In an extraordinary voting cycle that saw nearly 10 million votes cast for the Idols SA Season 11 Top 4 contestants this week, 24-year-old Siphelele Ngcobo was the contestant who received the fewest votes, and had to bid his Idols SA dream farewell. The KZN native came so far on his Idols journey, having returned this week from an incredible whirlwind tour of London with his fellow three contestants.
Siphelele was inspired to enter Idols SA by the likes of Khaya Mthethwa and L’loyd Cele – “I’ve seen how it changed their lives. I thought if they can make it, I can also make it,” he said.
Even at Sun City already he had the judges in raptures with his jazzy interpretation of Zahara’s “Loliwe” in his solo audition, bringing Unatha Msengana to the first tears of the season. “I couldn’t have imagined that song done better than the original. This is magic,” Gareth Cliff said happily.
Throughout the Top 10 competition Siphelele performed only South African songs as far as possible, choosing Lira’s “Soul In Mind” for the Top 10 Spectacular on 20 September. Unathi Msengana commended him on that strategy when he sang Thandiswa Mazwai’s “Nizalwa Ngobani” in the Top 9 Spectacular the day after that artist’s birthday. In fact, the first time he performed an international hit – Lionel Richie’s Oscar-winning 1985 hit “Say You, Say Me” for the Eighties-themes Top 8 Spectacular – Somizi Mhlongo scolded him for it. “No more English!” he ranted.
When Sphe returned to vernacular classics in the Top 7 “Showstopper” Spectacular with Mpumi’s “Somandla”, Gareth Cliff thought it was authentic, it was very real, and it was very “him”.
He had to revert to an international classic for the Top 6 Spectacular’s dual theme of “90s vs Now” singing the All 4 One hit “I Can Love You Like That” in the first round and Nathi’s “Nomvula” for the second, but this time the gamble paid off. “Your voice is anointed!” Somizi raved, and Randall Abrahams was dumbstruck. “Just a few weeks ago it looked like you were going home,” he spluttered. “In my time on Idols I’ve never seen such a comeback.”
Siphelele’s choices for the Top 5 Spectacular were John Legend’s “So High” and The Soil’s “Inkomo”, and he received a warning from Randall that “people don’t only vote on songs choices, they choose on personality”.
And Siphelele’s final performances in Idols SA Season 11 was in the Top 4 Spectacular on 1 November, where he sang Lira’s “Feel Good” for the first round and Ringo Madlingozi’s “Kum naKum” for the second. “It’s performances like this that keep the people of the Kingdom of the Zulu, the Kingdom of heaven, so proud of you,” Unathi told him, and Randall noted that Siphelele had to be the most unaffected performer he’d ever seen in eleven seasons of Idols SA.
Fans can hear Siphelele perform the songs he would have sung on tonight’s Top 3 Spectacular live on Arye Kellman’s internet-streaming show on CliffCentral at 16:00 tomorrow [9 November].