Getting to know Mpilwenhle

I think every now and then we are blessed with the presence of exceptional talent, they come rare and far and when they do come their presence is felt. Their work speaks volumes, it aids joy where need be and heals where we had not known or intended. I think Mpilwenhle Mokopu is an exceptional talent, her voice is like none other I’ve heard in a very long time, her vocal technique leaves you questioning why it had not been the standard and her aura and presence simply can not be reckoned with.

I got to speak with the Idols SA season 18 top 3 finalist, about that which sets her apart, her Katlehong origins, her Idols journey, future music prospects, an upcoming trip to Turkey and more.

Find the conversation below…

What makes Katlehong special to you?

The people of Katlehong, they make Katlehong special…

What stands out to you about your home kasi of Katlehong?

I mean Katlehong is a place of vibe, ask anyone they know, so for me it’s the fact that it’s big but yet quite small; you end up knowing someone who knows someone through someone (laughs). And I have received so much love even though some of these people don’t know me, but because I’m from Katlehong they did not hesitate to support me.

Do you have any music influence from at home?

Well, my biological father was actually the one who had the talent, I guess I got my talent from him. But, I did not have the luck to get to know him cause he just left. My mom’s younger sister was in a group [so] I got my inspiration from her but she [probably] doesn’t know that she has played a huge role in my musical journey. My mom also had some artistic trades, she loved theatre and acting, at her workplace they’d have a Sarafina play and she played the lead role, so arts was really big in our house. My uncle was in choir as well, so was my grandma.

Tell us a bit about the music of your childhood, which artists and songs do you remember from your younger days growing up?

Aretha Franklin, Glayds Knight, Kenny G, Dave Koz and your Luther Vandross, etc. These artists played a huge role in crafting my sound, I think that’s why I’m still an old soul and I know all your old school music like Dance with my father, Natural Women, The Dance, etc. Old school gospel that [also] really helped me build a relationship with God. The likes of Deborah, Lundi, Joyous Celebration, Benjamin Dube, etc.
Today I am a God fearing women because of the household I was raised in and the type of music I listened to.

Which artists do you now reference and look to for influence?

Yebba, Peter Collins, H.E.R, Ntokozo Mbambo, Maleh, there’s a whole list of artists…

What is it about Yebba that stands out for you?

Yebba, for me has this distinct sound and I aspire to have a [similar] sound that doesn’t really sound like that of every or anyone else. Her song writing skills are off the charts and the way she chooses her notes when she sings, it’s just out of this world.

You have one of the most brilliant high note techniques I have ever heard, how aware are you of your own vocal techniques or do they all come naturally and sub-consciously?

To be honest I wasn’t aware at first but as time went by I started to challenge myself and I saw that I can actually hit certain notes. Also I had this vocal teacher at school who was just brilliant and she helped me understand my voice and now everything comes naturally.

What genre and style of music do you see yourself venturing into and making?

I feel I can tap into any genre honestly but I think I would really love to tap into more soulful and calm sounds like Afro soul, Jazz, Afro gospel and RnB. The reason I mention specifically these genres is because I have a soothing calming voice and a soft tone that doesn’t need me to make noise to make the point that I can sing; I can just sit in a chair and sing and I will be heard.

Why did you chose to enter Idols at the time that you did, what was the thinking behind it at the time?

The reason I decided to go audition for Idols was that I was at a point in my life where I did not really know where to go, then someone said I should try it out and I did. But also I’ve always wanted to enter but the previous years I wasn’t ready for it, but when I [eventually] entered I felt ready for anything. I was mentally ready for it because I was content with myself then, and I understood the type of singer that I was, so I knew that I would stand out.

Maleh’s Ke Mo Afrika, has perfect note inclinations and pauses for your voice. How did you come to this choice for your audition song?

I actually heard it when I was in this choir and we had to sing it and at that time I did not really pay much attention to it cause I was not the one singing it; I was just backing. Then I heard it again on a radio station and I was like ‘I know this song’, then I downloaded it but I did not have the original Maleh version, I found this version sang by Aura. When I decided to audition I was like I want a song that I know no one in the history of idols had ever sang and would be so distinct that people won’t forget me. And the song did exactly that. Funny thing is, when auditioning I did not actually know the full song, so had they encouraged me to go on I was gonna freeze (laughs).

What is your biggest take away from your Idols journey?

My biggest take away from Idols is that I can do anything, if I can stand in front of thousands of people and sing, I can absolutely do anything in this world if I put my mind to it. Also that I am that distinct gem that I have always wanted to be and I am ENOUGH.

How has your relationship with your online fans been both during your time on the show and after?

My relationship with my fans was and still is amazing, honestly, because they still send me DMs telling me how proud they are of me and how far I came and they still want to support me every step of the way so it really is good and very nice to hear such assurance from people who don’t even know you. That, ‘we assure you we are still gonna be there for you, we are still gonna support your music and we are very proud and we are still your fans’. Even before I’d left Idols and after they are still saying the same thing. It truly is amazing and I still do try and reply to their texts, some of them, cause there are so many texts sometimes I can’t reply to all of them but I try.

What plans do you have from here on? And what can we look forward to?

The plans I have is to really record and make music. I’ve also got this opportunity to go sing in hotels in Turkey for which I am leaving month end, which is very exciting for me, you know. I am not the only one, there is so many other people who got the opportunity I got but I am very grateful. Way forward, I am definitely going to make music and when I come back I am going for boss on everything.

Finally, has thst phone call with JR happened yet?

No it did not happen and last I did send him a DM but nothing so I guess I am on my own but it’s okay maybe he is busy maybe he’ll reach out to me.

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