An image of Bobby van Jaarsveld, Mbijana Sibisi and Lungile Radu.

M-Net’s new singing contest The Voice SA upped the ante this week by entering its second phase – the fierce Battle Rounds. During this stage of the competition coaches Karen ZoidBobby van JaarsveldLira  and Kahn Morbee pair up the talent in their teams for a dramatic sing-off. The winner of each clash then proceeds to the live shows which will grant them the opportunity to vie for South Africa’s vote. 

While the other three coaches are allowed to share their thoughts and comment on the performances, it’s all up to the coach who prepped and mentored the talent with the assistance of their esteemed co-coaches to determine who the winner is. There is one lifeline, however. For the duration of this phase of the competition, each coach is allowed to “steal” one contender who didn’t make the cut from a fellow coach. 

The first of the four Battle Round episodes featured two sing-offs from #TeamKaren, #TeamBobby and #TeamLira respectively as well as one from #TeamKahn. And time and time again, the coaches had to make a tough call at the end of exceptional performances.

The seven singers who finally triumphed after these intense, neck-and-neck battles are: opera singer Johan Anker, 23; double world champion chorister Jono Johansen, 19; the former tattoo artist with the gruff voice, Meyrand Roux, 28; flamboyant funny-girl Lana Crowster, 28; shy and sweet Industrial Psychology student Zaretha Duvenhage, 23; back-up singer Thapelo Lekoane, 29; and B.Com student Zoe Mtila, 23, from Port Elizabeth. 

A distressed coach Bobby, who wanted to continue working with both of them, eventually picked Zoe over Mbijana Sibisi, 24, from Durban after their powerful performance of Zahara’s Phendula

Watch what happened:

 

Bobby faced yet another conundrum when having two choose between Lana Crowster and feisty performer Chanel Davids, 27, from Johannesburg who took each other on with the Diana Ross classic Ain’t No Mountain. Kahn called their Battle “the performance of the evening” and Bobby had to consult with co-coach Toya Delazy to confirm that he had made the right decision. 

But arguably the most difficult – and emotional - decision of them all was when Karen Zoid pitted two team members whom she knows very well against each other. Tulla Ekhart, 38, and Karen attended the same school, while Thapelo Lekoane used to be her back-up singer. In the coaching process leading up to their performance of Radiohead’s High and Dry, Karen and co-coach Zolani Mahola from Freshlyground equipped them both with a new set of skills to explore the opposite side of their personalities. It resulted in a soul-stirring vocal tour de force during which one could hear a pin drop in the audience. Karen admitted that she made her final choice with her heart. “You’re not meant to be my backing vocalist, you’re meant to be my collaborator,” she told Thapelo. 

After the battle between Zaretha Duvenhage and Nontu X, 25, from Empangeni who worked hard to perfect Gangs of Ballet’s Don’t Let Me Go, Karen had to huddle in confidence with Zolani to make the call. “I spoke to my friend ... She said this voice gave her goosebumps, gave her chills, she said it’s a no-brainer,” Karen reported back. “She said Zaretha.”

In #TeamLira the enigmatic LuniQue, 27, from Pretoria turned out to be stiff competition for Jono Johansen from Durban, who had all four of the coaches in awe with his Blind Audition. Kahn praised LuniQue’s take on Celine Dion’s difficult-to-master song All By Myself, but Karen preferred Jono’s performance. “You’re one of the best singers in the competition,” she told him. “Even your second best is better than the other singers.” Lira agreed. “Jono is a little more clear on who he is,” she commented, “and that clarity, for me, is what makes me take him to the next round.”

When #TeamLira’s Lendel Moonsamy, 30, from Durban took on Meyrand from Brits with U2’s Beautiful Day, Bobby was relieved that this wasn’t his choice to make. In the end, Lira opted for Meyrand whose voice gave everyone goosebumps, especially after co-coach Nianell taught him how to connect with a crowd. 

For this week’s battles, Kahn and co-coach Vicky Sampson worked with two very different singers: Johan Anker, 23, who has been classically trained and pop/jazz singer Jade McDonald, 24. Kahn specifically gave them a song which allowed them both to shine – the Queen anthem Somebody to Love. Kahn was mightily impressed with their growth in a short space of time but felt that Johan deserved to be the victor. 

With the first seven battles done and dusted, the coaches and co-coaches will be nurturing and developing the skills of seven more pairs for next week Sunday’s show-off at 17:00 on M-Net. 

Visit www.mnet.tv/thevoice to stay up to speed with the latest news about the show.

You can also join The Voice SA conversation on “The Voice SA” Facebook page, and via Twitter on @VoiceSA with the hashtag #TheVoiceSA, or use your WeChat account and check in with the ID MNetTV.

The Voice South Africa is produced for M-Net by AMPN and is sponsored by Dialdirect.