The name John Tsenoli is soon to be on everyone’s lips when his powerful debut single I’m Just A Boy drops today, Friday 20 September.
Composed by John alongside industry greats Ryno Zeelie and Matthew Marinus, I’m Just a boy is an endearing and introspective introduction to the 21-year old, the journey he has travelled to get to this starting point, and where he intends to take his music career into the future.
Music had always been John’s passion, and so 4 years ago as a shy 17-year old, John packed up and left his family and the mountains of his homeland of Lesetho and headed to Johannesburg to pursue his dream.
Tough times ensued and soon had John questioning his decision. He was just days away from heading back home “where he would need to herd cattle” as John says, when a friend encouraged him to audition for Born To Perform’s Gala Concert that year, and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.
Not only was he cast in the show, but was also given a featured number in the Hamilton segment, where many people in the entertainment industry sat up and took notice.
Gemma Marinus, Director of Born To Perform and Stageworx Performing Arts School, then offered John a full-time scholarship to attend the school, an opportunity that John didn’t hesitate to accept and jump ahead to 3 years later, he has recently qualified with a prestigious LTCL Degree in Performing Arts from Trinity College in London – which he passed with distinction.
John is full of praise for Gemma and Matthew Marinus; “I owe Gemma and Matthew EVERYTHING. Not only did they give me an incredible opportunity to study, I also learnt so much from them at Stageworx. I had no previous musical training, so they have taught me so much about not only getting the best out of my voice, but also other important skills like performance, stage presence, stretching my voice to embrace diverse music styles and so much more. I also had to learn about hard work, commitment, sticking to a project and seeing it through to the end no matter how difficult, and DISCPILINE”.
In the few years John has been in Johannesburg, he has fast established himself as a force to be reckoned with on stage, where he is now anything BUT shy!
Stage credits are already stacking up; from his inaugural Born To Perform Gala Concert to A Night With the Stars with the Johannesburg Youth Orchestra, Capital Singers alongside Jonathan Roxmouth, Gospel Spectacular alongside the likes of Brian Temba, Connell Cruise and Mahalia Buchanan and most recently being featured in Gone Too Soon.
John’s original track Long Road was also the showstopper number of Born To Perform’s SHINE! In 2018 and so he returned to reprise his hit in 2019, recently staged at The Teatro, Montecasino.
With Mondeor High Gospel Choir backing John this year, Long Road was undoubtedly the showstopper number again, of the Born To Perform’s SHINE! 2019 and the crowd favourite,
Says, Matthew Marinus; “John brought the house down at The Teatro at Montecasino in BORN TO PERFORM’s SHINE where he received a standing ovation at each performance. The audiences went wild and wanted more! I’m so excited to see John continue his vision of bringing people together through his music as he embarks on what looks like a remarkable start to his musical journey”.
While performing on stage is his passion, he is quick to clarify that writing his own songs is his lifeline and would like audiences to see him most as a singer/songwriter.
John clarifies; “I feel I have so much to say and to share. When I write, I pour all my emotions into it – whether I’m happy or sad, confused or conflicted or excited. I see myself as a work in progress with so much still to learn and experience, so when I write, that helps clarify things for me and gives me clarity. I am flawed, so when I write, it’s with the hope that others can take something from my songs as a lesson.”
When asked what I’m Just a Boy is about, a smile lights his face as he explains;
“For me, I’m Just A Boy is something very close to my heart. It’s about the fact that this is just the start of what I hope will be an incredible journey for me, it’s about a young boy who had big, scary dreams. About pursuing that dream and never giving up, no matter how tough it may get. It’s also an introduction of who I am to listeners who I hope will want to travel this journey with me.”
He continues; “I also want other children who are in places like where I grew up who might think they don’t have options, to realise that they CAN step out of that situation and with hard work, they too, can pursue their dreams, no matter how scary, just as I am doing.”
It’s very important for John as he travels this exciting journey, to give back to other youngsters and encourage and work with them, just as he was encouraged by people like Gemma and Matthew Marinus and Mullin Krienke at Stageworx Performing Arts School and many others.
“I’m hesitant at the thought of being regarded a role model”, says John, “I’d rather be an inspiration and a beacon of hope for other youngsters who have a dream in their hearts, just like I did back in Lesotho. Never in my wildest dreams as a teen, did I ever think I would be sitting here in Johannesburg now, on the brink of releasing my debut single. I am SO excited to start this journey and I firmly believe the world is there for the taking!”
I’m Just a Boy is the first single of a 3-part song release that John believes will then be the ideal introduction to him as an artist.
John felt there was nowhere else he could film his music video for I’m Just A Boy other than at his birthplace, so he headed back to the hills of Lesotho to reflect on where the journey began for him, how far he has come, and how far he still plans to go.
I’m Just a Boy is now available for download on all major digital platforms here.
Photo credits: Corinna Tannian Photography.