Song written during depression touches a chord with listeners

Rhodes University student Praise Ntsako Mathebula's single 'Pfuxelela' is topping gospel charts. It comes from his debut album titled 'Overcame: Revelation 12:11'
CALLED BY MUSIC: Rhodes University student Praise Ntsako Mathebula's single 'Pfuxelela' is topping gospel charts. It comes from his debut album titled 'Overcame: Revelation 12:11'
Image: SUPPLIED

A song written during a despondent time in a Rhodes University student’s life, is ironically the cause of celebration as it shot to number one on the Google Play Gospel Charts, within a month of its release.

When 24-year-old Praise Ntsako Mathebula wrote his single, Pfuxelela, in 2016, he had a heavy heart and struggled to find a silver lining in life's hardships, he said.

His personal hardships were worsened by the turmoil that erupted at Rhodes University when a list of alleged rapists was made public in 2016.

The controversial list which implicated 11 students was widely known as the #RUReferenceList.

“I wrote Pfuxelela in 2016 during a very trying time of my life when I felt the world was just a hard place to live in. I was also losing my faith as a Christian.


“It was also during that time that the #RUReferenceList erupted. I took an active part in those protests because I felt that an injustice was being done to women,” he said.

Mathebula, better known as Praise Smo, released the single on August 14.

It landed on the top 10 of the Google Play Gospel charts upon its release, rose to number 9 on the overall Google Play chart on August 17 and made its way to the number one spot on August 22.

Pfuxelela is Xitsonga for “Revive” and is a cry to God to restore life to the world, Mathebula said.

“The melody of the verse came into my head one Sunday, on my way back from church. I kept singing it until I got home to write it down.


“At that time, even going to church felt like I was just there to sign the register, because I felt far from God,” he said.

Born into a Christian family in Bushbuckridge, the BA final year student only started pursuing a career in music intentionally when he moved to Rhodes in 2016.

“Before that, music was just a hobby, even though I was under the vigorous music tutelage of my uncle Daniel Mdhluli (instruments) and my aunt Tiyiselani Ndhlovu (vocals).

“It was only until I left for university that I had a serious urge to forge a career in music. I used every opportunity to be involved in musical activities in and around Rhodes University,” he said.

He had initially registered for a BCom accounting qualification but later changed to a BA, majoring in music.

While he did well in his commerce studies, he did not enjoy them and jumped ship when the institution introduced its African Musical Arts course.

“My performance was more than OK, but I knew that at some point I would flunk it because I didn’t enjoy what I was studying,” he said.

Pfuxelela is a single off Mathebula’s 15-track debut album titled Overcame: Revelation 12:11

He said the album, to be released later this year, was his testimony to surviving life’s obstacles.

He recorded the album at the Rhodes University Box Theatre with production company The Prophet and The Carpenter.

Mathebula’s music, culture, history and instrumental music studies lecturer, Boudina McConnachie, said she had watched Mathebula's growth from his first year.

“He moved from another degree to specialise in music (new African Musical Arts course) and I have known from the start that he was motivated and passionate enough to go far.

“The whole International Library of African Music team is doing an amazing job of nurturing young talent through the teaching of African music. I really believe that this is just the beginning of his journey,” McConnachie said.

Pfuxelela is available on digital music platforms.

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