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EXCLUSIVE: Arno Carstens suffers first blow as one of his acts, MJ Scholtz, is eliminated on @The_XFactorSA

Buhle Mbonambi 

Princess Mekoa reacts after she finds out that she was safe and her close friend and team member, MJ Scholtz was the first person eliminated from the show. With them is host, Andile Ncube.
PIC: Rajesh Jantilal for The X-Factor SA/SABC1/Rapid Blue
MJ Scholtz from Klerksdorp was the first act eliminated last night at the first live show of SABC 1's The X-Factor South Africa. His mentor, Arno Carstens, took it hard.  "This is so stupid. I want to cry," he told the Sunday Tribune immediately after the show. "I really don't understand how this works and why people didn't vote for MJ. I just have no words right now." 

However, MJ took his elimination from the show, like a pro. "It's part of life I guess. I'm happy that my good friend, Princess (Mekoa) made it through to the next round. As sad it is that I have to go, I couldn't have lost to a more talented person. She deserves this and I'm proud of her."

Arno Carstens comforting MJ Scholtz at the press room.
PIC: Rajesh Jantilal for The X-Factor SA/SABC1/Rapid Blue

He does have hopes that he will have a successful career. "I'm not going back home to cry. I'm going back home and I'm going to do all that I can to make sure that I pursue my passion, my dream. It's sad that I left the show first because I know it was going to give me a boost in my career. But it has happened and I'm okay with it."
Carstens agreed with him. "He has the potential to have a successful music career. Yes, he has a voice that is very niche, but with the right people working with him, he can be our next big star."

The Olive Convention Centre was filled with supporters, with almost every seat filled. Some came as far away as Johannesburg. Most the performances were a hit with both the judges and the audience, with viewers at home excitingly tweeting about the show. The favourites are KZN based contestants, Avodah, Iziqhaza and Bubbles, who had their supporters screaming out their names and waving placards. 

The X-Factor is hosted by Andile Ncube, with Carstens, Zonke Dikana and DJ Oskido being the mentors.

This article first appeared in the Sunday Tribune issue of 26 October 2014


Meet the hosts of @SABC3's @XtraFactorSA, starting tonight at 8pm (@The_XFactorSA)



SABC3 brings you The Xtra Factor - the behind the scenes look of the popular reality talent music competition every Friday, from 24th October 2014 at 8.00pm

About Xtra Factor SA 

The Xtra Factor is the sister show to The X Factor. Season 1 of the reality talent show will consist of ‘behind the scenes’ inserts and interviews.The Xtra Factor will be shot entirely on location in Durban. Viewers can catch some acts not seen on the main show, and more footage and interviews from those that were. Plus some relaxation time with the judges and presenters, all done with a knowing wink to the viewers.

The Xtra Factor has its very own presenters. The young and talented actor and singer Rory Booth and the gorgeous model, radio and TV presenter Wandile Sandra Chamane better known as 1DC will host the fun filled The Xtra Factor, getting the first reactions from the contestants and the judges. Together they’ll be presenting more behind the scenes action from the judges’ houses stage of singing competition, showcasing personalities of the judges and contestants including all the backstage action and gossip.

Meet the Hosts

Rory Booth
Durban based Rory Booth already has a wealth of stage experience both as an actor and a singer having done Children’s Theatre; Musical Theatre and Musical Theatre Revues. Rory started his career as a writer with his first children’s play called ‘Festive Fun with Bob and Rob’. The landmark Indian play ‘Spice and Stuff’ was staged in both Durban and Johannesburg and marked Rory’s first role in a straight play. The play earned Rory a nomination for best actor in a drama at the Durban Theatre Awards that year. In 2010, Rory won the Mercury ‘Personality of the Year’ Award. At the moment Rory is one of the key writers in a film project with African Lotus Productions, Fine Line Productions, Indigenous Films and the National Film and Video Foundation. He is set to release two new solo singles for radio in the coming weeks.

Wandi C
24 year-old Wandi C resides in the beautiful city of Durban. She considers herself as an entertainer in its rawest form. She is finishing her Bachelors of Education degree at Embury Teacher Institute in Durban. 1DC started as an events management agency; whereby she designed a lot of hip hop youth events, fashion shows and weddings. In 2011 she decided to branch off from event designing and changed the company’s principle business and name. 1DC Lifestyle Franchise came to life. 1DC entered the modeling scene in 2005. In 2009 she entered Miss Durban and won the title. In December 2009 she won KZN Model of the year. Modeling became a tool for her, a tool to open doors and lead by example to all the young, beautiful women that hard work gets the job done. In 2011 she entered Miss Lux Smooth Skin where she came in as runner up. In 2013 she discovered her radio voice and joined Community radio station Vibe fm.

Don’t miss all the unseen footage and backstage gossip on The Xtra Factor, airing on SABC3 on Fridays at 8.00pm from 24 October 2014.

