IT’S Idols SA time again!

And while Khaya Mthethwa – South Africa’s first black Idol – is finding his groove on the music scene, hopefuls line up for a shot at clinching this year’s title.

With Gareth Cliff, Unathi Msengana and Randall Abrahams reprising their roles in the judges’ seats, the affable ProVerb, who is also a co-executive producer, oozes charm and pizzazz as the host.

Gavin Wratten, the executive producer and series director, shed light on the new elements the creatives have for this year’s edition.

“The most obvious changes this season will be the venue and our move from Joburg to Pretoria. The Top 16 Group Shows will be at the State Theatre, while the Idols Spectaculars will be at the Moreleta Theatre – a wonderful venue that allows for a much bigger audience.

“There will also be a new music director and we are looking to introduce a surprise choreographer for the showstopper theme. But of course, the most important element that will make this season fresh and exciting is the contestants. I can confirm that the Top 16 is an incredibly talented and diverse group and that the judges have been raving about the standard.”

With American Idol becoming rather lacklustre and showing sliding audience ratings as a result, especially with the nightmarishly awful judging pairing of a catty Mariah Carey with Nicky Minaj in between all-round nice guy Keith Urban, I asked Wratten if such a fate might visit Idols SA.

“I think that even though the interest in American Idol seems to be waning, it is still one of the most popular shows on American TV. It’s a bit like the 10-time champion losing a few games and everyone panics. Most TV shows dream of the ratings American Idol is still getting.

“In South Africa, we’ve changed the panel a few times over the years. But Unathi, Gareth and Randall are gelling nicely at the moment (something that is very evident this season), so as long as they stay firm favourites, there is no real reason to change. Regarding the life span, in South Africa we are very fortunate that with the show being broadcast on Mzansi Magic as well, Idols has been introduced to a whole new audience.”

On the band and music director this season, he reveals: “We are introducing a new music team.

“Composer, producer, writer and performer, RJ Benjamin, is the new music director, and he’ll be assisted by Jaydine Baron, who worked as music director on the South African Music Awards this year and has numerous other music director credits to his name.”

Wratten says while they hope to add an international flavour with big-name acts making appearances such as Ciara and John Legend, nothing has been confirmed as yet.

With the race card always dogging the reality series, perhaps it might be put to bed this year.

He comments: “For certain sectors of society in this country, race will always be an issue. But for so many others, it is not. I think we have shown on Idols, over the years, that no matter what the talk is, if you are talented, driven and a great performer you can get people to vote for you no matter your background.”

With the level of talent rising with each series, he says the competition is again fierce this year.

Amid the usual talent and talent(less) who surface, there is always a smattering of comedy to be found. In the Cape Town auditions on Sunday, be sure to look out for fashion victim Allistair Williams.

Meanwhile, Collin Scholtz was desperate for a ticket – as it would prove to his boss that he didn’t really bunk work.

The stories abound: some funny, some heart-warming, some rather heartbreaking – but they all make for entertaining TV nonetheless.

Let the sing-offs begin…


• Idols SA airs on M-Net (DStv channel 101) and Mzansi Magic (DStv channel 161) on Sunday at 5.30pm.