STALWARTS of South Africa’s music scene, the Soul Brothers have recorded over 30 albums since their formation in 1974.
Initially formed in KwaZulu Natal, the group have remained the slickest and most successful proponents of the mbaqanga sound which dominated South African urban music for over three decades
While their costume, choreography and some harmonies bear comparison to the American Soul music which inspired them, the group originated a sound and style which captivated South African audiences, most especially amongst migrant labourers who under Apartheid, were forced to leave rural homes to seek work in the cities.
The Soul Brothers themselves trod this path to Joburg, and it was this shared frame of reference which endeared the group to the massive working class audience of South African cities.
The band was built around the rhythm section comprising bassist Zenzele "Zakes" Mchunu, drummer David Masondo, and guitarist Tuza Mthethwa who first played together in the “Groovy Boys?in Kwazulu Natal, and later as part of the “Young Brothers?
It was in Joburg that keyboardist Moses Ngwenya joined to create the Soul Brothers, and David Masondo made the move from drums to lead vocals. The combination of Masondo’s quavering soprano voice and Ngwenya’s percussive Hammond organ playing gave the Soul Brothers a unique and instantly recognizable sound. This core rhythm section was typically augmented with a brass section, guitars, and multiple vocal harmonies.
Although the Soul Brothers enjoyed massive acclaim and commercial success, the audience remained limited to South Africa, and neighbouring states. In 1983, members of the group travelled to Botswana, where they worked with the then-exiled Hugh Masekela, affording a mbaqanga underpinning to his seminal “Technobush" album.
Car crashes saw the deaths of three band members in 1979, and then bassist and founder member Zakes Mchunu in 1984. Despite these setbacks, Masondo and Ngwenya continued, performing with an expanded group that included not only musicians, but dedicated dancers.
The Soul Brothers visited UK and Europe in 1990 on their first international tour. Despite international releases, the group remain primarily a domestic phenomenon, who continue to notch album after album achieving gold status. They also operate their own successful recording, publishing and entertainment companies.
This biography Steve Gordon 2004