@OITNB is Brilliance Behind Bars. Tune in on Wednesdays on @MNet's #MNetEdge at 9pm

Brilliance Behind Bars

Orange is the New Black has just the heat to turn the series world upside down, writes Hank Stuever

Two years ago, I took the train from Washington to Staunton in Virginia, US, to go to a wedding. The woman sitting next to me was from Maine, and she was on her way to report for a relatively short prison sentence (her crime was embezzlement, I seem to recall), at the same federal prison in West Virginia “where Martha Stewart went,” she bragged, the way freshmen talk about their college choices. Once in a while, I wonder how it all worked out for her.

If you know anything about the American penal system, then you know it was probably not the calm retreat she had hoped for. As made perfectly clear in Jenji Kohan’s magnificent and thoroughly engrossing new series Orange is the New Black (premiering on Wednesday at 9pm on M-Net Edge (DStv channel 102), prison is still the pits. But it is also filled with the entire range of human emotion and stories, all of which are brought vividly to life in a world where a stick of gum could ignite either a romance or a death threat.

Based on Piper Kerman’s memoir of the same name, the series follows a fresh-faced woman from Brooklyn (she’s launching a line of artisanal lotion) who is arrested for her connection to an international drug operation. What happened, your honour, was this: A decade ago, Piper was in a lesbian relationship and shuttled a large sum of money to Europe for her girlfriend who worked for a cartel. Someone has named her in an indictment, and before she knows it, Piper is sentenced to 15 months in prison.

Orange is the New Black feels like Netflix’s first real home run since it famously entered the scripted-series biz. I realise some people couldn’t get enough of the contorted House of Cards when it premiered, and that the Arrested Development niche is still dizzy from their group binge last May, but Orange is the first series in which I’d almost insist that viewers upgrade to streaming service and come along for television’s seemingly inevitable future-delivery method.
Kohan also created Showtime’s sprawling drug and fractured-family saga Weeds, and Orange is the New Black has some of that same comi-tragic feel to it, with a whole lot more depth. Once Piper (Taylor Schilling, doing a perfectly naive little bird) is behind bars, we are introduced to a harsh, yet complex array of female characters.

Having bid her boyfriend Larry (Jason Biggs) a tearful goodbye (“Promise you’re not watching Mad Men without me,” she begs him, later), Piper quickly wises up and learns to navigate the distrustful exchanges that form her new life. She’s completely thrown to discover that one of the inmates in her wing is the ex-girlfriend (That ’70s Show’s Laura Prepon) who got her in all this trouble to begin with.

Watching the show, one begins to realise that all the good parts for women truly have been kept locked up somewhere, now, here they all are, free (in at least one sense) to be portrayed. Within the first six episodes, they are expertly and fully sketched, textured and realised: Latinas, lesbians, an activist nun, a fireman who transitioned into a woman, a housekeeper-turned-murderer, a Russian inmate (Kate Mulgrew) who runs the kitchen and serves Piper a used-tampon sandwich out of initial spite.
(Warning: The show is full of gross and intentionally unsettling moments; it is a prison, after all. With any luck, the sandwich will be the worst of it.)

Together, these women and their stories form a sad and strange tapestry, but Orange is the New Black is by no means a female Oz. And although there are unwanted advances from unctuous guards (including Pablo Schreiber as Officer Mendez, aka “Pornstache”), it has little use for our culture’s exploitative and outdated Caged Heat-style excitement for the notion of women doing time together.

As in Weeds, Kohan and her writers are obsessed with the million little details that form a believable and unembellished realm. Each episode contains fascinating revelations about the prison world, almost like a documentary report from within. – Washington Post

Meet the inmates of Orange is the New Black

Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling)
The lead character, Piper is the entitled, yuppie, NPR-listening New Yorker who you will either love or hate. She actually read books about going to prison, something she tells her fellow inmates, who laugh at her for it. She’s whiny, irritating and as much as you sometimes do feel sorry for her, she turns you against her because of how she treats other people. It gets her into trouble almost immediately. Serving a 15-month sentence for her involvement in a drug-trafficking ring, Piper will need to toughen up if she wants to survive the whole sentence.

Taystee and Poussey (Danielle Brooks and Samira Wiley)
The comic relief on the show, Taystee and Poussey are the best friends who make prison life bearable. From jokes about Upper East Side white women who listen to NPR, and their travels, to battle raps with fellow inmates. Their one-liners are legendary and without them, the show would be a bit depressing. They “work” at the prison library as they are book-smart, but also very street-smart.

Nichols and Morello (Natasha Lyonne and Yael Stone)
Nichols is a recovering heroine addict and Morello is love-sick and thinks The West Side Story is her life. They are lovers, even though Morello swears she can’t be cheating on her fiancé Christopher anymore. Nichols is close to the prison’s resident godmother Red, regarding her as her mother. She also keeps Piper in check whenever her entitlement surfaces. Morello drives the inmates around and is rarely seen without her red lipstick.

Red (Kate Mulgrew)
The godmother of Litchfield Prison, Red runs the prison like her house. As head chef, everyone wants to be on her good side, lest they want to be starved, as our lead finds out soon enough on her first day in prison.
While most of the inmates fear her, she is still loved by many and is appreciated for running the kitchen well. She has one nemesis – CO Mendez, aka Pornstache. Red feels powerless only when she is being taunted by Mendez.

