The biggest show in the world, The X-Factor, finally has a South African version and it starts on Saturday. Buhle Mbonambi spoke to the host, Andile Ncube
Andile Ncube has been presenting sports for so many years that it was a pleasant surprise when he was announced as host of SABC 1’s The X-Factor South Africa, which starts on Saturday, 6 September, at 6pm. The presenter, who is regarded as one of the best in the industry and was responsible for discovering Top Billing’s Bonang Matheba, has been in the game for more than a decade.
His TV debut was as host of SABC 1’s music show, One and a few months after he joined, it became Live. While he was on the show, it was a ratings hit. Few shows could compete with Live on the Friday 9pm slot.
After deciding to focus on producing, Ncube left the show and chose his first love, football.
As one of SABC Sports main football anchors, he had been lost to prime time entertainment TV– so it’s good to have him back!
And what a way to come back. Hosting one of the most popular TV franchises in the world is no small feat. As much as we think that the talent and the judges are responsible for the success of a reality competition show, the host plays a very important part. It’s not an easy job too, as Steve Jones and Khloe Kardashian found out in the now cancelled US version of the show.
I met up with Andile at the first auditions in Durban in June. Crowds of people were jostling to get ahead, while some girls were ogling him. “He’s so hot hey?” one of the girls said. “He’s even hotter than he was when he had dreads.”
I mention this to him and he laughed. I guess he’s used to it.
Soon we were sitting with the crew and having lunch, and through the walls, we could hear a couple of “singers” try their luck.
We were both stumped when we didn’t recognise a song being sung and ended up laughing at the guts it must take to enter The X-Factor.
Welcome back to prime time TV man. We have missed you.
(Laughs) Man, that’s a hell of a statement and I only just realised that I wasn’t really on prime time TV for quite a while.
I was shocked when you left the entertainment side of TV for sports.
But I didn’t really leave man. It was the love of football and 2010 was a year that needed multiple sports presenters and since South Africa is such a big sporting nation, it made sense to go to sport.
Plus, football is my first love, so I got to do and still do, a job I love – my favourite thing in the world. Another thing about sports presenting, is the longevity part of it. I can do this for 10 to 15 years still.
So going back to the entertainment side of things, is it a shock to your system?
No. It’s like going back to something you loved doing, but this time it’s even better than before.
So, The X-Factor South Africa… Is it going to create a stir?
Oh yeah. We have been missing diversity in our reality shows. We needed something different and I think that’s the appeal with |X-Factor. The best thing about it is not just spotting the right talent, but the judges actually play a part in mentoring them and guiding them throughout the contest. So in essence, it’s not really judging, but mentoring and then seeing what your mentee has done with the advice you have given them.
What made you want to be part of The X-Factor SA?
I actually got offered the job, which is a great thing. I got that dream call, was asked if I was keen to host the show and I was.
*His phone rings and it’s his wife. He asks if we can take a break.*
During our break, I hear another song, this time Adele’s He Won’t Go, being butchered. Several of the crew laugh and Andile comes back at that moment.
“Another bad one?” he asks. “Yeah,” I say. We laugh again.
What are you most excited about heading into The X-Factor SA?
I’m excited that we are finding someone new, someone who could be the best thing to happen in the South African music scene.
Finding this talent, grooming it and then presenting it to the world. I think it’s the journey that makes it so exciting and the stories behind these talented people.
Do you think that South Africans will love the show?
I think they will and they will prove it by tuning in and voting. It’s something new too and that’s always fun.
One of the most interesting things about shows like X-Factor are the stories of the competitors and their background. Is it a ploy to tug at heart strings?
There’s a reason why they are there. They all have a story to tell and while it may tug at our heartstrings, most are about perseverance and doing all that |you can to get over whatever situation you are in. It takes guts to tell the whole country about something bad that happened to you. I personally love those stories. They make you understand the person more and feel like you can relate to them.
In many seasons of X-Factor, especially in the UK, the host turns into a mediator for fighting judges. Are you ready to play this role?
(Laughs) Well if they are ratchet, we got to step in and save them. (Laughs) You know, I actually don’t think we will have that much drama here and I honestly want my role as host to be the link between the contestants and the judges. People must not tune into the show for me. I’m just a vessel. The talent is the whole point of the show.
What is the most important thing you have learnt from The X-Factor editions around the world?
To never judge a book by its cover. I remember watching the season that Leona Lewis won the UK X-Factor. She was just an ordinary girl, but that voice!
The same with Alexandra Burke. Very simple girls and then they just bowl you over with their voices. So it taught me to treat every contestant the same as I could be dealing with the next big star.
What do you see as being the most challenging part of The X-Factor audition process?
It’s not the singing. I think it’s making the decision to come and audition. It takes guts man.
Putting yourself out there, in front of people, to basically tell you if you are good enough? Its not easy.
If you were to audition for The X-Factor SA, what song would you sing?
Oh man. Maybe I Never Wanna See You Again by Uncle Sam, or Hlengiwe Mhlaba’s Uyalalela. I’m a sucker for gospel and ’90s R&B. It was a good era for music. Or maybe AKA’s Congratulate? (Laughs) I can’t sing though.
What are two qualities that you must possess to make it in show business?
1. Confidence. Without confidence, there’s little chance of actually making it. Believe in yourself and know what you are doing and you’ll be fine.
2. You must be gifted. We all |have a talent, but there are those who are so gifted, I honestly feel like they were anointed by God and those are people who are meant to pursue their talent and make sure that they use it.
That’s why I’m so happy that Bonang is doing so well. I saw that spark and I realised she has the X-factor and look at her now?
The song you love to sing in the shower is...
Robbie Malinga and Kelly Khumalo’s Thina Sobabili. I actually heard this song before it was even mastered and man, it was phenomenal! It’s one of my favourite South African songs.
What advice would you give to The X Factor hopefuls?
Fear, nerves and doubt are your worst enemies. These will be your downfall.
Don’t let them take your dream away from you.
This article first appeared in the August 31, 2014 issue of the Sunday Tribune SMtv