The Light Shines Through Music
Twins Lebone and Lesedi Khunou have taken the Catholic gospel scene by storm with their faith-filled songs and sweet harmonies. Daluxolo Moloantoa spoke to them.
Alexandra township in Johannesburg once had the nickname “Dark City” because for decades there was no electricity. The darkness was also one of poverty and the broken promise of making it big in the City of Gold. Out of the sprawling ghetto, in the 1960s came the all-female mbaqanga group The Dark City Sisters.
Today, Alexandra township is electrified. The darkness is a thing of the past — except during loadshedding. And where once were The Dark City Sisters, today there are The Light Twins.
The Light Twins are twin sisters Lebone and Lesedi Khunou. As their name suggests, the twins aim to spread a message of living in the light. The duo first made an appearance on social media platforms in 2015 after accepting a Christmas carol challenge.
The identical twins, both devout Catholics, sourced their stage moniker from their own Setswana names, which in English mean light. “We chose the name because as Christians, we are called upon to bring God’s light into the world. For us, this light is our voices through music,” they told The Southern Cross.
The twins, who are marketing graduates from the University of Johannesburg, juggle their lives as marketing employees of a well-known insurance company with their blooming music careers.
They started to sing in the church youth choir of their home parish of St Hubert’s in Alexandra. They have since been part of all the parish’s choirs — sometimes conducted by their mother, Elizabeth Khunou. “She is our biggest cheerleader but also our biggest critic.”
In 2015, they came across a Facebook post challenging brave choristers to put out videos of themselves singing Christmas carols. They took on the challenge. “The response was incredible,” they say, “and it encouraged us to record more videos and share them on social media.”
Feedback for their videos was phenomenal, with people making mounting requests for the pair to record an album. “We relented to the requests from our growing army of YouTube fans. In 2017 we released our 12-track debut album titled Filled With Hope.”
Fans across the board
The Light Twins describe their sound as contemporary gospel. Their repertoire comprises popular Catholic songs and their own compositions. Their fanbase has since grown to include Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
“Catholics make up the majority of our fans. They love how we have taken the traditionally-sung Catholic hymns and revamped them to give them a new expression,” said Lebone. “Non-Catholics love both our own compositions as well as the Catholic hymns, most especially ‘Ikelelloeng’, which is very popular and is loved by many. Another one is the Marian song ‘Kwake Kwathi’, which is quite interesting to us, given the widespread misconception about Our Lady and her role in the Church,” Lebone said.
In May 2020, in the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown, the twins released a song in response to the pandemic, as reported in The Southern Cross newspaper at the time. “This Too Shall Pass” featured fellow gospel artists Tefo M and Thulasizwe Ndlovu, and was well-received. “We saw how South Africa and the world were so distressed, scared and hopeless. True to our name, we thought we’d be that light that shines through in this difficult and dark period,” Lebone said.
“We wanted to let people know that this too shall pass, and that God will see us through.” They included the other artists in the song “to help us in spreading a message of hope as well as to show unity and togetherness and that, if we come together as a people we can fight the virus”.
Since then, a whirlwind of achievements has set the duo on a path to musical stardom. Some of their songs have topped the iTunes gospel music charts. Their song “O tla Ntshedisa (Reprise)” was playlisted on one of the biggest online music platforms globally, Apple Music. The Light Twins were among a number of South African gospel music artists to perform on a MSC Cruise to the Portuguese Islands in May 2022.
They are now five-time nominees of the Ingoma Music Awards. In late 2021 they participated in Stand Up South Africa, a national music talent search competition on SABC 2. They landed in the top eight.
They have also shared the stage with their gospel music icons such as Sbu Noah, Zaza Mokhethi, and Teboho Moloi, among others.
For the twins, it was a milestone when they were featured on Vatican News. “The feature on Vatican News was a dream come true for us. The light of Christ in us continues to shine to reach millions of hearts. Our ‘brand’ has grown tremendously over the years and continues to grow, and for this we’re thankful,” they said.
The twins are actively engaged in advocacy on mental health issues, especially the effect of these on youths and even children. They believe that the Catholic Church should be welcoming to young people who are facing mental health issues.
They hope to help bring young people back to the Church, to show that “the Church is cool”. They try to achieve this through social media such as TikTok, one of the “powerful platforms that can be used to draw the youth in”, according to Lesedi.
Rise of Catholic gospel
The Light Twins are leading a rising appreciation for Catholic gospel songs in the mainstream gospel music scene. Interestingly, some of the Catholic songs reaching conventional gospel music fans are sung by artists who are not Catholic. “The adoption of Catholic music is rising quite beautifully, and the message is spreading far and wide, with popular artists such as Lebo Sekgobela singing Catholic songs like ‘Kabelo ea ka entle’, Zaza Mokhethi with her rendition of ‘Ke tshweri rosary’, and Puleng March lending her voice to ‘Re atametse’, to name but a few,” Lebone noted.
Catholics such as Kgethang Konese and Durban’s Thandeka Dube (featured in the July 2021 issue of The Southern Cross) are also popularising Catholic hymns in the mainstream gospel music scene. “It is quite marvellous to witness this musical revolution taking place,” Lebone said.
The Light Twins have performed for Catholic and non-Catholic audiences. A memorable experience was their participation in an all-star Catholic gospel line-up for a Radio Veritas festival at St Dominic’s School in Boksburg last October. They shared a bill with Thandeka Dube, Thuso wa Sibini (who featured in the March 2021 issue of The Southern Cross), Tefo M, Thulasizwe Ndlovu, Kgethang Konese, and Pinksterfees Psalm 150:6.
The twins have a simple suggestion to ramp up the upsurge of interest in Catholic hymns by gospel fans. “As Catholic artists, we need to find ways of delivering our music creatively, and in a way that helps people grasp the message. Because we have been singing our rich hymns the same way for the past 100 years, it has been easy for Catholics and other people in general to not hear the message. We Catholic gospel artists need to deliver a message differently for people to hear that very message. That’s not to say that we need to change the tunes of the hymns we love, but the vocals need to present the song with meaning,” they said.
Apart from their own music, the twins also listen to a variety of music by other Catholic gospel acts. “Each of the artists brings and evokes different feelings at different times, so we listen to a varied list. If we had to choose one, we’d say that a current favourite of ours is the song ‘Re Balehela’ by Kgethang Konese featuring Helen M.”
Past the ridicule
According to Lesedi, the Light Twins’ journey hasn’t always been easy. “We have been ridiculed” by some people. But today the twins are confident in themselves and their talent. They encourage young people who may be discouraged and ridiculed by others to go their own way and grow in confidence.
The young women attribute their success to the fact that they have always aligned themselves to the will of God. “We are a testament of God’s greatness and favour in each individual’s lives,” they said. “We have always trusted the gift that God has blessed us with, and the mission of spreading his Word through music. We are always infinitely conscious of this fact, and perpetually grateful to him for his blessings”.
The Light Twins’ latest single, “Jesu Ngiyinika Wena”, was released in February and is available on all digital platforms. Their music is accessible at youtube.com/@TheLightTwins or follow them on Facebook: facebook.com/TheLightTwins
Published in the May 2023 issue of The Southern Cross magazine
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