Sophia Burset (Laverne Cox)
The groundbreaking role of Sophia, a transgender inmate, is one that has led the show to many accolades. Sophia is the prison’s hairdresser and keeps everyone pretty. But she also has her problems: her son won’t accept her as a woman and her wife cannot cope with her husband in prison – plus she is dealing with the prison taking away her hormones. She strikes up a friendship with a nun in prison and theirs is one of the most interesting relationships of the show.

Crazy Eyes (Uzo Aduba)
Like her name states, Suzanne is nicknamed Crazy Eyes because her bulging eyes make her look crazy. She’s in love with Piper and calls her Dandelion, even writing her poems. She even threw pie for Piper when she had a problem with her former lover Alex Vause, which shocks and also pleases Piper. But she does some extreme things when Piper tells her she is not her prison wife.

Larry Bloom (Jason Biggs)
Piper’s fiancé Larry is a writer who uses Piper’s prison sentence as a way to make some money, including getting a column in The New York Times and interviews on NPR. He cannot deal with knowing that Piper’s ex lover Alex is in prison with her. Like Piper, he’s irritating and entitled, and their relationship will be tested in the course of the series.

Alex Vause (Lauren Prepon)
Alex is Piper’s ex-lover who got her involved in drug-trafficking. When Piper finds out that Alex is in the prison with her, she cannot handle it and asks Larry to find out if Alex ratted her out. In the course of the series, she reveals she’s still in love with Piper. Will Piper get back together with her and cheat on Larry?  

Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning)
The crazy meth head and extreme 'Christian'(she cusses a lot) has so many problems and issues, that she takes them out on Piper. Their story starts in a very weird way, but it becomes a central point and why Piper needs to toughen up. Easily one of the most popular characters.  - Additional reporting by Buhle Mbonambi

Star Wars Rebels: Right balance between hype and hyperspace

Star Wars Rebels: Right balance between hype and hyperspace writes Hank Stuever 

Thank you, Bill Murray, and thank you, curiously enough, Mickey Mouse: Star Wars Rebels, a new animated series airing Saturdays 09.20am on Disney XD (DStv Channel 304). is a shipshape, neato-burrito side project that finds the right balance between hype and hyperspace.

The first double-length episode, subtitled Spark of Rebellion, is a perfectly acceptable entry in the Star Wars universe. It’s also clearly meant for 10-year-olds, so what’s with all the 45-year-olds asking me if I’ve seen it yet?

Well, you know, this is religious stuff for some of us original fanboys, and Rebels is the first indication of what will become of Star Wars under the stewardship of Disney, which acquired the entire Lucas film operation a couple of years ago and promptly floated a number of ways in which it intends to amp up the brand.

To everyone’s surprise, this included a green light for Episode VII, which is due in movie theatres in time for Christmas 2015 and brings Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill back as Han Solo, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker. One thing is certain about the new ownership: Disney intends to make as much money as it can on Star Wars, no offence to your sacred childhood memories.

None taken! These days, you can have as much or as little going on in your own private Star Wars sphere as you like. For some, the movies are plenty. Most of us can admit – almost without twitching – that George Lucas’s prequel trilogy pretty much soured the relationship. The bright spot in the prequels, I suppose, was that they taught us to not take Star Wars so personally. This was a real problem.

Of course, Rebels is hardly the first trip to cartoon land for Star Wars. Animator Dave Filoni’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars debuted in 2008 and ran for an impressive 125 episodes on Cartoon Network. Clone Wars had a style all its own, filling in the huge blanks between Lucas’s Episode II: The Attack of the Clones (2002) and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005), in which Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, Yoda and the old guard actually fought and experienced the so-called Clone Wars that everyone in the films talked so much about. Clone Wars was harmless fun – a toy commercial with a noticeable |moral code and a willingness to experiment.

Snuffed out by the Disney deal, Clone Wars nevertheless left Filoni and his Rebels co-creators, Carrie Beck and Simon Kinberg, with a blueprint for how to do Star Wars purely for kids (after all, Star Wars should rightfully belong to kids)|in a half-hour format, while appeasing the childlike devotion |in adult fans.

Rebels has the benefit of taking place in what is undoubtedly the proven sweet spot of Star Wars: It’s set five years before the events seen in the original 1977 film. That means Rebels is more recognisably and visually Star Wars-ish than the stories set in the prequel era. |In Rebels, there are once again stormtroopers, Imperial officers, Star Destroyers, TIE fighters and AT-ATs, all with their attendant sound effects and movements and John Williams music cues. At |long last we are home, where the obfuscation between “good guys” and “bad guys” has fallen away.

As fans know, Rebels animators looked for inspiration to the paintings and sketches of the late conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie, whom Lucas hired in the early 1970s when Star Wars was just a germ of an idea. Before anyone really knew what it would look and feel like, McQuarrie had begun drawing rudimentary notions of droids, Wookiees and Sith Lords. One of the good guys in Rebels, a lumbering creature named Zeb Orrelios, is a dead-ringer for McQuarrie’s earliest take on Chewbacca.

