Zethe. Picture: Supplied

Zethembiso “Zethe” Mdletshe, the winner of the first season of the Vodacom NXT LVL reality show, has just released her EP and is ready to make her mark in the local music industry. The rising star launched her EP last week in Durban amid much fanfare.

Born and raised in Empangeni in KwaZulu-Natal, Mdletshe said she was always surrounded by music, but never thought she would get into it professionally. “I grew up with my mother and father in a small town and, although I was never the biggest fan of music, I was influenced by my late father who listened to all kinds of music – I mean, from Celine Dion to Maskandi music, I got to hear it all,” she said.

And like most stars, she started her singing career in the church choir after some persuading by her mom. “My mother actually got me to sing in the church choir. It was not something I initiated, but I really enjoyed not just being in the choir, but singing, I even ended up singing at graduation ceremonies and other functions and my parents supported me the entire time,” she said.

They were such staunch supporters of her singing that when she decided to study music at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, it was not a difficult sell. She then graduated and decided to teach music for a year, before entering the Vodacom NXT LVL. “I actually do not like competitions at all, least of all reality TV, so I was not interested in it but my friend kept tagging me on Instagram posts about the competition and persuaded me to enter,” Mdletshe said.

The application process included submitting an audition video and once contestants were shortlisted, only the top five made it to Johannesburg, where the show was shot. “It was a non-elimination show, so no one was voted off or anything like that. We worked with mentors throughout the show,” she said. “I never thought I would win because I didn’t win a single challenge, I was always at the bottom of the leaderboard.”

Speaking about her EP, which she titled Qhawekazi, she said: “The EP consists of music I have been working on for the past two years. What’s been great about winning is that the cash prize has allowed me to get into studio and put the EP together.” Qhawekazi means heroine and Mdletshe said the EP is about women. “Most of the songs speak about the strength of a woman, her abilities to handle life in all its different forms. It’s really just a celebration of women as well,” she said.

The EP is dedicated to her two nieces, whom she hopes will take something positive from it when they are older. “When they get to their twenties I want them to be able to listen to this EP and understand their strength and love themselves fully. No matter what, it’s perfectly fine to give yourself some extra love.” The Afro-soul singer also said that she hopes her EP will resonate with every woman who listens to it. “I want anyone who listens to it to take some confidence from it,” she said.