Pebbles is clearly a fan of adjectives beginning with 'P'. Her first album was titled Playful Soul and her more recent, sophomore album is called Phenomenal. It’s been seven years since South Africa first encountered Pebbles Gqunta. She broke into the music industry in what may seem by chance but according to her was destiny. The then 28-year old singer was asked to sing for a group of Outrageous records executives. Her voice clearly impressed the powers-that-be because then and there Pebbles was offered a record contract.
This was a major feat for the young songstress seeing as she would be joining a label which housed H2O, Zubz, Proverb and Optical Illusion, SA’s most original hip-hop acts of the time.
Born 36 years ago in Port Elizabeth, Pebbles spent the first 15 years of her life in the UK. Her unusual name comes courtesy of her grandmother, who was an avid watcher of The Flintstones.
“If it’s a girl, name her Pebbles!” her grandmother ordered. Fortunately for her, Pebbles was indeed a girl. Smiling at the memory, Pebbles laments it has been a bit of a tricky name to have because some people tend to not take her seriously when they hear it, often asking if it is indeed her real name.
Fast forward to the early Nineties and Pebbles was back home in Port Elizabeth, where she completed her last two grades of high school. She then went on to enroll for a degree at Rhodes University. “I completed a BParty,” she laughs. “I failed every subject except drama,” she says.
To please her father, Pebbles agreed to study towards a media degree, majoring in drama at Rhodes, but didn’t make it past her first year. Not one to give up, Pebbles joined her father’s company selling auto spares. “I was that chick who stood behind the counter, barely able to understand, let alone speak Xhosa. I would leave work crying everyday from frustration. I then learned everything I possibly could about car spares and enough of my mother tongue to get by, to a point where people would come in and ask for me,” she says.
After seven years, Pebbles left Port Elizabeth for Joburg and joined a friend in the city. For four years after signing with Outrageous records, Pebbles worked through several jobs until her first single, Destiny, was released in 2005. Her album Playful Soul put her on the industry map with two SAMA award nominations. Although her star was rising at a commendable pace, Pebbles emphasises that she preferred being away from the limelight.
Now seven years later, Pebbles comes across as a cultured woman who has grown into her own and knows exactly what she wants. A freelance producer for an animation company and a resident of Melville, Pebbles has found her happy place. As I meet her 15-year old son at the Melville Sports complex on a cold Saturday morning, I am struck by his resemblance to his mother. Pebbles joins us minutes later for her weekly tennis lesson.
She later explains that she has decided to learn how to play tennis again in a bid to keep fit.
For someone who just started their first tennis lesson, Pebbles impresses, diligently listening to her coach and enthusiastically keeping up with the techniques taught to her.
An hour later, Pebbles and I sit down for a chat at Love & Revoloution coffee shop in Melville. Pebbles orders a veggie lasagne, exclaiming that she was vegetarian for a month and still enjoys some of the foods her palate came across. A regular patron, she warmly jokes with the staff in the store and settles down to dish on her new album.
“I had already written a few songs when I briefed the production team at Jazzworx. I wanted the album to be sophisticated, mature, playful and timeless. I was so much more involved with this album and went to every studio session except one where they added in horns. Working with RJ Benjamin was great – he is a perfectionist. With this album it was easier to articulate what I wanted because I was now familiar with the terminology and had a better understanding of the direction I wanted the music to take,” says Pebbles.
The styling and album artwork needed to have an aesthetic that matched this more mature sound, so Pebbles called upon long-time friend and style architect Felipe Mazibuko, who facilitated the album cover and press pic shoot.
Although the album was slated for release in 2011, Pebbles has only been able to promote it recently because her father passed away late last year and the director of her new music video also died before the final editing. With a glint in her eye, Pebbles states she is now fully dedicated to getting the word of her album out there. One senses a resolve and a feeling of reignited passion to succeed in her.
Towards the end of this year, Pebbles hopes to have gone on both a national and European tour of Phenomenal and have cemented her comeback in the music industry. Pebbles has no unrealistic expectations of her reintroduction to music. Instead she is embracing what the present has brought her – new opportunities and essentially a second chance to touch people’s souls with her music.
Five words which explain your legacy?
Timeless, quality, sophisticated, sentient and playful-soul.
Pebbles is phenomenal.
Pebbles pet peeve is pretentiousness.
One country you’d like to visit?
George’s on 4th Avenue in Parkhurst, Johannesburg.
One career you would have gone into outside of the creative arts?
I would have been a singing doctor!
One thing you wish you could accomplish now?
I wish I could understand what was happening in my son’s head right now.
Your best memory?
I was about five, wearing a frilly dress, a polo neck, which I hated, and maroon patent leather shoes with white socks. I remember singing Frank Sinatra (laughs).