The third season of SA’s Got Talent starts next month with auditions now in full swing. Besides the popular reality show moving to, there is another prominent change – Kabelo ‘Bouga Luv’ Mabalane will join judges Ian von Memerty and Shado Twala. Debashine Thangevelo got an audience with all three and found out what they were looking for among the bevy of talent this year.

MUCH like Britain’s Got Talent and America’s Got Talent, SA’s Got Talent is a hit with viewers because it isn’t confined to a specific genre.

And it gives a platform to talent in various forms: from dancers, musicians, jugglers, contortionists, magicians, ventriloquists, comedians to singers and so on.

With judge Randall Abrahams busy with Idols SA and his new portfolio as managing director of Universal Music SA, muso Kabelo “Bouga Luv” Mabalane has been brought on board.

Mabalane recalls: “I remember I was performing in Kenya and I bumped into one of the guys from and he asked me if the guys from had Rapid Blue called. He said they were going to. I guess whenever you get asked to do something like this, it is an honour. But I thought about it first, and wondered if it would align with my brand before agreeing.”

So what will he be bringing to the table?

“I think honesty is the best policy,” he maintains. “I always do really well when I’m myself and not trying to be somebody else. I bring an extra special sensitivity to the pot. Being an entertainer myself, I know how it feels to have hopes and dreams realised… and not realised.”

On working alongside Ian von Memerty and Shado Twala, he says: “Shado I have known since I was a child. She is a radio legend. Ian has a lot of experience in the industry – on the theatrical side. I need to be teachable and always willing to make it work.”

Having watched the previous seasons, Mabalane admits he is looking for “something special in a very unconventional way”.

He clarifies: “With talent shows, we are bombarded with singing taking the fore. It would be nice to discover unconventional talent. Maybe a comedian or an actress/ actor. I look at George Avakian, who came second in last year’s SA’s Got Talent. He is a beat-boxer, who has gone and done well. He is working with international artists. We need to maybe unearth another such talent.”

Currently working on his eighth studio album and the Shout campaign, Mabalane says the audition turnout is breaking records this year.

He continues: “I’m very excited to be a part of the mix. I’m looking forward to laughing a lot and being entertained. I know a lot of people think they are talented – not all are. Viewers will see my personality coming through. With people coming out of the woodwork from every walk of life, this show is definitely going to be fun.”

Ian von Memerty expressed his elation to be in the new season.

“We haven’t officially seen anyone yet. The makers have been scouring the country for talent. From what I hear, the show has bagged the biggest reaction in terms of diversity, age range and talent as well. The judges will get to see it, after the filtering process, at the end of this month.”

On the popularity of SA’s Got Talent, the multi-talented personality says: “The difference between us and every reality show and why we are, by far, the biggest reality show is that the others are defined by a narrow band. Idols is about young pop singers. The dance shows are related to dance.

“With SA’s Got Talent, we literally have no idea what is going to come out of the country, except that it is going to be fascinating. As the country evolves or doesn’t, we reflect that. The show is about ordinary people who haven’t had a break – there is something more humane and appealing about that, it grabs your heart.”

He continues: “When it says ‘any act’, you are constantly surprised. We have no idea what is coming on stage, what is going to be great and capture the hearts.

“The first season, we had Darren Rajbal, a deaf dancer from Durban. Then we had a middle-aged coloured opera singer, James Bhemjee, who started off as a street sweeper.”

How does he feel about Mabalane joining the judging panel?

“We have done shoots with Kabelo and the mood was really nice. Randall is primarily a music expert. Kabelo is a pop music guy and is street smart, which means he is going to bring an entirely different angle. He is an upright guy who has a lot of street cred – that is an important niche,” he explains.

When it comes to giving the nod or not to hopefuls, Von Memerty says he simply looks at whether the actor “captures him and the audience”.

Balancing the testosterone with a feminine perspective, Shado Twala says she is equally excited to have Mabalane on the panel.

“As with other musicians, with my radio background, I’ve known Kabelo from a distance. I have admired the work he has done and seen him grow. He is a well-brought up boy and I think he is going to bring a lot of flair.”

Twala says the pooled expertise of the trio will ensure the talent will be “judged holistically”.

Three seasons into the show and the radio icon and businesswoman says she doesn’t tire of wading through the talent that turns up.

“No show is ever the same. I’m excited to see how the acts have grown, especially those returning. And I’m looking forward to the newcomers. We have a lot of talent in South Africa and, this year, I’m looking for talent that will go further. I’m hoping we’ll get a non-singer because good voices have opportunities in other shows.

“I’m hoping we will find a unique talent that will represent South Africa all over the world,” shares Twala.

With comedian Tats Nkonzo as this year’s presenter, it will be interesting to see how the dynamics play out with engaging (and a fair amount of disastrously bad) acts taking to the stage.

• SA’s Got Talent airs on at 8.30pm on Thursday, August 30.