There’s a story here too, by the way: On a far-off planet a |skilled teenage thief named Ezra Bridger (Taylor Gray) runs into a band of thieves headed by Kanan Jarrus (Freddie Prinze Jr) and unwittingly foils their latest heist. The more Ezra hangs out with Kanans crew, it begins to dawn on him that they’re working for a larger, secret alliance dedicated to overthrowing the Galactic Empire. And that’s where the fun begins. – Washington Post

This article was first published in the October 19 2014 issue of the Sunday Tribune SMtv Guide

Exciting News: @The_XfactorSA songs to be available on @iTunesZA

The X Factor South Africa LIVE show songs on iTunes

*** Press Release***

The X-Factor SA Top 9 Pic: XFactorSA/SABC1
Great news for The X-Factor South Africa fans is that iTunes will be making all of the songs performed by contestants during the live gala shows on SABC 1 available for download, starting this week.

This groundbreaking initiative for The X-Factor SA marks the first of its kind in South Africa, where recordings of the songs performed during the LIVE gala shows will be made available for distribution through iTunes during the live broadcast.

SABC TV head of Publicity, Zandile Nkonyeni says, “We believe in supporting talented artists and cultivating South African musicians. SABC 1 is proud that this format, The X Factor South Africa, is growing and reaching outlets like iTunes. It is another step in which the SABC and the show have taken to bring another first to our viewers.

After auditioning thousands of hopefuls around the country and narrowing down the field to the nine top solo singers and groups, The X Factor SA, broadcast on SABC1 on Saturdays at 17:30, has now hit warp speed as the live shows bring an extra dimension of competitiveness and excitement to the singing competition.

South African television audiences will begin casting their votes for their favourite acts, who will hear their fate during the live results shows on Saturdays at 19:30 on SABC1. This nerve-wracking process of elimination will culminate in the crowning of the first ever The X- Factor SA winner on Saturday 13 December 2014. 

“iTunes and The X Factor have worked closely together in other international markets in the past, and we are excited about extending the same benefit to South Africans,” said Paul Thackwray, Marketing Director of Sony Music Entertainment Africa, which is sponsoring a recording contract for the winner.

Between now and December, the finalists will be performing in the region of 60 songs during the live televised shows. Starting on Saturday 25 October 2014, all of these tracks will be available for download on iTunes, starting from the evening on which each number is performed. The songs will be available for the duration of the competition.

Simply visit the South African iTunes store, where all the songs will be available in a dedicated X Factor South Africa section. Fans can also check out The X-Factor SA website, Facebook page or Twitter account to find out how to support SA’s latest stars-in-waiting by downloading their powerhouse performances. The cost per track is R5.99.

Catch the first live show tomorrow night on SABC 1 from 5.30pm and the results show at 7.30pm 


#AHSFreakShow starts tonight on @MNet's #MNetEdge at 9pm. It's a MUST WATCH!!!

The stuff nightmares are made of

American Horror Story continues to be like nothing else on television. Willa Paskin reports

Ryan Murphy’s work starkly juxtaposes cruelty and triumph, the possibility of real degradation and of real victory. His shows Glee, The New Normal, Popular, Nip/Tuck have a mean streak, a willingness to humiliate and tease their characters, when those characters are not getting put through emotionally debilitating, melodramatic paces. His series also exhibit a soft spot for the underdog, a devotional belief in talent and drive, and a sense of karma that can verge on the cheesy. 
These qualities can co-exist, but not always seamlessly: there is jangling when, for example, Glee casually insults its actors’ looks and then lavishly praises them for standing up to bullying.

But the friction between these two not-quite-competing aesthetics is what gives American Horror Story – Murphy’s wackadoo, disturbing, and utterly entertaining anthology series, which just began its fourth season in the US with so much of its warped power.

Like all great horror, it is willing to abuse its audience, which, in a perfectly Murphian turn, wants to be abused. But, as with most classics of the genre, that willingness to abuse is joined by a strong moral sense, though, in Murphy’s case, a moral sense that has nothing to do with killing off the promiscuous woman first.

AHS is an unsettling fantasia of nearly every disturbing thing in America’s shameful collective nightmare box, from ghosts and witches and serial killers to Nazis and slave owners. But the series, like the rest of Murphy’s work, has a bizarre sort of optimism. For a show that runs through horror tropes with the speed, energy and joy of a Supermarket Sweep contestant, each season has finished with something like a happy ending (as well as, yes, a body count and immense psychological and physical damage). Life can be a horror story, but when that story’s done, it gets better. There is horror, but, also, hope.

If you do not have a clown phobia yet, good luck watching this show and keeping it that way.
The new season American Horror Story: Freak Show is set in 1952 in the town of Jupiter, Florida. It stars Jessica Lange as Elsa Mars, a fame-seeking Marlene Dietrich wannabe with a very shaky accent, who is in charge of a flailing freak show (Elsa appears to have a sideline in smut films, taping drug-fuelled and not entirely consensual orgies that may be boosting her bottom line).

