Soula on Music that Feeds the Soul

Hlengiwe 'Soula' Mdlalose

“Music is a tool to heal, restore, live beyond the physical and travel places…”

Prior to this interview I was imploding with great anxiety at the fact that in a few hours I will be conversing with a powerhouse of what she terms her music as Gospel Soul. I had, in that week listened in on her recently released single – I Believe, and at the first instance I was blown away by the soulfulness and life the song carried, Hlengiwe Mdlalose cannot be denied her stage name – Soula, after experiencing that song.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the sun”. “When the time is right, I the Lord will make it happen”, “…But when the time had fully come…” All these biblical quotes couldn’t have been rightfully fitting for our proudly South African Gospel Soul musician Hlengiwe Mdlalose, as she explained away why she is only now gifting the world with such grand beauty of soul through her music.

She says South Africa and the world had in the past three years encountered the worst of times – the Covid-19 pandemic, where we witnessed people lose their loved ones, the sense of security through loss of employment, lost relationships and all kinds of loss one can list on this article. Mdlalose says that space couldn’t have been more fitting to produce such a result of music like “I Believe” has. After all that the world went through, revival is befitting.

Hlengiwe (as indicative of how relaxed and light we held this interview), is a 33-year-mature lady of note, like many of our musicians, was raised from a big family of music, the only girl of 5 children to her parents. Gospel music formed the culture of her family; it was of tradition to burst out in song from nowhere, also when the family would hold prayer/cell meetings, Hlengiwe would be the one required to lead worship, and that role translated to her being a worship team leader in her local church just at the age of 15 years old, and grew into that from an early age of 8 years. Her cousin Musa, was instrumental in the shaping of her musical craft, with her two brothers playing instruments, as she sang.

She mentions that being in church grounded her, provided her a sense of purpose, and hence today she can confidently say she is all about IMPACT (put in caps because she kept emphasising impact as her drive and reason for choosing music).

Hlengiwe is a creative by nature, a marketer by profession, involved in brand positioning, theatre production, events organiser and an actor. The list is endless with her. But in all this, the ministry of music was never a side thing, as she also is a songwriter. She never neglected her craft in music, and its release now speaks to when God subjected her under a time of preparation, she says.

The space between then and now tells of a story where she had to find God, allow a clear hearing period and a space to internally expand before it could be experienced externally. And that is undeniable in her single – I Believe.

Soula has released her single ‘I Believe’ – image provided

Hlengiwe AKA Soula takes us right deep into it – where she had a dream singing in front of a huge crowd, and how that served as confirmation for the release of this song, which was released before, around 2014, but was taken down, and life was not at all friendly for her then. But now – look at God and how much of a blessing this sound is and will continue to be to the ear that listens and a heart that “opens to possibilities”.

She says “to whom much is given much is required”, and so she does in her small scale share music knowledge with others who are close to her in form of conversation. She continues to say the best advice she has ever been given and can also pass on is that “finding God is finding yourself, different things influence us but God should be the centre of it all. Build yourself in God, and daily. Obtain knowledge. Take up the ladder of humility and remain humble.”

Shooooo – and you wonder why she is So“u”la (from Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do”) she says that’s where her name is derived, and obviously from her close friends who have always identified her as a soulful being.

Up until now, you can understand why my spirit felt somehow intimidated, because a powerful anointed and impactful being was about to connect with me virtually for an interview that was disturbed several times by the lacklustre connectivity blackouts have cost us. But in all that – she was unrelenting in making sure this conversation happened, as it should. And that speaks to her other beautiful trait – perseverance.

Hlengiwe sees a future where she’s built an NGO helping people to realise their dreams, people believing in themselves that it is possible. That we all have something to give. She wants to build a foundation that helps people challenge the barriers that stand still in the way to fulfilling their dreams. She also wants to reach international spaces touching people’s lives through her music, as she speaks of a possibility of releasing an EP sometime this year.   

Soula blessed my soul both through listening to her single – I Believe and through our impactful conversation that left me believing I too can “open up and receive”.

Look out for her single on all digital platforms: iTunes, Deezer, Tidal, Spotify to name a few. It will surely bless you!

By Cindy Motloung