kulture” refers to music, which they say is part of who they are. Afeletsi says they were both inspired by the songs they grew up listening to by artists such as Ntando and Ringo Madlingozi.
Afeletsi and Msekeli have been friends since when they were living in Dutywa in the Eastern Cape, where they both grew up. They moved to Khayelitsha, Cape Town to live with their parents in 2013. “We became interested in singing and started busking,” says Afeletsi.
In 2014 while still studying, the two friends continued making music. People loved them, they became popular around Cape Town. They started getting bookings for shows, which was great for exposure, but not for the bank. “This other guy just said, ‘Thanks for coming and performing at my event,’ and gave us a R50 for transport,” Afeletsi recalls with a chuckle.
Getting discovered and flying to Jozi
Performing at the taxi rank wasn’t always applause and change. Some taxi drivers would chase them away, complaining they were making noise. Their voices and guitar also had to compete with loud music played by taxi drivers at the rank, as they had no mics.
In November last year, while performing at the rank, they were spotted by a guy called Lionel Jamela who became their manager. In January 2016, they flew to Jozi to record “Ngeliny’ilanga”.
Soul Kulture recently performed at Moretele Park Tribute Concert in Mamelodi, Tshwane alongside such greats as Hugh Masekela, Don Laka, Letta Mbulu, Mafikizolo, Zonke, Nathi, Vusi Nova, Emtee and Cassper Nyovest. “We walked to the stage, and the crowd was quiet,” says Afeletsi. When the MC introduced us people weren’t that excited. But as soon as we started singing ‘Ngeliny’ ilanga’ the whole crowd started screaming. I was shocked. But I told myself to stay calm and continue singing.”
Afeletsi and Msekeli are still normal kids, doing Grade 11 at Usasazo High School in Khayelitsha. Their music hasn’t interfered with their education. “At school we do well,” says Msekeli with a chuckle, “other than being called celebrities recently by our peers. But we don’t see ourselves as such yet, we still trying to get there.”
Watch a video of Soul Kulture performing “Ngeliny’ilanga” below:
Soul Kulture’s debut album Ngeliny’ilanga is out now. Keep up with them through their Facebook page.
Photography and videography by Onele Liwani