Her carnies include bearded lady Ethel Darling (Kathy Bates) and her son Jimmy (Evan Peters), who dresses like Marlon Brando in The Wild One, but has deformed hands that are perfect for pleasuring housewives. The freak show’s fortunes begin to look up when Elsa recruits Siamese twins played by Sarah Paulson (who continues to be the show’s real lead, no matter Lange’s billing). Dot is bossy, mean, puritanical, and talented. Her sister Bette is sweeter, softer, more fame-seeking and sexual.

The pair have just been discovered for the first time by the authorities. In the second episode, they are joined by a strong man with a temper named Dell Toledo (Michael Chiklis) and his wife, Desiree (Angela Bassett), a hermaphrodite with “three ti***es and a ding-a-ling,” as she puts it.

Simultaneously, a truly horrifying clown is wandering around Jupiter, viciously murdering people while they sleep and taking hostages. The clown, silent, brutal, and leering, may be AHS’s scariest bogeyman yet, but he is far from Freak Show’s only bad-guy.

The perfectly named Dandy Mott (Finn Wittrock) seems to be a comedic character, a spoiled, infantilised young man who drinks his cognac out of a crystal baby bottle and thinks his freakish talent is knowing the “entire Cole Porter canon”. But he’s a bored rich kid with no sense of right and wrong and he may end up being even more sociopathic than the clown.

Murphy has always been interested in the experiences of marginalised people, whether they are nerdy high school students or gay dads, but it took a couple of seasons for American Horror Story to frame its protagonists explicitly in these terms. Season 1, a ghost story, was contained entirely within one haunted house, and if its characters were marginalised, it was by the fact of their being dead (a pretty marginalising condition, it turns out). 

American Horror Story: Asylum, the richest, most upsetting and best season so far, focused on the inhabitants of an asylum, who did not have a particularly strong sense of community. But last season’s bubbly, glossy Coven was about a group of wrongly hunted and feared witches, a group of unique, talented people who were abused and hurt because of the way they were born. American Horror Story was done with being subtle about its allegories.

Freak Show is even less subtle about the way its titular freaks are stand-ins for mistreated minority groups generally. A small town in 1950s Florida with a murderer on the loose is not a good place to be different, and Murphy lays this observation on nice and thick. The freaks, led by Jimmy, take issue with being called freaks. “I hate that word,” a man with truncated forearms tells Jimmy, who replies, “If they just got to know us, they would see they’re just like us”. He then arranges a kind of sit-in for the freaks at the local diner.

Elsa, who lovingly calls her employees her “monsters” – shades of Lady Gaga – insists, “My monsters wouldn’t hurt a fly. I’ll tell you who the monsters are, the people outside in this town. My monsters are the beautiful, heroic ones, they provide a laugh or a fright to people who need entertainment”.

This is heavy-handed, obviously, if not for Murphy, then for American Horror Story. But at least Lady Gaga koans about identity politics are the place where Freak Show is beginning, and not, as with Coven, where it will (one hopes) end up. The season seems set to explore the freaks inside everyone.

Whatever they may say, people come to the freak show because something about it appeals to them, excites them, turns them on. Men may disdain the freak with the disfigured hands, but wives invite him to a Tupperware party to get them off (between Johnny’s magic hand and Elsa’s sideline in sex reels, the season already seems more sexually attuned than previous instalments). We all have monsters inside of us, or, in the case of Dot and Bette, next to us.

As with all of Murphy’s work, there is no shortage of ideas. Whether he’ll follow through on them or – as with the slavery storyline on Coven – just lose interest, we’ll have to wait and see. Meanwhile, there were more moments like this one from the first episode: Jessica Lange in a tailored powder-blue suit and huge swathes of blue eyeshadow, belting out David Bowie’s Life on Mars (“Look at those cavemen go, It’s the freakiest show-oh-oh-oh”). In Episode 2, Dot performs Fiona Apple’s Criminal before an impromptu 1950s mosh pit.
Humour, terror, sex, death, camp, karaoke: no show on television has all these ingredients but American Horror Story. – Slate

AHS: Freak Show airs from Monday 20 October at 9pm on M-Net Edge

PICTURES: FX/American Horror Story

This article first appeared in the 19th October 2014 issue of the Sunday Tribune SMtv Magazine. 

Meet @Official_SABC1's @The_XFactorSA's Top 9

It's now the business end of The X-Factor South Africa and on Friday, the Top 9 acts were revealed to press at Zimbali Fairmont Resort. 

While it was interesting choices made by the judges (more on that in a separate post) the decisions have been made and there is no turning back for the judges. But one can't help and wonder if they actually made the right decisions. Judging by the reaction on Twitter and on Facebook, we doubt that they did, especially if the viewers are baying for blood. 

Anyway, here are the Top 9 acts, who will be performing on Saturday at the Live shows on SABC 1 at 5.30pm

The Top 9 Acts PIC: SABC 1
About the top nine:

Princess (22, from Johannesburg): Princess has already had songs playlisted on local radio and is the mother of a bouncing toddler. She is part of a work programme that empowers young mothers to be independent, and is studying to be a social worker. This young mum entered The X Factor SA because she wants “more and better” – and to ensure that her daughter has the best in life.

