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"Married life is good"


He waddles into our offices with the enviable sign of wealth and sophistication, at least according to my lowly standards - a silver and black Mercedes Benz key.

He is certainly portly and his skin has cleared in comparison to the first time we met last year. It's his season. He also sports some bling - a silver wedding band that confirms that he is taken. He has found his Nomvula.

After much persuasion, a reluctant Mankayi relents and tells me that he married a woman from Kimberley in the Northern Cape in May but he has never spoken about his nuptials that happened hush-hush at his home town of Maclear in the Eastern Cape.

All he is willing to say is that she is a businesswoman he met over a year ago.

"Married life is good. We're learning and growing together," he says.

He is also moving into a new big house in one of Johannesburg's northern suburbs that he will share with his mother, wife and sister.

The Mankayi household has also expanded with a little niece - courtesy of his sister Amanda - a few weeks ago.

"It's nice to have a baby in the house. She brings peace although I don't see her enough because I'm always on the road," the proud uncle gushes.

With so much going his way, I'm not surprised to hear that Mankayi's newest album is titled Umbulelo Wam (my gratitude). Mankayi shot to national prominence with the release of his album Buyelekhaya with the monster hit Nomvula. Today he steps out only in premium brands - threads by David Tlale, Simon and Mary hats and Palazzo Pitti kicks.

He hasn't wasted time following up his debut album, Buyelekhaya because there was no reason to wait as the music was ready. It took him seven days to record it. Some of the songs were written some years back. In fact, he sang Amalongwe in the talent search competition he won back home.

Mankayi hasn't strayed from his winning formula. But the new music reflects his state of mind - a man in love and someone who is sober about the realities of fame and its consequences.

He recorded Abantu Balendawo in which he bemoans how neighbours gossip behind one's back because they believe that success has changed them and cautions that not everyone will be happy for one's success. On Umsebenzi he pledges to love his lady love like it's his job. He laments the erosion of ubuntu on Ubuntu and how kindness to each other has been lost.

Inyembezi is a touching and powerful gospel ballad in which he exalts God's presence in his life after seeing how the tables turned for the better.

"This album is idini lam kuThixo (my sacrifice to God). I thank God and the people who supported me and didn't judge me that I came from prison," he says.

Uthando Lwam is a delightful and boisterous acoustic performance of just his voice accompanied by the guitar. It's a sweet ditty about commitment to love. Mankayi has successfully dodged the bullet of the second album curse which has tanked many music careers.

While Umbulelo Wam is a lot more measured and littered with romance, it still has his DNA. However there is a tinge in his tone that will remind you of Vusi Nova's vocals, something he readily admits. "We encourage and influence each other. As much as he says I've helped him, he's helped me too," Mankayi adds.