Music is my calling, says Netflix ‘poster girl’ Ngema Khosi Ngema

Khosi Ngema might be the poster girl for Netflix’s highly acclaimed drama series “Blood & Water”, but she wants to be known as more than that. 

The bubbly songstress is on a mission to re-define herself as a musician who’ll one day catch the eye of American megastar Beyoncé and hopefully walk in the footsteps of our very own Busiswa and Moonchild, who got the chance to collaborate with the icon on the smash hit “My Power”. 

Under her new moniker Kho’si, Ngema recently released her first official single, Why, which showcases her capabilities as a singer and songwriter.

“Music is more like my calling, especially now that I’ve put out a song. I’m currently shooting a film project but I can feel the change in me, somehow music is more personal and safe whereas acting is more like a task,” said Ngema. 

“With music, I am my most authentic. I’m saying what I have to say and how I feel and it allows me to be more gracious and gentle with myself. I get to be in tune with Kho’si’s feelings and that’s what I love about the craft.

“With acting, I’m more investing in executing a role according to the script and acting it out as best as I can but at the end of the day that’s not who I am, that’s me playing a character.”

“I just feel less pressure with music because people take me as I am. I don’t need to portray or act out anything. I get to fit into my mould and steer the ship how I see fit.”

While she aims to demonstrate that she is more than just an actor, Ngema has been tapping into different palates of genres which include a blend of Afro-soul, Amapiano and Alternative R&B.

“I am a very heart-focused musician. The music I make is always drawn to matters of the heart and I lead from there. I’m very open-minded at the moment and I don’t want to box myself into just one specific genre. I want to explore more with music that just flows through me.”

Ngema hit stardom in 2020 through the highly acclaimed Netflix series and she recalls how her life drastically changed four years ago when she got the kick-start she needed as one of the rising stars to keep our eyes — all thanks to her very first role as Fikile Bhele. 

“My introduction into the industry felt like I was being catapulted into it, especially because ‘Blood & Water ‘was my first professional job that I’ve ever booked, it was quite a bizarre and huge adjustment for me,” said the 24-year-old actor. 

“There wasn’t like a time where I said to myself, ‘Okay, here’s a smaller role that will help build me up’… I just went straight into it.

“Yes, I did experience a lot of anxiety and imposter syndrome which I feel like a lot of artists go through but me being me, I snapped out of it and reminded myself what I had to do and deliver it as best as I can.”

With one of her biggest fears being to be singled out as the “newbie on set”, the daughter of seasoned actor Mangaliso Ngema forced herself to learn how to shake off her insecurities that often took her back to the shy, timid little girl she used to be. 

Fortunately, a friendship she didn’t see coming was with her co-star and another rising star, Ama Qamata, helped her hone her craft even more. “Looking back at it, I feel like I was blessed because our cast was full of younger stars who were relatively new in the acting industry,” she said.

“Stars like Ama, who I have become extremely close to now. Shooting the show, Ama and I literally got to hold hands, lean on each other and hype one another whenever one of us felt lost… having her with me felt like a huge blessing. The way we started becoming friends solidified how we’ll forever be there for each other.”

While her sudden stardom shockingly turned her world around, Ngema feels grateful for her breakthrough as being in front of the camera reciting dialogue has always been her lifelong dream. 

“A part of me was ready for all of this. I’ve always wanted to be a performer, an entertainer and the time I spent behind the scenes has prepared me for all of this,” she remarked. “There was a sense of calm when all the fame happened. I wasn’t overwhelmed when people would recognise me in public… it has always been an amazing interaction.

Having paved such an impressive career thus far, the emotively captivating actor hopes to take up more befitting roles that showcase her acting skills. 

“In the past three years, I would say I have grown. I’m more confident in myself and my voice. Back then, I felt like I was jumping into acting quite young. I was 19 and I was still figuring this whole life thing out,” she adds. 

“Also, being on a huge platform that’s attached to a character that a lot of young people resonate with, was quite a huge responsibility, and over the years I’ve learnt how to be authentic to myself. 

“I learnt how to prevent myself from things that would influence my widely known role and this has helped me to know who I am and the direction that I’m going.” — Sowetan

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