By Ogova Ondego
Published January 12, 2009
Florence Matshediso Mholo, popularly known to her fans as “Tshedi” is a songwriter, composer, singer, producer and actress with a passion for stage plays. She composed and recorded a “prophesy-fulfilling” song about the US-elect president, Barack Obama, in 2007. The song has since been released internationally. But Tshedi, lead singer with the multi award-winning Afro-Pop South African group, Malaika, is no ordinary artist. She certainly is a woman who wears many hats: a soccer player, actress, children and women’s rights champion, and UNICEF Celebrity Advocate who delivers motivational speeches in schools on the dangers of drugs and unprotected sex. She speaks to OGOVA ONDEGO.
Many of your fans know you simply as Tshedi. What are your full names?
Florence Matshediso Mholo.
So ‘Tshedi’ is derived from Matshediso?
Does Matshediso mean anything in your first language?
It means ‘condolences’ as I was born soon after my grandfather’s death. It can also mean ‘bringing life to the helpless’.
What is your first language?
Setswana. It was also my major at university.
You have been to Ghana and Tanzania but not Nigeria or Kenya, the strategic entry points into West and East Africa, respectively. Why is this so?
Malaika serves per invitation. We are hoping to go to Kenya and Nigeria as we have always wished to be there and see what other countries do and learn about their cultural matters.
When did you, the late Jabu Ndaba and Bongani Nchang burst onto the music scene?
These guys had been there right from when they formed a group called Stouters. However, the market was not all that welcoming to them until I got into the picture and we started working with Guffy, our producer. Basically church was the meeting point where everything started. I am vocally gifted and I learn to sing music of all genres. It made things simpler for me to adjust from Gospel to Afro-Pop and House music.
Where, in South Africa, is Mabana Cultural Centre in Mmabatho where you as Malaika started off in 2003?
Mmabana cultural Centre is in the North West Province in Mafikeng, where I pursued my bachelor’s degree in Education at the University of the North-West.
What are you expected to do as a ‘UNICEF Celebrity Advocate’?
Awareness is the name of the game. Reaching out there and informing the nation about the importance of child care and raising awareness on HIV infections and other issues related to abuse against children and women. I do have a platform to turn things around for the fact that I’m a celebrity and a role model. People tend to listen to those they look up to.
What is the difference between ‘UNICEF Celebrity Advocate’ and ‘UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador’?
Goodwill Ambassadors are recognised as the faces of UNICEF. They are acknowledged around the world and they have bigger responsibilities in terms of conducting workshops and disseminating the information they gather from their research. Celebrity advocates, on the other hand, cater for the market here at home. Remember this is a voluntary initiative where you contribute using your status to educate the nation about the role UNICEF is playing on a daily basis. It is not a question of money but what you do from the heart to bring peace to the world.
Malaika performed at a Fifa-organised event in Sandton, Johannesburg.
Yes, that was around June 2008. Malaika has represented South Africa in so many ways. That generates a lot of interest and invitations from other countries. Our beautiful songs and presentations sell the band.
What are some of the awards Malaika and you have won over the years?
Metro FM 2004 – Best Afro Pop Album, Best Group, Best Album; Kora Award – 2004, Best New Comer Group; Channel O Music Video Awards 2005 – Best Afro Pop Group; Kora Award 2005 – Best Southern Africa Group; Sama Awards 2005 – Best Selling Album; Sama Awards 2006 – Best Afro Pop; and Sama Awards 2008 – Best Afro Pop.
Your group and you have dominated the music charts and live performances, gracing some of the high profile events in South Africa. Please name some of the events you have graced.
Sports Awards, Teachers Awards, Dept Of Transport Awards, Kora Awards, Premiers Awards, President Mbeki’s Inauguration, President Obasanjo’s Birthday, 10 Years Democracy Celebrations, World Cup Bid, and President Thabo Mbeki’s Birthday. Malaika have shared stage with overseas acts like US R&B singer Joe Thomas, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Abigail Kubheka, Chante Moore and Kenny Latimore, Mya, The Manhattans, Oliver Mtukudzi, Angelique Kidjo, Simphiwe Dana, Ismael Lo, Missy Elliott, Hugh Masekela, Jonas Gwangwa, Letta Mbulu and Caiphus Semenya, the legendary World music group Stimela and the late Brenda Fassie.
