Idols SA Season 17 runner-up: Karabo Mathe


Idols SA season 17 runner-up Karabo Mathe talks victories, making mistakes, her gospel future, and friendship with winner Berry.

It was a close call between Idols SA Season 17 finalists Berenike “Berry” Trytsman and Karabo Mathe at the live finale of reality talent competition Idols SA on Sunday, 21 November. First, Karabo and Berry performed individually, followed by a moving a duet. In the end, though, Berry was crowned the winner.

While she didn’t win, Karabo explains that she’s excited for the future. The 22-year-old first entered Idols SA in season 12 (2016), and while she didn’t make it far in the competition, she left an impression on the judges.

Now, like Berry, Karabo has won cash prizes and a recording deal. “I couldn’t sleep because I’m still excited,” says Karabo. “I made it to the final two, which feels like a win, and I don’t take it for granted. Seeing my family and my friends at the finale was exhilarating. They’re proud of me and nothing beats seeing the smiles on their faces,” adds Karabo, who tells us about her Idols SA journey, forming a friendship with winner Berry, and what’s next for her.

Want to re-watch Karabo’s entire journey from episode 1? The whole of Idols SA Season 17 is available on DStv as a Box Set until Sunday, 19 December. 

Binge Idols SA S17 on Catch Up now

The last 2 standing

Why did you decide to enter Idols SA Season 17? 

Singing is my life. I don’t see myself in any other field than music. When I was 17 (in 2018), I told my mother that I was going to put food on the table through my voice. I’ve always been confident that I could sing, and I was waiting for the right moment to return to Idols SA – and this year felt right. I recorded my audition clip and sent it. I was optimistic, which has been my attitude throughout the competition: I would put my best foot forward, and hope for the best because if something is meant to be, it will happen.

You made it to final 2 in the competition. What was going through your mind while you were standing next to Berry waiting for host ProVerb to announce the winner?

Berry and I had been talking about this moment for a long time. We had a conversation a week before the finale, and I recall telling her that I would be happy with results either way. When ProVerb called her name, instead of mine, I felt a sense of calm because if I’d won, Berry would be happy for me as well. I know that this prize was going to make a huge difference in my life and my 2-year-old daughter’s life. So, I know that it’s going to mean just as much to Berry and her kids. I’m glad that another mother won and will provide a good life for her family.

You forged a friendship with Berry. What was it like going head-to-head with her in the finale?

It didn’t feel like we were competing against each other. In fact, we were happy to share the stage together. I wouldn’t want to experience the finale with anyone but Berry. We’ve been supporting each other throughout the competition, and we spent the morning of the finale rehearsing, laughing, and praying together.

What went into picking your single Hosanna?

I went into studio with musician Ntsika Ngxanga from local band The Soil, and he told me that he had written a gospel song for me. However, at that point, the song was just a chorus. I listened to the words and the melody, and he told me to go into the sound booth and minister to people. He said: “Karabo, you know that you have it in your heart to heal people with your voice. Go for it.” And I did just that.

So, you recorded the song in one try?

Yes. After I sang Hosanna, the sound engineer told me that he was impressed. Ntsika, the sound engineer and I listened to the final product, and we were all emotional. I love the song and if anyone else enjoys it as much as I do, it will be a bonus.

Which was your toughest week in the competition?

It was during the Top 3 performances, and I sang Phakade Lami by Nomfundo Moh. I picked the song as I wanted to show my range – that I could do more than sing upbeat songs, but that song just wasn’t me. It required me to change my voice to a lower register and I was slightly uncomfortable, and the judges pointed that out, too. I knew that I could perform better than what I offered on stage.

How did you redeem yourself after the performance?

I went on social media to see what viewers were saying about my performance and to my surprise, they enjoyed it. Throughout the competition, I was shocked by the positive reviews I received. Even now, I didn’t win Idols SA, but I’ve been receiving a lot of messages from people, rallying behind me and I appreciate all the support.

What’s your ultimate goal?

I’d like to create inspirational and uplifting music, particularly gospel music. I want to see myself as an award-winning singer, who’s recognised for making songs that stand the test of time.

The whole of Karabo’s Idols SA Season 17 journey is now available on DStv as a Box Set until Sunday, 19 December. 

Binge Idols SA S17 on Catch Up now

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