The Soil

African Acapella

©Eric Miller
The Soil putting on a lively performance at Kirstenbosch Gardens in Cape Town. From left: Luphindo “Master P” Ngxanga, Buhlebendalo Mda and Ntsika Fana Ngxanga.
©Eric Miller
The Soil's Buhlebendalo Mda.

In the world of music, acapella is often an overlooked genre that does not attain as much status as say, pop or rock. However, the hauntingly beautiful sounds of humankind’s first instrument - the voice - is what makes people connect with music.

In South Africa, the history of acapella dates back to the early 1900s. This was a time when traditional choirs were formed by migrant workers through rural music from various tribes. In the 1940s, ingoma ebusuku - traditional choral singing, became increasingly popular in the country. Groups like Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Mahotella Queens paved the way for traditional acapella groups. 

The new generation of South African acapella music is led by the vibrant vocal group, The Soil. Their music is rooted in traditional sounds, and they have created a spectacular niche in the ever-changing SA music industry. The Soil is a storytelling experience. Each member is a storyteller in their own right, sharing their experiences of life, love, hardships and joy through singing. Every song is influenced by a personal narrative.

The core trio are an eclectic group of boisterous musicians from Soweto, Johannesburg, with a traditional yet modern edge. Buhlebendalo “Soil Sister” Mda is the vivacious nucleus of the group. Luphindo “Master P” Ngxanga is the edgy beatboxer and master of rhythm, who is imbued with charisma during live performances. Lead composer and singer, Ntsika Fana Ngxanga (now a solo performer who will rejoin the band for upcoming projects), is the lyrical genius behind the group’s songs. Other members who have collaborated with the group are Samkelo Lelethu Mdolomba, commonly known by his stage name, Samthing Soweto, and Theo "Songstress" Matshoba.


©Eric Miller
The Soil performing in Kirstenbosch Gardens in Cape Town.
©Eric Miller
The Soil have a loyal cult-following of fans from across South Africa.

The group formed back in 2003 when the native Sowetans met at high school. ‘Particles of the Soil’ originally consisted of 25 members, but by 2010 only 3 members remained, who renamed the group ‘The Soil’. 

In 2011, The Soil released their self-titled debut album, which achieved platinum status and critical acclaim nationwide. Their second album, Nostalgic Moments, was released digitally on iTunes in 2014. Their third studio album titled, Echoes of Kofifi, was released in 2016.

The Soil expertly blend rich vocals with beatboxing and heartfelt lyrics to create a distinct Afro-pop sound. They also incorporate hip-hop and kwaito into their music, whichi s further evidence of their multifaceted sound. All the members speak the 11 official languages of South Africa. This is a nod to their belief that strength lies in the unity of the nation. Their love of Soweto and South Africa led them to brand their genre of music as kasi-soul.

Fans will attest to the lively, electric vibe that reigns over every Soil performance. Their enigmatic smiles and dedication on stage, represents a raw and unfiltered celebration of music.

By Carla Lottering