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Wednesday, September 13, 2017


(Viwe Xekethwayo (centre) with the group, Next Level. Photo Val Adamson)

Durban’s Gospel Icon Discovery Competition, an eThekwini Parks, Recreation and Culture Unit gospel music talent search programme, is celebrating its 5th anniversary this year. Following extensive preliminary rounds, the finale of the 5th Gospel Icon Discovery Competition takes place at the Ohlange Sports Ground in Inanda near Durban on September 17 2017 from 08h30 till 15h30, and on October 1 at iNkosi Albert Luthuli Stadium, where they will be doing an hour production of Gospel Icon Discovery.

Last year’s soloist winner, Sbongiseni Zikhali, has recorded his full album which is now being promoted, and the first group winner, Next Level, and Viwe Xeketwane, the children category winner, are busy in the studio composing their own album.

The Gospel Icon Discovery Competition is aimed at cultivating upcoming artists in the City, and helps them launch their musical careers. The project is designed to produce future gospel music icons while alleviating poverty. The competition not only creates memories, but also has a positive impact on society, by developing people’s musical skills and assisting participants in reaching their aspirations.  Following extensive auditions, those artists who have made it past the preliminary rounds are given the opportunity to showcase their skills at the main event mentioned above, where the winners are announced.

The talent scouting programme initiative, which is the brainchild of the Head of Parks, Recreation and Culture Unit, Thembinkosi Ngcobo, involves prominent local artists who assist developing upcoming artists.

“We have seen a tremendous growth of participation in the competition over the past five years,” says Ngcobo. “We have been fielding entrants from eThekwini’s Coloured and Indian communities, as well as seeing a growth in entries from Black gospel groups. The latter include entries of traditional gospel communities from the more rural, outlying areas of eThekwini. We are also attracting a lot of participation from ‘charismatic’ church gospel singers. This year was very responsive: we had more than 300 great gospel artists from eThekwini but unfortunately had to shortlist to 10 contestants for each category.

“The finalists have started rehearsals to stage the finale and they all seem to be unique in their style of gospel. But talent alone cannot sustain a career, and many promising new-entry artists fall by the way side due to lack of know-how, discipline, or factors such as the influence of drugs. For this reason, we have invited veterans from the music industry, such as Pastor Mthunzi Namba of Joyous Celebration, to address our finalists. They can impart skills with regard to managing their careers. We have also asked them to try and broker relationships with record labels on behalf of our finalists. Furthermore, we aim to expose our Gospel Icon Discovery winners to an international audience by affording them a mainstage platform during the upcoming Durban Essence Festival in October.”

The competition has three categories: the ‘Odwinkidwinki’ category caters for children under 12 years; the second category including soloists and duets from 13 years and older; and the third category, for groups of all ages. In each category, the winner is awarded a cash prize. This year’s first prize winner goes away with R20,000 and a recording deal, second place R15,000 and third R10,000 and a demo. 

This year’s competition will be the most spectacular in the history of the competition. It will also be part of the Essence Festival: Durban where this past year’s winners will share a stage with international gospel artists such as T D Jakes and local established groups such as the Joyous Celebration.

Mentored by the event’s judges - Thina Zungu, DJ Happy Gal, Gah Ndlela and Malusi Mbokazi - the winners become ambassadors for the development programme through being invited to perform for professional fees on influential platforms such as high-profile municipal and government functions, among others events.

Admission to the Gospel Icon Discovery Competition in Inanda is free and all are welcome to attend and show their support for the competitors.