Parklands opera singer on his way to fame

Mthetho Mapoyi during one of his performances two weeks ago in Johannesburg.

A Parklands opera singer has grabbed the hearts of many and made it all the way to Dubai with his powerful voice.

Mthetho Mapoyi, 30, found himself trending on social media a month ago when a video of him singing in the parking lot of Ons Huisie Restaurant in Bloubergstrand surfaced on Facebook.

The young musician stood in the parking lot with a medical walking boot on his right leg from an injury.

He had been singing for some time when a patron at the restaurant asked him to sing, Nessun Dorma by Pavarotti.

Mthetho didn’t skip a beat and wowed the crowd, who by now had all turned their seats to face him, watching and listening in awe.

Nicolene Smith took a video of his performance and posted it on her Facebook page on October 25. To date, the video has amassed nearly 500 000 views.

Born and bred in Hermanus, Mthetho grew up in a loving family but his father left when he was only 4 years old.

“That affected me quite badly but I always had a strong mother who kept me in line and made sure I was a good child. My mother was a musician, even though she didn’t take that seriously. She sang in the local church choir and would always be the lead singer and I guess that is where I got my talent from,” he said.

Mthetho would listen to his mother’s opera CDs and would try to imitate the singers.

He admits that he never knew what the lyrics meant but somehow, the music spoke to him.

He soon joined the church choir just like his mother and also sang at school.

At the age of 9 Mthetho was even teaching his friends to sing.

By the age of 12 they would go to the local town centre to sing and do gumboot dancing informally for the tourists.

Just two years later they decided to go a step further, quite literally, and would take the three-hour taxi journey from Hermanus to the Waterfront to perform there.

Those small performances at the Waterfront opened doors and Mthetho was soon recognised by a French film crew shooting a documentary.

The documentary was shown at a film festival in France and not long after that he had the opportunity to go to London to audition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama thanks to a few film lovers who saw the documentary.

Not knowing English very well, these film lovers enrolled Mthetho at St Andrew’s College in Grahamstown.

By 2008, things were going great for him.

He was about to record a demo CD in Grahamstown to send to the London school but in July, a day before he was to depart to St Andrew’s, his cousin brutally stabbed him in his face. He was literally left speechless and could not go to Grahamstown and thus lost the opportunity to go to London.

On December 5 that year, he was hit by another blow when his mother passed away.

Mthetho said his whole world came crashing down.

“My mother was my rock and after I lost her, I lost all hope and started hanging with the wrong crowd. My mother was HIV positive and after my stabbing, she was very stressed. Her illness got worse and she later died,” he said.

A few years later, Mthetho decided to change his life and went back to singing to make ends meet. In 2010, he filmed another documentary called The Creators. The doccie followed six South African music artists and was shot and edited by South African film-makers.

In 2012, he was called up by Cecilia Willis who had seen the documentary and organised him to do a TEDTalk in New York.

After his viral video on Facebook in October this year, businessman Bruce Wienand organised a trip for him to go to Dubai and showcase his skills there.

“Going to Dubai was a whole different experience. I got to do a radio interview at Virgin Radio, went to the Dubai English Speaking College and the Dubai International Academy. I was so happy to teach a few things to the kids at those schools and I think teaching music is something I can look into one day. Who knows,” he said.

Upon his return from Dubai, Mthetho appeared on the Expresso Show, Jacaranda FM and also shot an interview with Carte Blanche.

Mthetho’s ultimate dream is to become a professional opera singer and he said his God-given talent needed to be showcased.

“It is my time to shine and I plan on using my talent until I fulfil what God has planned for me,” said Mthetho.