When South African drivers need fuel — and a stirring song to brighten their day — there is only one petrol station to go to: the Total garage in Eastern Cape, where Mthetheleli Gxoyiya sings opera for patrons, according to News 24.
Twenty-two-year-old Gxoyiya was born and raised in Cradrock, the same town where he works as a petrol attendant. He ended up working at the garage, after having to suspend his studies in Electrical Engineering due to the birth of his daughter in 2012.
And while his new life as a Father supposedly put an end to his career dreams, the changing of priorities never stopped him from singing.
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It wasn’t until Grade 8 that his cousin, Lonwabo, discovered Gxoyiya’s talent.
“He was the conductor of the choir at our church, the Apostolic Church. We were rehearsing for a church social gathering, and he asked me to sing a solo in all the tenor pieces in the song.
“Later I started singing gospel with my brother, and Lonwabo told me that I did not belong there. I belonged in choral and opera.”
Gxoyiya wouldn’t get a chance to try his voice at opera until he was in Grade 10, when a JA Calata high school teacher assigned him a few songs to sing.
“A teacher recognized that I could sing, and in 2007, I was made to sing an opera composition of Mozart’s ‘Magic Flute.'”
And 10 years later — even while he works — Gxoyiya is still singing.
“There is something inside of me that says keep singing, sing louder,” Gxoyiya says. “I sing for our customers when I pump air into their tyres, when I fill up their petrol tanks, fill water in to their engines, and when I wash their windscreens. I think they enjoy it. They tip me R5 [or $0.37 cents] for the service and an extra R20 [or $1.50] for the singing.”
His talent has also kept him optimistic about the future: Gxoyiya hopes to one day be discovered so that he can become a professional opera singer.
But he doesn’t plan on forgetting his hometown.
“I want to teach children in my community about opera, because in the rural areas and locations they only know about kwaito, hip hop and house music. They forget about classical music.”
Watch Gxoyiya perform above and below: