Thandiswa Mazwai is hot news in South Africa and beyond. Striking and sassy, her career came to the national limelight around 1996. The immensely popular singer shot to fame as the hip member of the equally popular Bongo Maffin. This was one of South Africa’s hardest Kwaito bands.
- Thandiswa Mazwai age: 43
- Daughter: Malika, 18 years old
- Mother: Belede
- Daddy: Thami Mazwai
- Siblings: Nomsa and Ntsiki
- Jack-knife, Bongo Maffin, Solo career
Today, Thandiswa ranks among the most influential female musicians on the nation’s scene with a huge Instagram following. Her lyrical compositions include Kwaito, Mbaqanga, traditional Xhosa rhythms, reggae, funk, and jazz. Mazwai straddles the rural and urban, effortlessly blending the modern with the traditional.
Thandiswa Mazwai siblings
She is a sister to Nomsa Mazwai with whom they have a healthy sibling rivalry. She also goes by the name Thandiswa Mazwai Belede, in honour of her mother Belede who passed away at the age of 38. She is also a sister to the poet Ntsiki Mazwai, who is an author, social activist, producer, and blogger.
Her daddy and mom
Born in 1976 in Eastern Cape, Thandiswa Mazwai grew up in Soweto, Johannesburg. 1976 was also the year that witnessed the Soweto Uprising, and she grew up amidst the heavy apartheid-related township violence seen in South Africa in the 1980s. Her parents were both anti-apartheid political activists and journalists. She recollects that their home was packed with articles, books, and full of political discussions. This was the environment that nurtured the young girl’s perspective as an artist.
The future star attended Wits University, studying International Relations and English literature. She claims that her inspiration came from her mother, who passed away when Thandiswa Mazwai was only 15 years old. Other inspirations come from the works of people like Steve Biko, Frantz Fanon, Kwame Nkrumah, and Chinua Achebe.
The first attempt by this budding musician to get noticed was at the Shell Road Fame to Talent Show. She didn’t, sadly, even make it far as she failed to reach the semi-finals round. She, however, did catch the eye of Don Laka, musician, and producer who arranged to have her included in one of his ongoing projects. After studying for a B.A. degree in international relations and English, she put all her school and church choir experience to great use making her professional singing debut at the Market Theatre in 1993 in a production called SA Love.
Thandiswa Mazwai albums and songs
Thandiswa Mazwai songs are many and varied. Her musical compositions are often deeply political, and they include Mbaqanga, reggae, traditional rhythms, Kwaito, and funk as well as jazz sounds. For example, in 2009 she released an amazing Thandiswa Mazwai ibokwe album which featured songs like Thongo I am ( Iyeza ) and Ngimkhinzile.
Her latest passion is working with young and new talent.
1. The Jack-Knife music group
Together with Themba Smuts and Kimon Webster, she was a member of the Jack-Knife band. The trio is widely regarded as the Kwaito movement pioneers, and some of their songs such as "Chommie" and "Fester" were huge club hits. The group went on to become one of South Africa’s most successful Kwaito groups.
2. The Bongo Maffin music group
She began her professional career with Bongo Maffin in 1998. This is counted among the pioneering Kwaito bands in South Africa. The band was widely recognized as the conscious voice for the youth in South Africa. Their compositions combined thought-provoking lyrics with dance floor favorites. They got invited to perform in various cities across the globe, sharing the stage with notable musical icons such as Marley Clan, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Sean Paul, Skunk Anansie, Steel Pulse, among others. The Bongo Maffin contribution to South Africa’s musical collection earned them numerous awards. These include South African Music Awards, the Metro FM Music Awards, and the Kora All Africa Music Awards.
The ace musician decided to go solo after doing five albums with the group Bongo Maffin.
- Her first solo project was the Thandiswa Mazwai Zabalaza album in 2004. It not only attained double platinum status but won several awards such as the Best African Female Kora award and 4 South African Music Awards, one being for Best Album. The album also got nominated for Planet Awards on BBC Radio 3.
- Ibokwe, her second album, was produced in 2009, and it reached gold status within the first couple of weeks after its release.
- Her live Dance of the Forgotten produced in 2010 clinched Best Live DVD and Best Female Artist (2011). She was called the finest female contemporary singer in South Africa by the Guardian.
- In 2004, to mark the 10th anniversary of South Africa’s independence, she released the Thandiswa Mazwai Zabalaza album. This was a stunning collection of genre-bending, soulful songs documenting a contemporary African identity. It marries the traditional Xhosa chants, harmonies, and instruments with the gospel, modern Kwaito, and jazz sounds.
Performances and global tours
She has performed at different venues across the world. Some include:
- The Opening Ceremony of 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa
- The Apollo in New York
- The Cannes Film Festival
- Africa Brazil Festival
- The Hackney Empire
- BBC World Music Awards
- FESPACO Film Festival, and
- Numerous Mandela 46664 concerts.
She is also an ambassador to the Eastern Cape Province as well as for 46664.
Her Instagram page is decorated with beautiful photos, and the above image clearly shows that she has a following of 99.3k people. The legendary Hugh Masekela while paying his tribute on her Instagram wall wrote,
"She is the leader of the past which is now the future".
Thandiswa has become a household name in South Africa, synonymous with excellence in the music industry. She has, over the years, participated in some noteworthy music collaborations. This includes collaborating with the musician Meshell Ndegeocello from the US on two songs that featured on her The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams album. This album was nominated in 2007 for a Grammy. Closer home, she has collaborated with several illustrious South African musicians including Stimela, the late Busi Mhlongo, and late Hugh Masekela. Together with BLK JKS, the rock band, she performed at the Afropunk Festival Johannesburg in 2017.
In July 2012 she had a duet with Paul Simon in the 25th-anniversary concert for his Graceland album in Hyde Park, London. It was she who sang the "Under African Skies" female vocals, originally sung by Linda Ronstadt. Recently, she collaborated with Mashayabhuqe KaMamba, a newcomer on the music scene after he won a competition.
Thandiswa Mazwai daughter
The former Jack-Knife band member was romantically involved with an old band-mate, Stoan Seate, who is also a musician and presenter, and they have one daughter called Malika. The girl is 18 years of age. Staon and Mazwai are, however, no longer together although they co-parent.
She only has one girl, Malika, who recently turned 18. We cannot, therefore, call her a baby anymore.
Although the last album from Thandiswa Mazwai was released in 2011, do not for a moment think that the music scene has seen the last of her. This queen bee whose early days can be traced to the epic days of the Soweto Uprising still packs a punch, and you can look forward to hearing from her in the days ahead. Her solo offerings remain hugely popular at social gatherings all over South Africa and beyond.
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