Bongekile Simelane, the South African model, choreographer and songstress known as Babes Wodumo burst on the scene in 2016 with her hit single “Wololo” featuring Mampintsha, and broke the charts. “Wololo” quickly became the fourth most played local song on South African radio, and the subsequently released album Gqom Queen Vol. 1, beckoned the world back to the dance floor. That same year, she performed at the MTV Africa Music Awards where she was nominated for Best Breakthrough Artist and Song of the Year.
But the triple-threat was in the entertainment industry long before we knew her name. Wodumo began modeling and competing in pageants at six years old and it was through her dancing that a friend connected her with Mampintsha, one third of the Kwaito music group out of Durban, Big Nuz. It wouldn’t be long before she found her way into the studio. Initially, her religious family was not keen on Wodumo joining the entertainment world professionally. However, they soon got on board, and now could not be more proud of her success. In truth, it is her spiritual roots that keep her grounded and focused on giving back to the community; the West Ink Dance Academy she founded, a Durban school dedicated to keeping troubled kids out of the streets by introducing them to dance, design and production, is just one of the ways in which she does.
It hasn’t taken long for Wodumo’s success to reach international status. Last year she was nominated for Best International Act: Africa at the BET awards. This year, she is featured on “Redemption” from the highly anticipated Black Panther soundtrack, alongside Kendrick Lamar, Zacari and fellow South African artists Saudi, Yugen Blakrok and Sjava. Lesser artists have prematurely peaked after having a high level of success so quickly, but with her fearless ingenuity and command of the gqom scene, we’re positive that Wodumo will be around for a long time.