MJ (19, from Cape Town): This born entertainer says that “The X Factor saved my family”, after a car accident during boot camp proved to be the catalyst that brought his estranged relatives back together. He is gay and, although his family is supportive, he still gets treated like a “freak”. MJ loves to paint, act and dance, and dreams of being a professional singer.

Wandile “Bubbles” (21, from Richards Bay): Already a professional musician at the age of 21, having turned to music when she failed matric, Wandile has performed at President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla residence and at King Goodwill Zwelithini’s daughter’s wedding. She entered The X Factor SA because “this is where I belong”, and says she is doing it for her beloved grandmother and her community.

Eliezer (28, from Johannesburg): Eliezer is a TV talent competition veteran who has entered several such shows in a bid to break into the industry. He has a strong motivation, though: having spiralled down into a life of drugs and self-destruction, it was only when his brother was murdered three years ago that he decided to change his life. By entering X Factor SA, he wants to set an example to his three-year-old son.

Gavin (36, from Johannesburg): Gavin is used to being in the spotlight – as a boy whose family moved around a lot, he was once the only white kid at an all-black school. Gavin has had some success in Ireland, where he released a single, performed and played keyboards for Westlife star Bryan McFadden and Enrique Iglesias. A husband with two children, he is mainly a cover artist but dreams of having a solo career.

Wandaboy (31, from Johannesburg): Hailing from a large family with 10 siblings (four of whom have sadly passed away), Wandaboy has entered several TV singing contests and has done backing vocals for established gospel artists. His lowest point was using mandrax and heroin, and he regrets the many years he wasted doing drugs. His dream is to make it in the music industry, and to go back to school and study business.

Iziqhaza (from Pietermaritzburg): Khanyisa and Mbongeni, aged 26 and 31, are both professional nurses and prolific songwriters who dream of singing around South Africa and landing a recording deal. Describing themselves as spiritualists and fashionistas, they have previously entered talent-search competitions and have performed in several live shows.

Four (from Cape Town): Steven, Jethro and David, who range in age from 23 to 30, describe themselves as being a pop-rock and R&B-inspired boy band. These family-oriented lads were only together for a month before they entered The X Factor SA, but have already written some 20 songs. They dream of being the biggest boy band in South Africa – but know their biggest challenge lies in breaking into the music industry. That, and Jethro’s preoccupation with his hair…

Avodah (from Pietermaritzburg): The members of this all-girl six-piece outfit – Nonkululeko, Nondumiso, Thembisa, Phila, Siziphiwe and Sindi – are aged between 22 and 37. They met at a church conference last year and decided to call themselves “Avodah”, Hebrew for “serving God through worship”. They have written and recorded a handful of songs and have served as backing vocalists for established artists.

Catch the first live show on Saturday at 5.30pm on SABC 1. '

PICS: SABC 1/ The X-Factor SA


We chatted to @The_XFactorSA's Top Nine Acts at @FairmontZimbali

The top nine acts of The X-Factor South Africa were announced yesterday. Buhle Mbonambi spoke to some of the favourites

Arno Carstens, Zonke Dikana, Oskido and Andile Ncube PIC: Bongani Mbatha

After weeks of searching, the judges of SABC 1’s The X-Factor South Africa have finally chosen the best acts.
Judges Oskido, Zonke and Arno Carstens revealed the acts at a cocktail party at Zimbali Fairmont Hotel on Friday.
“It wasn’t an easy decision,” said Zonke, mentor to the Over 24s group, from which Gavin Edwards, Wanda Ngubeni and Eliezer Hilmer were chosen. 
“Choosing who to take to the live shows was one of the most difficult decisions I had to make, since I had such a strong group of singers.”
Zonke with her top 3 acts for the live shows- Wanda Ngubeni, Gavin Edwards and Eliezer Hilmer PIC: Bongani Mbatha
The Over 24s are believed to be the strongest contestants on the show. Unsurprisingly, they agree. 
“The winner will come from one of us,” Edwards said.
“We are strong singers, and we have age on our side, compared with the other contestants, so really the competition is between the three of us,” Ngubeni added. 
Asked what we could expect on Saturday when the live shows begin at the Olive Convention Centre in Durban, Hilmer  said: “Expect a show. We will blow everyone away. We are all very different, and there’s a reason Zonke chose us over the others – we have the ‘X-factor’, and we will prove it.”

Oskido and his groups- Iziqhaza, Avoda and Four PIC: Bongani Mbatha
Oskido mentored the groups, which consisted of Four, Avoda and Iziqhaza. 
Four – Jethro Tait, Steven Lewis and David Januari – are the most popular of the three groups. This is  because they already look like superstars, something that could give them an edge over their fellow contestants. 
“It’s great that the ladies love us, and if that gives us the edge over the other groups, we don’t mind. We’ll take it and run with it,” Lewis said.

The Under 24s, to be mentored by rocker Arno Carstens, include MJ Schulz, Bubbles Mnomiya and Princess Mekoa.  Already close friends, they acknowledge they will have to do a great job each week to impress the viewers at home.  “There’s some amazing talent on the show, and we can’t wait to blow them away,” Schulz said. 

