South Africans fell in love with Gift Gwe during the third season of Idols (2005) – Now the singer/songwriter has released an original body of work – bolstered with a high dose of funk, neo-soul and a vocal delivery of exceptional distinction that have ensured his fan base grows and grows!
Any new artist will tell you it’s a near-impossible feat to create a sound that stands-out in a musical world as intensely populated as the contemporary one - but South Africa’s Gift Gwe has managed just that with his debut, full-length album.
Titled BACK TO YOU, the record is shaped with love and a passion that few young artists can match, with a deeply-felt sense of integrity providing the foundation for the most important element in Gift’s career to date.
Gift’s participation in the third season of Idols, which saw him reach close second to Karen Kortje, earned him the adoration of thousands of fans throughout the country. At that time, it was clear to see just how singularly talented this Queenstown-born, Mosselbay-raised singer was. The last three years have shown us that talent and hard-work are truly what it takes to make it in this industry … and Gift has an excess of both. The high-demand for his live shows at corporates, charity events and festivals would be more than most artists could handle and yet he still managed to find time for his new family and recorded a SAMA Nominated Debut Album. It’s become clear that “breaking the boundaries” is something else this young artist excels in.
If the release of a completely original, immensely successful debut album wasn’t enough, his continual demand on himself to better his last performance has resulted in a stunning new live show.
His understanding of the marketplace and need to combine both his original music with a phenomenal selection of cover songs have always ensured that his live shows were memorable. Gift on stage is quite simply an experience but with his new NINE Piece Band it’s now an event.
Whilst Gift will probably still do shows on Back-tracks for years to come, his growth as a musician can be best appreciated when you see him on stage with a live band, two backing vocalists and his two dancers. The repertoire has grown to encompass even more popular covers and of course, his beautiful original songs, perfectly delivered and with more visual energy than one can imagine.
Already a favourite amongst all South Africa’s, Gift is a must for any event!
It wasn’t easy for Gift to make an impact in his teen years. “Many people discouraged me, telling me that I would never make it, but I never let that put me off,” he says now. However aiding Gift’s self-belief in those early years was the affirmation of his mentor, Lenise Henricks who encouraged him to enter Idols in 2005 and whom he still credits with giving him the confidence to visualize himself as a fully-fledged artist.
This formative experience – of having to push on, even though others were attempting to deflect his ambitions – turns up in that area of Gift’s talents that never revealed itself in Idols and that is his song writing ability. The song ‘Messed Up’ is a riveting depiction of being considered “the ugly duckling” of his peers, putting the spotlight on Gift’s uncanny ability to turn his personal experiences into songs that speak to the listener on an intimate level.
Gift’s song writing skill is evident throughout BACK TO YOU: on songs like the intensely moving, ‘The Long Run’, Gift takes a highly emotionally-charged situation – his dad’s abandonment of him, his brother and his mother – and turns it into a song that wastes no time in finding a space in the heart of the listener.
Musically, BACK TO YOU is close to faultless: Produced by the Jazzworx team with RJ Benjamin, the album is heralded by self-titled lead radio single, ‘Back To You’, which has all the hallmarks of a huge radio hit.
Steeped in old-school soul (the guiding light for Gift’s most recent recorded work), the song is a remarkable platform for Gift’s vocal and songwriting abilities: ‘Back To You’ was co-written by Gift, Justin Vee, R.J. Benjamin, Robin Kohl, Zwai Bala, and Tebogo Moloto.
The result of this power-packed combination of creative talents is a song that’s not unlike something that neo-soul artist, John Legend, would produce: ‘Back To You’ perfectly combines throwback melody lines (most visible on the keys and the backing vocals) with 21st century beats to create a track that is memorable.
At the centre of the song, however, is Gift’s voice – warm, soulful and capable of hitting the high notes that give the song its retro appeal, it is clear why Gift earned the adoration of millions of fans during his Idols stint and, most importantly, why he was awarded a recording contract with Sony BMG.
Make no mistake, this 23-year-old is not taking his gifts for granted – and works intensely hard at all aspects of his career, spending time each day on his singing, the dancing, and songwriting.
