IN December 2001, the talented trio of Mafikizolo nearly perished in an accident when two of its members Nhlanhla Sibongile Mafu and Theo Kgosinkwe had to be hospitalised after their car was involved in a smash with a train in North West province. God's hand saved them and as they would explain, it brought them much closer. It made Mafu, Kgosinkwe and Tebogo Madingoane work even harder, and paid dividends with their resulting 2002 album, aptly titled "Sibongile", Zulu for Thank You God. The album was much sought after and they've been in demand to perform almost every week.
It came as no surprise when Mafikizolo won two prestigious awards for the album Sibongile in April 2003. They won the Best Duo or Group and Best Afro Pop Album categories. Ironically, they went to collect both South African Music Awards at the same province, North West, at Sun City Superbowl, not far from where their near fatal accident occured. They were also honoured with a Metro FM-Cell C special award special in December 2002, and took the "Best Album"and other categories at the Metro FM music awards in November 2003
Having sold over 300 000 copies of their
album "Sibongile", Mafikizolo remained extremely busy during 2002 and 2003 with live perfomances - appearing all over South Africa and the neighbouring countries like Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Malawi, Zambia and Botswana. They also performed in London in the United Kingdom and the United States of America at the international music conference in Miami.
The enterprising group finally made history with their fourth, 11-track album "Sibongile", a rocking melange of traditional sounds, thumping bass of African house rhythms and a dose of 50s popular music genre marabi. The track "Ndihamba Nawe" - inspired by Sophie Mgcina's 1960's recording of 'Mmangwane' - has become an anthem in every show; the older followers - the grannies and grandaddies also sing-along to "Gug' Othandayo".
In 2003, Mafikizolo is releasing a new album titled "Kwela", staying true to their latest style of marabi music and the 50s sounds where they build on the old days of Sophiatown. The new album is produced by Dangerous Crew Combination which consists of Mandla "Spikiri" Mofokeng, Zynne "Mahoota" Sibika, Oscar "Oskido" Mdlongwa and Bruce "Dope" Sebitlo. Even kwai-jazz musician Don Laka has co-produced the album.
Songwriter/composer/singer Kgosinkwe, composer and rapper Madingoane and the delectable female lead singer and composer Mafu had targetted every listener - young, middle-age and old - and it paid dividends. Other members of the group who make things happen on stage include dancers Castro Mkhize, Maggie Simelane and Gugu Mbambama.
Suddenly the name Mafikizolo is on everyone's lips and causing a storm in the clubs, outdoor and at corporate events. Indeed ... the kwaito group has grown by leaps and bounds since their best-selling 2000 album Gate Crashers, which featured the popular track "Majika" and "Loot". The album was also released in the United States, Europe and Asia by the evergreen Masters at Work.
The group released its debut self-titled album "Mafikizolo" in 1997, which was followed by "Music Revolution" in 1999. With "Gatecrashers", the group stamped the authority in the music industry.
The album "Sibongile" was produced by kwaito kingpin Oscar Mdlongwa of Brothers of Peace with the assistance of his 'dangerous dogs' like co-BOP member Bruce Sebitlo, Zane "Mahoota" Sibika, Mandla "Spikiri" Mofokeng, and, the result is a captivating collection that portrays kwaito as a very human - and very South African - form of expression.
"We are trying to dispel the stereotype that kwaito is strictly about booze, partying and gangsterism," says Mafu, whose colourful Dame Edna sun-glasses have become her trademark. "There is more to kwaito. Our music deals with pertinent social issues such as women and children abuse, poverty, the importance of education and the dangers of casual sex." Adds Theo: "I think people have responded to the fact that kwaito can be entertaining and truthful; it can be emotionally powerful without being sentimental; and it can educate without being didactic."
It is this positive attitude that has helped give Mafikizolo their highly individual character and respect not fully enjoyed by other kwaito groups. And after being involved a the 2001 car accident , the group has decided that they will not lose sight of the fact that God had a hand in their survival. In fact, they say, they are closer to each other than ever before.
The trio's music in Sibongile is kwaito-cum-marabi house music for sure, full of bumpin' beats and basslines, bleeps and wonderful effects, yet it's raw and full of energy. They also boast a unique way with rugged raps and diva vocals delivered by Kgosinkwe and Mafu, especially on tracks like the eponymous "Sibongile", "Marabi", "Morena", "Bangradesh", and, of course the anthemic "Ndihamba Nawe".
* Footnote: Nhlanhla Mafu won a Sunday Times-Elle Style award in Monte Casino, Fourways in Joburg in September 2003.
> this biography an edit of press release issued by Sony Music Entertainment, South Africa.