HE’S IN high spirit as he emerges from his sleek white mean German machine,which is parked in the garage of his up-market townhouse in Randburg.
Dressed in his trademark hat,multi-award-winning musician Nathi Mankayi fiddles with his car keys as he exchanges pleasantries with us.
Judging by how he keeps staring at it admiringly,”It’s a brand-new car as you can see-it cost plenty but Nathi paid for it in cash,”Sipho Nyathela,his proud manager,chps in.
The man from the remote town of Maclear in the Eastern Cape has clearly made it big in the City of Gold. and is finally reaping the rewards of his platinum-selling album,Buyelekhaya.
Nathi ,32, says he has already driven the car to his family in the Eastern Cape to have it blessed.
UNTIL recently,Nathi lived in a commune with students in the suburb of Melville but now he has moved to this beautiful town house in the quite,leafy northern suburbs.
As we step inside the three-bedroom townhouse,one can tell that an award-winning artist lives here three guitars and many awards occupy the lounge area.
Eyes brows have been raised about whether his record label was ripping him off and Nathi becomes serious as he sets the record straight.
“Yes,it’s true.I stayed in a rented house in Melville when I first arrived in Joburg,”he says.”Obviously at the time I was still hustling and did not have enough money to afford a decent place.People forget that this is my first album and despite its huge success,money didn’t come in overnight.
He has nothing but praise for his record label,Ghetto Fuff Records,whom he says has been go to him.
“You see,I’m one person who is vocal and have taught myself a lot about the music industry-I won’t let anyone take me for a ride,”she says.
The Nomvula singer goes on to explain he only received his licence last year and didn’t want to rush into buying a new car and damaging it.He was offered a mini Cooper by Ghetto Ruff to get around.
“In fact,I used the Mini to improve my driving skills,”he says.”It was going to be a risk to buy a new car and then damage it because my driving was still not up to scratch.”
Nathi says it worries him that people often have unrealistic expectations the moment an artist releases a hit album.
“All of a sudden they assume you’re an instant millionaire,’he says.”You walk in the street and hear murmur such as ‘ybo unemali'(you are now loaded)
But he says he was unfazed by the media spotlight on his former living conditions and the car he drove.He’s also quick to point out that material things don’t define who he is and that despite his fame and success,he remains the guy next door.
“I didn’t buy this car to prove a point to anyone,”he says frankly.”For me,it’s all about pushing my music career and being able to support my family.Yeyonanto ndandiyizele kweliRhawuti (That’s what I came to achieve in Joburg).”
He’s achieved that goal.In fact,he’s out done himself…
His designer furniture and state-of -the-art electronics speak of a man who’s living a comfortable life.It’s a far cry from his previous life of walking barefoot in the frost in the rural Eastern Cape (From jail to jamming,3 September 2015).
He recalls a time in his life when his parents,Daniel (80) and Nothembile Mankayi (65),struggled to put food on the table for him and four siblings.
“I had a very tough upbringing and that’s why I ended up involved in crime,”
he says.”But it’s a phase in my life I don’t regret at all because it made me tough and eager to escape poverty.”
Nathi was arrested for robbery in 2001 and was jailed in 2006.He was released in 2009 after serving three years of his eight year sentence.
Today,he’s overjoyed that he has managed to improve his parents and siblings lives.
Interestingly,it turns out Nathi is not the only musician in the family.He mentions his younger sister ,Amanda (28),is currently in a studio working on her debut album.
“I’m so excited for her.She has a very beautiful voice and people are going to be blown away,”he says.He even features on one of the songs on the album.
NOW THAT his music career is souring,has he finally found his “Nomvula”?He laughs heartily before saying “You’ll be the first one to know.”
There’s something else close to Nathi’s heart:his urge to give back to his community and the country.Nothing pains him more,he says,seeing youngsters being involved in crime and ending up behind bars.”As a former inmate myself, I want to warn the youths about the dangers of crime,”he says.
And if there’s anyone who can inspire youngsters out there,it’s this self-made man with the golden voice.