“After Idols I decided to take it back and work at every aspect of my musical life,” Gift reveals. “That meant practicing and extending my vocal abilities for hours and days on end, working on my dancing, honing my song writing skills. I have a real vision for how I want my music to sound and I am working at that all the time.” Part of that was learning to love his voice. “Even during Idols I didn’t believe that my voice was anything special but last year I had a realization that there was something unique about it and that I should work at bringing my own voice to the front even more.”
It’s hard to pick a standout on BACK TO YOU: the single ‘Back To You’ undoubtedly grabs your attention right out of the gate, but the ease with which Gift is able to meld Xhosa lyrics into a modern ballad on ‘Kuzolunga’ is quite astonishing and is likely to find itself in Gift’s live repertoire for many years to come. There are plenty of other highlights, among them the meditative opener, ‘Indlela Eniyiyo’, the romantic ballad ‘Two Lovers’, and Gift’s up for some social commentary on the upbeat – but deadly serious – ‘Chasing Lies’ and ‘Mbowenies’.
Gift’s debut contains everything you would expect from someone so singularly focused on creating the best music he can: it’s polished, but has enough of an edge to keep it interesting; it’s diverse threading neo-soul, with old-school sounds, and elements rooted in his rich culture, among others; it’s heartfelt (on songs like the highly personal ‘The Long Run’); it’s modern and so much more, but mostly, Gift’s debut album is filled-to-the-brim with an authentic soul that says everything about this extraordinary young man.
The Ultimate Experience (9 Piece) – Gift with his entire ensemble consisting of 2 x Dancers; 2 x Backing Vocalists ; Bass Guitarist ; Drums ; Keyboards and a Guitarist. The ultimate experience!
Seven Piece Live Band – Whilst the band is still exactly the same as the 9 Piece, Gift focuses more on the music than the visual and performs without his 2 Dancers.
The Intimate Experience (4 Piece) – For the more intimate events, Gift performs as a four piece band comprising of a Bass Guitarist ; Drums and Keyboards.
Back-Tracks (3 Piece) – Gift adds to the energy to his standard Back-track performance by incorporating 2 Dancers to his live show.
1. Africa Toto
2. All night long Lionel Richie
3. Amazing George Michael
4. Back at one Brian McKnight
5. Bailamos Enrique Iglesias
6. Billie Jean Michael Jackson
7. Burn Usher
8. Close the door Teddy Pendergrass
9. Crazy Gnarls Barkley
10. Dancing in the moonlight Van Morrison
11. Don’t let the sun Elton John
12. Fantasy Earth wind & fire
13. Faith George Michael
14. Fiesta R Kelly
15. Get down on it / Celebration Kool & the gang
16. Georgy porgy Toto
17. Give me the night George Benson
18. Happy people R Kelly
19. I feel good James Brown
20. If there’s any justice Lemar
21. Ignition R Kelly
22. I like the way you move
23. I love to truck Dr Victor
24. It’s not unusual Billy Strange
25. Lady Usher
26. Lady Soul The Temptations
27. Let’s groove Earth, wind & fire
28. Let’s stay together Al Green
29. Love is all around Wet Wet Wet
30. Mambo nr 5 Lou Bega
31. My girl The Temptations
32. Never too much Luther Vandross
33. Night shift The Commodores
34. No woman no cry Bob Marley
35. One love / Get Up / Bob Marley
36. Ordinary people John Legend
37. Roll with me Boyz II men
38. Senorita Justin Timberlake
39. September Earth, wind & fire
40. She will be loved Maroon 5
41. Smooth Santana & Rob Thomas
42. Step in the name of love R Kelly
43. Stuck on you Lionel Richie
44. Sunday Morning Maroon 5
45. Sway Michael Bublé
46. This Love Maroon 5
47. U got it bad Usher
48. U remind me Usher
49. Uptown girl Billy Joel
50. Used to love you John Legend
51. You’ll never find another love Lou Rawls
52. You rock my word Michael Jackson
53. You touch me Dawnay
54. Wasn’t me Shaggy
55. What you won’t do for love Boyz II Men
56. Where is the love Black Eyed Peas
1. Back to you Gift Gwe
2. Lerato Gift Gwe
3. Madd Dog Gift Gwe
4. Mbowenies Gift Gwe
5. My Past Gift Gwe
6. Sometimes a dream Gift Gwe
7. Two Lovers Gift Gwe