Unathi Msengana. Picture: Instagram

It's almost 11pm at The King's After Party and Lauryn Hill's Ex-Factor blares across the Elephant Courtyard. 

Dancing fiercely and singing along word for word in front of the DJ booth is Unathi Msengana. 

It's the opening night of espAfrica’s Royal Escape Experience, an exclusive retreat at Sun City's The Palace of the Lost City.

It's been a few months since Unathi left Metro FM, leaving behind a legacy built over 16 years of radio. Since leaving radio she's taken to focusing on her music. 

She's due to release her latest album at the end of next month, and her recent single, Nguwe, a beautifully arranged love song, is gaining momentum on the airwaves.

When I sat down to chat with her, she was in a buoyant mood.

“I'm in a great space,” she said. “Yesterday, I committed to climbing Kilimanjaro in January.” 

That's a daunting task, she said, but her career has been characterised by breaking boundaries and reaching new heights. 

At Metro FM she was given the mandate of doubling her show’s listenership, which she did; her tenure at Idols SA has been successful; she's had a glittering and award-winning career as a musician. 

Despite the ease with which she's shifted lanes over the past few months, leaving radio wasn't a decision she took lightly.

“We were the number one breakfast show in the country and the number one show on Metro in terms of numbers and revenue. And it's tough to walk away while you're still getting great compliments and great accolades."

Getting back into her groove as a recording artist and recording the album wasn't much of a challenge because she'd been actively writing for the past few years. 

“It's been seamless because I also didn't have the pressure of having to think of another responsibility. 

“I started writing three years ago but you know you write all the time depending on what your influences are or where your heart is. That's never been difficult for me, it's always been therapeutic and a place where I can just get vulnerable and raw and emotional and all those kinds of things.”

Outside of her work, Unathi spends her Saturdays unwinding by spending time with friends and family.

Unathi’s also passionate about food and cooking. She describes herself as the soulful kind of chef whose speciality lies in making foods like samp and beans, lamb curry and lamb stew. 

She's in a great space spiritually, too. “My name is Unathi (Xhosa for “you're with us”), so God is always with me.”