JOHANNESBURG — Ringo Madlingozi gave generations sound tracks with his smooth ballads such as Sondela and Ndiyagodola.
But he disappeared from the scene for about six years, during which he regrouped and lived life.
Madlingozi faced some of the hardest times of his life and now the man with a sunny disposition and an ever ready smile returns with a new album titled Vulani which means open up or make way.
With the album, he claims his rightful place in the higher echelons of music. His soaring voice is still intact and his rhythms with a jazzy tint will not only bring back his old fans, but also win new ones.
After all, this is the man who made isiXhosa sound so romantic with his tunes and his fashion sense made traditional clothing envogue.
“There are a lot of Afro-pop artistes who have come up, so I’m saying ‘open the door’. I’m still around. Make way.”
He explains his absence as a contractual provision that came with him cutting ties with EMI, his long-time record company.
During his sabbatical, he recorded some music which was stolen when thieves jammed his car keys at a petrol station in Grasmere, south of Johannesburg, making off with his laptop and bags.
But he is not one to mope, saying: “There’s more where it came from. I will record some more.”
He has also worked with kwaito stars Professor and Trompies.
Madlingozi is also known as “Phila’s dad” among younger generations.
His son is a rising actor from Intersexions and is fast becoming a celebrity, ready to eclipse his father’s fame.
“I think he is under pressure because he will always be compared with what I did. Luckily he is doing something different. I always tell him to be his own man, never even set him up with people I know in the industry, go and learn for yourself how these things are done.”
Madlingozi endeared himself to fans with his trademark gap in his dental formula, but he’s since closed the gap and says this has brought him grief.
“Some people want to know why I closed the gap. It was a missing tooth. They say I’ve messed with my identity and selling point.
One guy said he doesn’t like my Xhosa now because the gap is closed,” he laughs.
Talking about Vulani, Madlingozi says the song Akies Joe talks to him and the tribulations he went through.
“The message is don’t worry with the ups and downs of life, look at the positive side, don’t throw in the towel.
“There was a time in my life when I thought things were bad, the challenges and hurdles I faced. But I realised that these were lessons.”
One of the challenges is his widely reported trouble with the taxman, which he says has been sorted out.
“I learnt not to leave things to people. I have to take care of things my way. When things turn sour I’m the one with the problem, rightly so because it’s my name there. I learnt a lot.”
On Abantwana Be Afrika he asks Nelson Mandela to show his people the way from beyond the grave.
When he is not in the studio, Madlingozi says he loves books that deal with the mind such as Charles F Hanel’s Masterkeys System and works by Noam Chomsky.
Looking back, Madlingozi has no regrets: “I’m honoured to be given the opportunity to express my craft the way I feel and the love I get from people inspires me to work harder. My job entertains me too. Let love come and give it back.”
— The Sowetan