For kids who did well in I Want To Sing Gospel, life in the music industry was an overnight success.

For Bulela M, the struggle for recognition started at an early age. His mother told him that she recalled him singing when he was as young as two. So there was no doubt in his mind music would be his life.

“In 1989 I was in a group that sang in the churches in our area. We were all too young so nothing came of it,” said Bulela M.

For a long time he struggled to gain a foothold in the cut-throat industry. It was only when he moved to Umtata in 1999 that progress was made in carving out his future.

“I joined the Umtata Correctional Services Gospel Choir as their keyboardist and lead singer,” he said.

Like you, I wondered if “joined” meant he was he was “doing time” for something.

“No, I wasn’t a criminal,” he said, laughing.

“The choir was made up of prison guards and I had heard of what they were doing and they let me join and we recorded an album,” he explained.

Sadly, two years later the choir disbanded and Bulela M had to come up with a plan of action.

“I got some guys together and we formed a quintet which we called Simunye Voices of Joy. I was the lead singer and we recorded and released an album called Eloi.

“I managed to get some money to buy equipment and we started recording a lot of material,” he said.

Again, as with the choir, Simunye Voices of Joy did not go far. They soon broke up and Bulela M decided it was time to go solo.

“In 2003 I did a solo project under the name of Bulela M and it did very well. I later did a follow-up project which also did moderately well,” he said.

Clearly the solo route was what he was supposed to have been doing from the outset. Today he is the proud owner of yet another album, titled Elam Likhona.

“Of my latest album, all I can say is that while I help people get close to God, when it is time to be judged, will my name be called amongst the righteous?” he asked.

“There is a need for me to be exactly that which I preach,” he said.

“I also feel like God has been good to me so I also need to bless others like I have been blessed.

“In some cases the people who I am good to do not even believe in God, but it is expected of me to look past religious preferences,” he said.

Bulela M is married and a father of four. He is a member of the Bantu Congregational Church of Zion.

• Elam Likhona is available at your local music store.