Arno's angels: Bubbles Mnomiya, MJ Schulz and Princess Mekoa PIC: Bongani Mbatha
Mnomiya agreed, saying: “We have made a pinky promise that each week we will perform our socks off so we don’t go home. I can’t dance, but I will make sure that I learn my steps so I can do my friends, parents and MJ and Princess proud.”
Mekoa believes they have qualities that will stand them in good stead. 
“We have stage presence, and are spunky and cool.”

The other two acts chosen were Avoda (a group of six girls) and Iziqhaza (a group of two) 

The X-Factor South Africa will be shown live on SABC 1 from Saturday, 25 October, at 5.30pm. The show will be filmed from the Olive Convention Centre in Durban, and will be hosted by Andile Ncube.

This article first appeared in the issue of 19 October 2014 on the Sunday Tribune. 


@SAsGotTalent- Meet the Top 18

The business end of e.tv's SA's Got Talent starts on Sunday and it couldn't have come sooner. The sad thing about reality shows, is just how many non-talented people there are. It's heartbreaking. The talent is few and far between and that we have to wade in the murky waters of the untalented people who love to make fools of themselves on national television, is irritating. 

Anyway, that's just me. 

e.tv revealed the Top 18 contestants who will now go to the semi-finals of the SA's Got Talent. Starting Sunday, the semi-finals will see the six best acts go head to head. The best two from each night will then make it to the finals, where the act with the most viewer votes, wins. 

Now, it's not always the talented people who win, but SA's Got Talent has been lucky that the really talented individuals, end up being the winners. 

Enough of my thoughts on the show- here's the Top 18

SA's Got Talent 2014 Top 18

Name: The Young Wheezy Boys 

Province: Western Cape
Act: Urban dance

Since they were children, they realised they had a passion for dance. The Young Wheezy Boys have now been pursuing dance professionally for five years. They plan to open a dance school for children one day. Their “motto in life is to always seek the opportunity to build a better future for our upcoming generation through my dancing. And that nothing in life is impossible.”

Name: Airforce 
Province: Free State
Act: A Cappella

Brendolene Williams, Kabelo Moletsane and Tumelo Mahloma make up Airforce. These students admitted that they had money to attend the SA’s Got Talent auditions but none to return home so winning the competition would help with their financial problems. They look up to a cappella band, The Soil. Airforce say “it’s not only about winning but about showing the whole wide world what we really have in us. We want to encourage other young people to be active and to show our parents our passion.”

Name: Tessa Hijner 
Province: Western Cape
Act: Vocalist

The high school student was born in Holland, Amsterdam. In 2010, she moved to Cape Town with her family to support her brother’s quest to seek a rehab centre in South Africa. The classically trained vocalist has been singing professionally for five years. She says she "entered SA’s Got Talent because I think I got what it takes; I work hard and most importantly I believe in myself, and love what I do. I wanted to show South Africa what this Dutch girl has!”

Name: Tholwana Mohale

Province: Northern Cape
Act: Singer

This grade 9 learner began playing the guitar in 2011 and hasn't looked back since. Her idol is Beyoncé because she “has the complete package of a phenomenal performer and doesn't change who she is to please society.” This singer who won the best female category at the 2013 Teen Choice Awards of a local radio station says: “The title of the competition is SA's Got Talent, and I believe that I have the talent needed to win the competition, and that I can develop my talent even further through this competition.”
Name: Joe Fredericks 
Province: Gauteng
Act: Singer

This bookkeeper by day has been singing for 28 years. He says he “always wanted to be a part of SA’s Got Talent but the time was not right. I entered this year because I believe it’s one of the biggest platforms for an upcoming artist. Winning this competition will inspire many gifted children and grownups in the Eastern Cape where there are very rare opportunities.”
Name: Freeze Frame Crew 
Province: Gauteng
Act: Hip hop dance

This dance crew has been making a name for themselves since 2006. Comprised of Sibusiso Zwane, Brandon Grobler, Glen Makwala, Lesedi Mabena, Rorisang Malete and the only female in the crew, Jahara Naidoo, Freeze Frame Crew travelled from Johannesburg to Cape Town to audition for SA’s Got Talent. They have won a number of awards and performed in South African films and TV adverts.

Name: Lew Tasker
Province: Kwa-Zulu Natal
Act: Contact juggler

This Durbanite is good friends with previous SA’s Got Talent winner, Darren Rajbal. He’s been a contact juggler for 17 years and aspires to be like contact juggling forefather, Michael Motion.
Name: Arise
Province: Gauteng
Act: Dancers

Made up of boys and girls from the Donald and Daisy Edu-Care Centre in Kempton Park, Arise, was one of the first acts to get three yes's from the judges. The group has made it to the national leg of the South African Championship of Performing Arts and became the youngest group to be named the 'Best Dance Group' at a countrywide competition. The kids range from 6 years to 9 years old in age. Their dance teacher is the grandmother of the youngest member of the act.

