SUNDAY mornings are reserved for his services to God because for this Gospel music star being a pastor comes before being a showbiz personality. This, seemingly, embodies the work ethic of someone who took 27 years to break on to the local music scene. Born in Tembisa 40 years ago, Solly Mahlangu became a professional just four years ago. His introduction to the gospel genre has shaped, expanded and redefined the sound. As much as he is a famous gospel singer, Mahlangu, a pastor by calling, has been able to balance his ministry and music. He is the founder of the Word Praise Christian Centre International, in Tembisa. He says both worlds inform his life. "God has been good to me. I have people who help in church so that I can travel," he says. "My commitment to the church is so serious that wherever I go I make sure on Sunday morning I'm back to conduct my services. "I don't take morning bookings on Sundays, but I can perform after the church services." Mahlangu says he is aware that he is an artist but does not confuse this with his calling. "Being a pastor comes first. I am not an artist that happened to start a church. I am pastor who can think creatively." Last year he took the industry by surprise when he won three SABC Gospel Crown Awards. To prove that he is on a roll, he last week landed two nominations in the 18th MTN South African Music Awards. Mahlangu received nominations in the Best Traditional Faith Music Album category and Best Live DVD, in which he competes with the likes of bass wizard Concord Nkabinde and Simphiwe Dana. "I am humbled by and grateful for all these achievements. But I am not in a position to say I deserve them. "After winning three awards last year I said God has embarrassed me. Yes, I wanted to win all the awards and when it happened I was shocked. " For Mahlangu struggling to get a deal turned out to be a blessing in disguise because he got an opportunity to look at the industry and see what was lacking. He has managed to come up with a winning formula that turned him into a multi-platinum-selling musician within four years. "I don't have a secret. I came up with a fresh and different gospel sound. It is what South Africa had been waiting for." He says he has produced a unique sound because he tried to interpret the tradition and culture of African people in a different way. "My songs are inspired by what is happening around people," he says. In his first year as professional singer Mahlangu collected the Best Album award at the 2009 SABC Gospel Crown Awards. His live album and DVD, Obrigado, sold about 15000 copies, while the CD has achieved gold status for selling more than 20000 units. "When you have been poor for so long and suddenly get wealthier, the biggest challenge is not how to keep it but how to adjust to the new and demanding environment," he notes.