On the hunt for a performer of note
|Arno Carstens (Pic: SABC 1/The X-Factor SA)|
As one of the three judges on The X-Factor South Africa, Arno Carstens has his work cut out for him. Can he handle the pressure? Buhle Mbonambi spoke to the rocker during X-Factor boot camp.
Boot camp. The nightmarish time when singers who sounded great during auditions, normally end up getting the judges asking themselves: “What were we thinking?” It happens, sometimes, that judges would put someone through whose vocals are very patchy, but since they are either cute, well styled or chose the right song, the judges say yes. But the beauty of boot camp is that the beer goggles are off the judges’ eyes and they can sort the gems from the fakes.
And it’s in that state that I find Arno after a rather hectic session, SPOILER ALERT: where contestant Lihle Ngongoma had to convince Zonke that she deserved to be in her team.
In a twist, Arno had initially said no to Lihle during her audition, but at the boot camp, he realised she was good and was now rooting for her. And the studio audience was not helping. With taunts of “Lento yenza yo, ay’ lunganga” (What you are doing, is wrong) they brought Zonke to the brink of tears. It wasn’t surprising that a break had to be taken. That’s when I got hold of Arno and he’s having a hard time dealing with eliminating contestants.
“It’s an emotional time, man,” he says. “Coming into this show, I had somehow forgotten that it was a competition. This is real life, man. These are people’s lives and it’s heartbreaking to see us sometimes breaking someone’s heart. Especially during boot camp, where it is very difficult to get through to the next round. Letting go is also difficult, because you have spent so much time with these guys, it’s really sad to see them go.”
As front man of the Springbok Nude Girls, one would’ve expected him to mentor the groups, but instead Oskido did. “I got the under-24s. But I would’ve loved the groups, having being in one of the biggest rock bands in the country, I know what works and what doesn’t.”
But he’s made peace with mentoring the younger category. “I’ve spotted a couple of super cool young ones who have the X-Factor, but they still need to be shaped. Some have amazing voices, but no presence, others have so much personality and stage presence, yet their voices are lacklustre – what do you choose?”
|The X-Factor SA judges: Oskido, Zonke Dikana and Arno Carstens (PIC: SABC 1/The X-Factor SA)|
On which category is most likely to win, he surprises by saying Zonke’s over-24s. “There are some really great vocalists on Zonke’s team. They have age on their side and an understanding of the stakes needed to win this show. I have to make sure that my team, the under-24s, understand they’re going to have to be amazing every week.
“This is the big leagues and we are searching for South Africa’s next big thing in music.”
He loved the Durban audience during the recordings and how their reaction to a contestant would sometimes be a guide on whether he eliminated or kept a contestant. “Those guys put you under pressure, because if they love someone and you don’t, you also have to think these are the guys who will be tuning in at home and watching and then voting for their favourite. But then the professional musician in me is looking for more than just entertainment value. I’m looking and striving for excellence and technical things are very important and they will need to make sure their vocals are in top form.”
Ultimately, Arno wants all the contestants to take risks and experiment to show their mettle as musicians. “I want to see amazing live performances, where they take songs we all know, change them up a bit and wow us. That’s what I’m going to drill into them. We want to be entertained.”
On the show being hosted in Durban, Arno said he loved it. “The Durban audience is very honest. They wear their hearts on their sleeves. If they love someone, they will fight for them. I can’t wait for the live shows. Those are going to be so insane and electrified.”
His highlight so far is seeing the great talent on the show. “It’s better than I expected. There is extraordinary talent. The minute we lose the great singers with stage presence, we will be in trouble.”
Catch Arno, Zonke Dikana and Oskido mentor acts on X-Factor SA Saturdays at 6pm.