Name: Jude Harpstar
Province: Gauteng
Act: Harpist

The 27-year-old musician was born Judith van der Wat. Her greatest ambition is to use music to spread the message that we are all one. She says she “entered SA’s Got Talent because I feel that I am someone that could change other people’s lives positively through my music and what I have learned in life. Being in the public eye gives one that much more weight to make changes in society, and I believe that I have what it takes to come out on top and win this SA’s Got Talent.”
Name: Choppa Boys 
Act: Gumboots Dance

This group of students has been dancing professionally for 5 years. They say they look up to Khabonina Qubheka as she has the best choreography in their eyes. “We entered SA’s Got Talent because we wanted to show people out there that there is more to gumboot dance,” they say, “we want to keep our talent moving forward.”
Name: Noelle Thea Jansen
Province: Eastern Cape
Act: Classical Crossover/Opera

This 17-year-old has had an interesting upbringing. Not only is she home-schooled, but unlike most kids her age, she’s taken a liking to opera. She aspires to be a professional singer and says she entered SA’s Got Talent to “gain recognition. To stand a chance to win the grand prize. To show the world that South Africa also has young, talented singers. I’m South Africa’s young singing sensation.  It will be a dream come true to win SA’s Got Talent.”
Name: Black Lace 
Province: Gauteng
Act: A Cappella

This group has been seriously performing together since February 2013. They look up to a cappella group, Pentatonix and they say they entered SA’s Got Talent in order to start living off their dreams. “We believe we should win this competition because we believe that we are the best at what we do, there is no other act that does what we do at the level and intensity we do it,” they confess, “it is our lifelong dream to achieve greatness and we not only do this for ourselves but to give back also to people.”
Name: New Creation and The Band 
Province: Gauteng
Act: Band
New Creation and The Band come from a church-driven background and it shows in their chosen sound. They have been performing together for two years and they entered SA’s Got Talent because “we believe that the nation needs to hear our fresh music, and we believe that it will touch lives. We will win because there will be no other act that will win the crowds like us – and also because we are awesome.”
Name: Honey 
Province: Gauteng
Act: Singers

Naami Lieberman, Sivan Patton and Sharon Wagner make up the trio known as Honey. They say “there are challenges we face balancing motherhood, our artistic pursuits and providing for our families.” But then plan to overcome those challenges through SA’s Got Talent. “We believe in the uniqueness and quality of our group and believe that SA's Got Talent could be a great platform for further success.”
Name: Franklin Fredericks
Province: Northern Cape
Act: Balancing Act

Franklin is the youngest of 14 siblings and was diagnosed with meningitis at the age of 8. This disease hampered his quest for education and at 13, he began honing his talent for balancing things. He says “I began to practice these circus acts on my own and saw that I could do it. Then as time passed I learned to do various other acts as well. Then I also began doing magic to broaden my expertise. “Franklin says if he wins SA’s Got Talent, “I believe that I will be an inspiration for other South Africans out there to for fill their passions in life.”
Name: Matrix Avators
Province: Kwa-Zulu Natal
Act: Dance

The Matrix Aviators is made up of Tumelo, Wiseman and Siya. They are a group of zombie dancers and their dance routines are inspired by programs such as Dragon Ball Z. The Matrix Avators say their greatest accomplishment so far is to appear on SA’s Got Talent. They would like to establish a world-renowned dance studio called the Matrix Avators Company one day.
Name: Phelani and Jacobus 
Province: Western Cape
Act: Circus performers

Also known as Cyr Wheel, Phelani Ndakroka and Jacobus Claasen met at an orphanage and they have been studying circus performance at the Zip Zap School. Phelani says in ten years’ time, he sees himself “as a professional circus performer and the king of the ring.” Jacobus says “I saw the act in the show Cirque De Soleil and decided that was what is wanted to do,” and thinks they will win SA’s Got Talent because “If you can think that I lived on the streets for a while and now I am on a stage doing what I love so I believe that I will be able to win this competition.”

Name: Zakiya Brown 
Province: Western Cape
Act: Singer

This photography and graphic design student from the College Of Cape Town has learned to overcome her fear of rejection on SA’s Got Talent. She’s been singing since she was 10-years-old and believes she should win because “all these years I was put down by people thinking that I am not good enough and that I don’t have what it takes to shine and to do what I love witch is singing. I always had lack of confidence  in myself so much to a point where I wasn’t sure if singing was the right thing for me to do, but when I fell down I always end up singing and that showed me that I’m never to old too young to stand up and  keep my head up high and to keep on pushing for what I want in life and for winning this competition would be a life changing experience for me, I will also be able to give my family a better life and further my studies as well.”

Details for the live semi-finals and finale 
•    Live Semi-final 1 – Sunday, 19 October at 6:05PM
•    Results show for Semi-final 1 – Monday, 20 October at 8:30PM
•    Live Semi-final 2 – Sunday, 26 October at 6:05PM
•    Results show for semi-final 2 – Monday, 27 October at 8:30PM
•    Live semi-final 3 – Sunday, 2 November at 6:05PM
•    Results show for semi-final 3 – Monday, 3 November at 8:30PM
•    Live Finale – Sunday, 9 November at 6:05PM