Love Leitmotif in Samthing Soweto’s Lyrics.

Leitmotif, a German word which means a leading motive and speaks to a recurring musical theme or phrase which can be associated with a particular person, place, or idea. The composer, singer and songwriter, Samthing Soweto, has mentioned that he only writes music about love from varied angles. This is nothing special given love as a musical theme is a constant across different cultures, genres, and countries the world-over. However, what sets the ex-member of the acapella phenomenon ,The Soil, apart is that he brings in a vulnerability and complexity that is not thoroughly explored in music about a man’s experience when he loves a woman.

Samthing Soweto (born Samkelo Lelethu Mdolomba) is a well-proclaimed South African super musician best renowned for his unique, sweet, and sultry voice. Boasting hit songs across different genres and styles, the “super musician” tag is one well-deserved. An element of his musical artistry that seems to be significantly underappreciated is the distinct experience he expresses in his music, particularly about love.

On the song Ndiyagodola, when Ringo Madlingozi asks his significant other that, “Uzobuya nin’, oh dali wam ndiyagodola?, we understand that the absence of one’s special love leaves them cold with loneliness and wonder for their return. Similarly when Percy Sledge sings, “When a man loves a woman he can’t keep his mind on nothing else, he’ll trade the world for a good thing he’s found, he’d give up all his comfort and sleep out in the rain if she said that’s the way it ought to be…”, we get to appreciate how a woman can deeply impact a man’s existence. Musicians often express their love by focusing on how mesmerizing a woman’s beauty is, such that a man is left so enticed that he can make her feel all kinds of sensations all night that she will be speaking in tongues, and the neighbors will know his name.


The SAMA award winning Samthing Soweto on the other hand straddles the same theme of love with a refreshing vulnerability not frequently articulated by male musicians in relation to their internal feelings when in a relationship. Samthing Soweto is seemingly concerned with highlighting the less acknowledged feelings that a man has when he is with a woman, the internal neediness men have for subtle gestures from women such as receiving a phone call or just how mesmerizing a woman’s beauty can be devastatingly confusing to a man albeit superficial or just how fragile a man is when going through “gwababa.” What follows is a look into some of Samthing Soweto’s lyrics and how important they are in understanding this vulnerable feeling which is a leading motive in his music.

On, Just Ask Her Out to Lunch, a song which is an internal motivational pep-talk that boys give themselves before approaching a girl they are interested in, especially when the girl is already interested in the boy; this is almost always a daunting task. The songwriter writes “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but fantasizing don’t tell you nothing about her… So now what are you waiting for? just go there introduce yourself and for this task you don’t need no help… Baby, ngitshele ngiyenzeni, cela ungitshele ngiyenzeni, ngoba ungiphula phakhathi, ngoba vele uyibozza” (Baby please tell me what I ought to do, because you have an effect on me from deep within. Because you control me like you are my boss). Every man has experienced this debilitating feeling of losing your confidence when you need it the most.

On Fonele, a song designed for the group Thee Legacy ,Samkelo, in a conversation with a girl, waxes lyrics about global issues like global warming, the disappearance of the ocean, and the return of Jesus Christ as insignificant matters in relation to the need he has for the girl to simply Call him. On the song titled Call Girl, My Girl from the album This n That Without Tempo he says; “I think it is wise for us to try to strengthen our connection with no lies. And I strongly advise we don’t fuss and fight about the little things that might just jeopardize… You and I we were meant to be its written in the stars across the galaxy and back to the milky way, with the speed of light, and with the speed of sound you can call on me.” This igniting of supernatural life forms (the stars, the milky way the speed of light and sound), is interesting given how that the man is most likely to be making calls to contact the woman, based on that they usually ask for numbers. However, Sam suggests that men also want to be called even as badly as women, if not more. He goes on to mention that all girls across the world should please just simply call on him.

The idea of vulnerability is expanded on in the song Dreamin of U when he says “I am tired of waking up at night cause I’m dreaming of you, and that is not what I wanna do… So, what is a guy to do, cause everything I felt I left with you, my pride and my ego and my attitude, I feel violated, and I need to sue.” This is exactly the inner conflict, feelings and emotional outpouring that does not find sufficient expression in our understanding of the masculine energy when interacting with the feminine energy. Men also have a deep emotional range that needs to be satisfied as well. On Samthing’s Interlude on Kindness’ album, the singer admits to being in unbearable pain and even screams loudly, “MPHO!!” all because she has not returned his calls.

In the song Elyfini, a question is posed to the lady to answer, “Ma’umuhle kanjena, uthi mina ngenze njani?” loosely translated to “What is expected of me? When you possess such incredible beauty?”. Women can be so beautiful that it throws men into confusion, not as a sign of objectification but appreciation of the Creator’s craftsmanship. This question comes after he has rejected all the girls across the world and saying there is no one like her anywhere in the world. I guess that is the effect of beauty that leads to appreciation and confusion at the same time. On an unreleased song titled Wena, he literally tells a woman that she is so beautiful she makes him dizzy, before reminding her that despite her beauty there is more to her than just the physical by telling her that “amehlo akho avuliwe kodwa awaboni ubuhle bakho” – “Your eyes are wide open, but they fail to see where your true beauty lies”. This challenges the idea that men cannot see past the physical in relation to women. These powerful words express that a man can also carry love that sits far beyond the superficial. In the song he goes on to say that the girl tries to steal his heart with the physical, but he would gladly give his heart to her regardless.

This love leitmotif in Samthing Soweto’s lyrics expresses the genius of his writing outside the beautiful harmonies and angelic melodies that he is known for. With this lyrical background it is even easier to understand some of his more popular songs like Hey Wena, Akulaleki and Akanamali where love expressed in this manner is clearly the leading motive. In a recent tweet the singer requested fans to choose some of their favourite songs by him for inclusion into his soon to launch live concerts. Perhaps, a breakdown of what seems to be his leading motive in most of his songs will help you make a choice. Thank you for reading!

Twitter: @SamthingSoweto