Mathole was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, and was brought up by a grandparent in Thabanchu. leaving the Free State when he was a little boy.
He learned from most of the older generation of guitarists. He lists what is a who's who of South African guitar legends: Enoch Mtalane, Baba Mokoena, Allen Kwela, and so on.
But his biggest influence of all time is Marks Mankhwane, who was the first guitarist Mathole heard as a young man growing up in Thaba Nchu in the Free State. "I've always wanted to be like Marks, to play like Marks, because his music is so real to me, so honest. It's always been honest to me. You can take a simple Marks Mankhwane song and take it further, breaking it down, all this without losing Marks' identity in the song, without losing any of the melodies."
Like most youngsters of his generation growing up around the country's townships, the first musical instrument, if you can call it that, was the old can of oil, with a board held together by nails. Twine, if one is so lucky, made wonderful guitar strings.
He bought his first "real" acoustic guitar for 15 shillings from an old friend in Thaba Nchu, "who didn't think it was right of me to borrow the instrument all the time, and felt that I should in fact be owning my own guitar".
How we met:
Menyatso Mathole was another one of Vusi Mahlasela's good friends that joined us in Vusi's backyard after we had done some filming of Vusi's original songs. He called Menyatso to join us for a jam and his guitar playing was so good and his energy so humble, we asked him to play on "One Love."