In Conversation with Ntokozo Mbambo

We are because of our ability to constantly evolve and adapt. This is a trait not far from us all, however, only a few of us are able to take it a step further and reinvent ourselves. Ntokozo Mbambo has been able to sustain her career over two decades because of her ability to reinvent herself, yet she has also remained true to the essence of her being. She has firmly established herself as one of the country’s finest and most brilliant vocalist not just in the gospel space but across the board.

With her latest offering, Ntokozo Mbambo has packed her heart of worship into an 18-track masterpiece titled Lavish Worship, through which she creates an intimate space for the listener to commune with God. This album is produced by husband and long time producer Nqubeko Mbatha and also features the likes of Mabongi and Khaya Mthethwa.

Returning from a period of grief herself, she has had to dig deep to rediscover the character of God, this not because God has changed but because circumstances can distort one’s view of God; and so through the utterance of who God is, in worship, you are able to refocus your ‘God’ lens. This album cleanses the lens through which you view God so you can both see and experience him right.

If Ntokozo’s career itself isn’t testimony enough of God’s greatness, then this album can be seen as evidence of restoration and a testimony of God’s goodness.

As we mark one month since the release of this portable house of worship, we got to chat with this astounding worshipper about this album and her journey with music, read below…

Your previous albums have been live recording, is there a reason you chose a studio recording this time around?

I honestly was not ready to start on stage with this one. And boy am I glad I was able to work on the worship before bringing it in front of God’s people! The album has been so special because I’ve been able to take my time on it, allow each song and lyric to stay with me for days before laying it down. I’ve been able to also work on the music a lot more closely without chasing a strict event deadline.

The tempo of the album starts of slow with Ngcwele Nkosi and works its way up to Imisebenzi Yakho, was this intentional? Is it perhaps a sonic representation of the inward revival that takes place when one is in a state of worship?

My husband co-produced the album and he did an absolutely splendid job of deciding the tracklisting. I’m so glad the world gets to experience it so beautifully! You know, you could think it was 100% curated and planned, but some beautiful things about this album are just the God-incidence of God Himself! Even down to the songs that eventually made it on the album. If it was 100% my way, there would be a couple songs that never made it onto the album, but God had the final say, and that’s the beauty of serving Him.

The album is titled Lavish Worship, in your understanding is there a difference between praise and worship or are they two sides of the same coin?

This question crops up all the time, and laymen will say praise songs are fast songs, and worship songs are slow songs. But it’s actually quite a bit deeper than that. Praise is about celebrating God about what He’s done, and thanking him. It’s like taking a posture of speaking about God. And worship is about telling God who He is. It’s like taking a posture of speaking to Him and exalting Him. Both can be either in slow or fast tempo!

In the process of making this album, did you have any new revelations about God that you didn’t have before and what were they?

Yes! The beautiful thing about worship music is that it’s actually about the different the different perspectives of God that you see and then exalt Him about. More than anything, #LavishWorship has just been an album where I’ve been able to experience God in such a different and personal and intimate way! Each song just carries so much weight for me and I thank God for the gift He’s placed in me.

Do you consider yourself a minister, and what does that (being a minister) mean to you?

Being a minister means that I have to understand that my music is my ministry. I am not just a singer or a vocalist, but that I carry a purpose in my message and I have a person (God) who speaks through me. I believe we’re all gifted by God in different ways, but when we function in our gifting according to the purpose God intended, then we’re ministering not just performing!

What still amazes you about being on stage and performing in front of an audience?

I recently replied in another interview that it’s been just about 20 years in the industry but each time we do an event or I get an invite, it’s like new. And that’s probably because it’s new time to enter into God’s presence. One really can’t get enough of that!

Many people know you for the song In the Shadow, have you ever felt like benchmarked by this song and how did you overcome that feeling?

I’ve learnt to accept that In the Shadow will be one of those songs that are referenced throughout my whole career – even though it was recorded over 15 years ago! I wouldn’t say it’s a benchmark of my career more than that it was a monumental experience and it is still ministering to people to this day! I’m glad that people are still able to see the beauty of God through the song!

Would you say starting out as a member of Joyous Celebration equipped you well to navigate the industry, and were there new discoveries that came as a result of being a solo artist?

Absolutely! Being a member of Joyous for all those many years, I realised that it was such a comfort zone, that I ended up not challenging myself in the many ways I’ve gone on to be challenged in the industry. I am forever grateful for the years of mentorship and experiences gained, but I also feel it was time for me, us, to step out into the ministry God called us into with uMthiya (Nqubeko Mbatha).

Do you ever listen to your previous projects and get inspiration from them to write new songs? Are there any such songs in Lavish Worship?

Not really hey. I’d say that’s probably why I take long to release new music. I always wait until I feel I have enough of a message and then release. I had the opportunity to re-visit some songs in my album Moments in Time, so maybe there you could say some songs were re-inspired but other than that…not really.

What’s the one song(s) in Lavish Worship that best describes the space you were in whilst working on the project and why?

God still. It’s really such a reminder of the faithfulness of God and how He still cares, He still loves me, He still does great things! Then of course, no one can ignore just how amazing Makabongwe turned out to be from the launch events! Having Pastor Nathaniel Bassey, whom I love and respect, do a reprise of the song was just unforgettable!

How have you managed to submit to God’s will and way even in your darkest hour as a person?

This is a question for every Christian right?! It’s just God’s grace that keeps me going and how He keeps using people close to me and far from me to show me just how much He loves me and how much He’s got my back! There was a point in my life when that seemed very foreign and I struggled even to pray to speak to God, but I had a support around me that helped me push through those times and stand on the truth of God’s word.

Have you ever felt pressure to be a model Christian because you are a gospel artist and how have you overcome that?

Well, the call for any Christian is to be an example for others to see. I don’t carry that more than I need to, and I don’t play small about the influence I have either. God (and my husband) helps me to keep a healthy balance!

What do you hope people get from this album?

I believe the church is being challenged to go deeper into the things of God, to pour out our worship deeper, to sink our roots deeper in the word of God and just be the light in this dark world. The album will hopefully inspire people to connect more with God and also spend more time aligning with God’s purpose for their lives, as they serve Him and this generation.

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