For the most part of Siyabonga Radebe’s career in the entertainment industry, his personal life has always made headlines. However, we recently sat down with him to find out and highlight what sparked his journey to becoming the actor, singer, standup comedian and the director that we’ve grown to love today.
Siyabonga ‘Siya B’ Radebe was raised in a township called Umlazi, D section in Kwa-Zulu Natal, in a household that used Christianity as a way of keeping order at home. And to ensure that their children did not become “another statistic in the township." It is also the very Christian principles that were used at home that propelled his love for the entertainment industry.
“Church allows you, or rather gives you the opportunity to be able to stand in front of people and speak, stand in front of people and sing, stand in front of people and open your chest and reveal, because you are raised to believe that everyone around you is in support of healing…everything that I am, I’ve always been all of my life…”
With his upbringing having ignited a passion for him to pursue a career in the arts, Radebe went to study Drama at Durban University of Technology (DUT) majoring in music and contemporary which lead him to find a place of comfort amongst other creatives.
Acting and directing
The 36-year-old actor has starred in many well-renowned television series and is best known for his stint on SABC1's, A Place Called Home. He has featured on other soapies like Rhythm City, Intersexions and has even worked alongside international actor Idris Elba and worked in many other local productions. So when it comes to his profile, Radebe describes himself as an actor, before his many other titles.
“I am an actor before I am anything else, I am hoping that I will continue to work as an actor, obviously I want to grow as an actor...i had an opportunity to produce a television show called ‘Him, her and the guys.’ I produced for the SABC with my baby mama...it was a learning curve, this was the first time we produced a show, this was the first time I was in the producer's seat. There was so much that I didn’t know and there is so much that I learnt and it is something that I would like to continue with because I know that there is so much we haven’t seen yet on our television."
From joining fellow rappers and musicians in cyphers in the streets to emulating the personalities they had seen on television while growing up, music has always been a consistent factor in Radebe's life and he is adamant that he has been singing his entire life, however, it was in his teens that he started recording music and later in University as well.
“One thing that I realized is that because of my church background when it comes to music, the church was a place to express your deepest pains. I’ve been recording since I was a kid when I met guys in the streets, who knew people that have studio equipment - I remember I used to walk from D section Umlazi, to BB section, which is far away - we’d get into this guys house and we would record."
"I used to record stuff, in university I recorded stuff, in university I was fortunate because...this lady used to say: “You guys don’t realize what you have right now, you only have three or five years in this environment called 'University', after this, you will remember this place and you will wish that you had taken advantage of each and everything you have to your disposal right now.' University was a blessing,”
You might mostly know him for the work he's done as an actor but Radebe is also known in comedy circles as Siya B.
He has contributed a great amount of work in comedy as well. He has had the pleasure of doing Comedy Central's - Live at Parkers as one of the comedians on the show and he recently had yet another big standup show at the Market Theatre.
When it comes to making people laugh, Radebe says that his jokes are not always easily digestible as they relate to the realities that society still faces today, so you're bound to get informed while being entertained.
“It hasn’t been easy to tell jokes, it’s not always easy to tell jokes, because there is so much pain in South Africa and the people that really love me and the people I know that are in my family, are still in that background that I come from. Even if I have a house in Lyndhurst, I can lose it any day, because I’m a freelancer, if I don’t have money to pay for that house, it can be taken away from me because at the end of the day it belongs to the bank. So I think we as young people need to be given the opportunity to tell stories that haven’t been told. I know that my jokes are never the easiest to digest because the stories I tell, people would rather ignore."
Although Radebe says that he’s been shunned for dabbling on many platforms in the media, his mission statement has always been about consistently helping people by telling stories in whichever media platform he sees himself in.
“I’m starting to see that I’m trying to help, my grandfather became a preacher because of the help he received from Christians, so he wanted to help others who don’t have. So when I look at me, I’m not as religious as my grandfather I think I’m trying to help, I believe that if we can tell our stories from the corners that we come from, we’re gonna make a difference. I think I’m trying to use my story to make a living, and if I’m making a living via truth, I think I’m helping in the right way.”
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Main image credit: instagram.com/@siyaradebe