By day he is a cop, by night Thulani Ga Ndlela is a gospel musician. Yes, I was initially as puzzled as you might be about the combination of professions.
The idea of a cop being able to sing is like something out of a Trevor Noah skit.
Then, to make it even more laughable, the genre of choice is gospel.
You ask yourself things like, does he read you your rights, then give you a sermon afterwards? Or when he is on stage, does he carry his gun and badge just in case there is some rowdy fan who needs to be kept in line?
“I am a criminal analyst, so that means I am always behind a desk. I don’t work directly with criminals,” he said.
His is a 7.30am to 4pm day at the office; the music comes after that.
“It is a matter of time management. I am a trained constable and my job takes most of my time in the day only. I do other things, like my music, after work,” he said.
But how does he move from protecting and serving to entertaining and spreading the good news?
Surely one of the two should take precedence. “Ordinary” people would see either job as a career and a person would seemingly need a 48-hour day to do both effectively.
But even when Ndlela enrolled in the police services, his original passion for singing still called him back to the studio.
“I discovered when I was in what was then called Standard 4 that I loved singing. A boy from my class was supposed to sing at assembly and I think he got cold feet as he did not come.
“I was asked to sing in his place because I used to mimic him in class and my performance went well,” Ndlela said.
From that humble beginning, all he wanted to do was sing. However, life had other plans for him.
Before the policing job, Ndlela was an events manager for KNI Radio, a Christian community radio station in Durban.
He held on to the job for a decade and it gave him access to the music industry.
On the side he had been part of a singing group with future stars such as Nqubeko Mbatha.
“I was a member of a group called Joy and we never recorded anything big. I stayed in Durban when everyone decided to move to Joburg so I’ve been holding on to the dream to record solo for 17 years,” he said.
His dream came true not so long ago in the form of the impressive album, We Lift Him Higher. His intention was to steer clear of sad Christian songs and instead stick to positive messages.
“I didn’t want to do songs where I was always complaining. I wanted to focus on God’s kindness and grace,”he said.
Though he has written songs for groups such as Joyous Celebration and the ECC Mass Choir and is best buddies with industry guru Mbatha, Ndlela wanted to do this album with unknown talent.
“I did not want to produce another CD that sounds like something already on the market. So I had talented but unknown people help out on this project. I hope it sounds as unique as we intended,” he said.
• We Lift Him Higher is not available at any police station, but at your nearest music store.