Tue Sep 26 10:58:33 SAST 2017

Vusi Nhlapo strives to uplift kasi arts industry

2017-08-31 14:43:34.0 | Xolile Mtshazo |

Social entrepreneur Vusi "S'mehlane" Nhlapo is a tenacious man who has faced and overcome the odds in the kasi entertainment industry space.

Social entrepreneur Vusi "S'mehlane" Nhlapo wears many hats in the entertainment industry.

Nhlapo, of Tsakane, Ekurhuleni, is also a recording artist. But before the entrepreneurial bug bit him, he was an ordinary hustler of note.

"I didn't have a record company to record or promote my music. I didn't have anyone to market my music and that of my fellow musicians," he said.

"That's when I realised there was a gap for an entertainment company to promote the work of local kasi artists. I wanted to cater for the local market."

Nhlapo, a singer, actor, independent filmmaker and promoter, registered his arts company DV Nhlapo Productions in 2015, and has not looked back since then. His start-up is now based at the Tsakane Business Park.

"I wanted to start small and as years went by, build my own empire. Today I produce films, promote, manage musicians and artists, stage shows and festivals. Things are looking up."

As with many township start-ups, Nhlapo, 44, struggled with funding for equipment to realise his dream of owning a recording studio.

"I had to sacrifice the funds I had accumulated as a performing artist during the last 10 years or so and invest everything in the equipment I own today."

"Initially I had to book a studio to record my music. I had to hire film and video shooting and editing equipment."

Nhlapo said he has always loved performing, from when he was a child.

After matriculating in 1997, he studied musical theatre and then South African television and film scriptwriting and interpretation.

From there it was onto various small acting roles, recording music and finally a stint teaching arts and culture at a primary school.

This year, Nhlapo received his first recognition for his work when he was named the creative industry category winner of the Gauteng government's Township Entrepreneur Awards.

He invested the prize money in setting up the company's website and undertaking a rigorous marketing drive.

So how did he get to be known by the stage name S'mehlane? He said he was given the name by his friend Veli Ngwenya, a radio and club DJ from Clermont, near Durban.

"That's because I'm short. And is'mehlane in kasi lingo is the small bottle of alcoholic spirit. I've embraced it because it is unique."

Last year, Nhlapo was supported by the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) to stage his inaugural township film festival, the Ekurhuleni Township Film Festival.

The second edition will be held next month, he said.

"It was a great success, over 200 people attended the opening night to watch the movie Mrs Right Guy, with the actors and crew also in attendance.

He seeks to use the location of the OR Tambo International Airport in Ekurhuleni to boost the metro's tourism potential.

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