Children and women appear to rank very high in your priorities. Is this so? To what do you attribute it?
Yes. Malaika members have always remained grounded and we are God-fearing. We still keep our old friends and that humbles the group. The music and the lyrical content create more respect and attract more fans to us.
You are a songwriter, composer, producer, singer, actress, painter, card-designer, mother, wife, activist…
Tshedi is almost 100 things at the same time; I just network with people like you where we discuss and communicate fruitful conversations. I love lending a helping hand as well; I mean, my other name is Florence “Nightingale”. I am not a wife yet; honestly, it is not easy finding a partner once you are a public figure. But I am seeing someone I love dearly and who respects my career. As for motherhood, that is my life. Kamogelo, aged 4 years, bring me great joy.
Would you care to explain what ‘Abet education for adults’ that you conduct is to non-South Africans?
Adult basic education; it deals with aged people who won’t be able to attend daily classes. It is meant for those over the age of 18 years and above or adults who never got the opportunity to study due to various reasons.
Do you still teach at Anchor Comprehensive school in Soweto? What, exactly, is this ‘life orientation and arts and culture’ that you taught?
I am no longer in class as the work of Malaika is quite demanding. But teaching will always remain part of me even if I’m no longer in the classroom. Life is very broad and subjects like life orientation allow learners to talk and discuss moral issues, discipline, biological issues, culture and all sorts of things concerning life in general.
Where is the North West province in South Africa were you born?
Our country is divided into seven provinces. Northwestern is where I come from .The others are Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng, Limpopo, and Free State. Each province has its own leaders (Premiers and Mec’s) who report to the national government.
Apart from Vuthelani and Malaika, what is the other album Malaika has released?
Sekunjalo is our third album and it was recorded and released in September 2007. Vuthelani was released in 2005 and Malaika in 2003. The Sekunjalo album is eclectic with lots of African elements on it.
How did you start playing soccer?
I have been a soccer player from my university days; I also played baseball in high school. I was always an active child. My mother was into netball and knew all the techniques. Though she is now a retired teacher, I learnt so much from her. I play for Kaiser Chiefs Celebrity team and, I believe, I am a good defender.
You were in September 2008 involved in the photo-shoot of Emperor’s Palace’s 10th year birthday celebrations. What is ‘Emperor’s Palace’ to non South Africans?
This is a stunning casino, hotel and entertainment venue for all your classy events. It is situated right next to the Oliver R Tambo International airport in Johannesburg.
Which of your music recordings has been produced on your own Kamoduktion Publishing label?
Kamoduktion, administered by Gallo, monitors my publishing royalties and all the songs I wrote with Malaika. The Obama song is also under that umbrella. I do not have a recording label yet to release artists as I’m still working on Tshedi Mholo as a huge brand.
You publish your ‘own music under Kamoduktion Publishing, which is administered by Gallo Publishing’. Please elaborate.
The music industry is very broad and I believe in ownership where you get to know and understand how the business operates. We learn every day and I’m proud of myself. Gallo keeps a close eye on my work and they register all my songs and get business for me as well. If somebody wants to use my Obama song in a movie or a commercial, for example, Gallo automatically administer the whole process.
You have business interests in the transportation business.
I have metered taxis. My clients value my services and my cars are always clean and offer the best service. I look forward to expanding my business with bigger buses for touring.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I attended Bethel High, a boarding school and then proceeded to the University of the North-west.
What is the way forward for Malaika now that only two of the three-founder members remain following the passing away of Jabulani Ndaba? Should the world expect more from Malaika or is the band over?
Well, Malaika is still together and we are hoping for the best to come out of our fourth album that we hope to release in late 2009. Jabu won’t be replaced as we feel comfortable together as a duo.
With allegations of gross human rights abuse, run away corruption, and xenophobic violence against other Africans not to mention the fear of political and economic instability hanging over South Africa, do you, honestly, believe your country is the ideal host of the FIFA Soccer world cup in 2010?
The FIFA world cup is not for South Africa alone but it will be for the first time hosted in Africa. The allegations you mention will always remain but that cannot take away the world cup from us. We are ready and waiting for it. Our focus is on what’s best for the country and the services we will be rendering to our tourists and other dignitaries.
What other talent have you hidden from the world?
I love art and craft and I am a budding painter; I love beautiful and sexy cars and play soccer. I am a defender for the Kaizer Chiefs female celebrity soccer team.