Afro-pop muso Nathi Mankayi is aiming for the sky with a new album, Umbulelo Wami, which appears to be gaining traction on the airwaves.

Following a successful first album, Mankayi, fondly referred to as Mr Nomvula, after his hit single, is looking to top the charts again with his new offering.

“I must say, people are really loving and enjoying it and I find some love this one more than Buyele’khaya,” says the superstar.

Umbulelo Wami, meaning my thanksgiving, is a reflective compilation of the journey he travelled as an artist. This unique album, he says, is also dedicated to fans as a way of appreciation for the support he received with the first one.

The messages in both albums are the same, he admits, but the latest showcases more of his maturity.

“Both albums reflect on love, life, experiences and what I see others go through, good or bad; I have really grown and matured with the second album,” he says.

Mankayi shot to fame in 2015 after the release of his much-acclaimed song Nomvula. He has had a successful career since.

His “rags to riches” story of moving from a jail bird to a successful musician releasing a multi-platinum album, coupled with his unique voice, captured the hearts of many South Africans and has also inspired many in various ways. Among other musicians he has inspired are Vusi Nova and his sister Amanda.

Mankayi writes his own music, which is about his life story.

“What I wrote about in the first album, you will hear about in this album. For example, one of my favourite songs, Umphefumlo Wam, speaks to the courage I have gained over the years,” he adds.

A lot of success and growth has followed Nathi in his short career and it has brought change to his life.

“Things have since really changed since my early days in the industry. I am not that ordinary Nathi who would walk to the store without someone requesting a selfie,” he says.

Speaking of his union to his life partner, Mpho Maroane Letlabika, he says it has been good for him. “Marriage is really good to me. It is one of things that show me I have grown,” he says.

Mankayi is proud of his roots and prefers to conduct most of his interviews in his first mother tongue – isiXhosa.

“Firstly, I am not about fitting in. I never had the desire to emulate anyone else. What sidetracks us is how easily we are drawn to what society is doing,” he says.

“No matter who you are, if you are pretending to be someone you are not, you are easily caught out. If I come to Gauteng and start doing things differently, I won’t be who I am. People should be introduced to the real me and decide if they want to accept me.”

His 12-track album is produced by Bongani Mahlaole and Mankayi is working on a music video to be released soon. “I wouldn’t have chosen music because of my shy nature but music chose me, I heeded the call and have no regrets,” he adds.

Sunday Independent