Photo courtesy of Universal Studios.

In Conversation: Mafikizolo Speaks on a Legacy of Creating Unforgettable African Anthems

The South African duo talks about their big break, their smash hits, and what the next decade looks like.

Mafikizolois the iconic South African duo comprising Nhlanhla Ncize and Theo Kgosinkwe. After bursting onto the scene back in the late 90s under the tutelage of veteran artist and record producer Oskido, the Afro-pop duo has given South Africans (and Africans) unforgettable anthems over the past two decades. It's indisputable that their wildly successful 2003 hit "Emlanjeni" set the standard for African love songs while their 2007 hit "Ndihamba Nawe" has become a staple at almost every wedding celebration across the continent.

With nine studio albums under their belt, and another album set to be released next year, the duo continues to produce hit records with an ever-evolving sound. For them, it's about creating a lasting musical legacy that will remain relevant and endearing long after they've left the music scene. Their collaborations with equally incredible artists including Tresor, DJ Maphorisa and Davido (to name but a few), are a testament to that legacy.

However, the duo admits that it wasn't an easy journey. It took three albums for them to start becoming a household name in South Africa and even that was almost cut short after they were involved in a horrific road accident in the early 2000s.

Following a string of awards, like the South African Music Awards (SAMAs) and MTV Africa Music Awards (MAMAs), to name a few, Mafikizolo have their sights set on even bigger musical feats for the coming decade. We sat down with them at Universal Studios to talk about their careers first as individual artists and hen as a duo, their musical journey thus far and what they still have in store for their fans.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How did Mafizikolo first come together?

Theo: Both Nhlanhla and myself are from the same township. I think a love and interest for music is what brought us together after we met at a township concert. She was always traveling with the parents who were her managers. I approached her one day, and I said, "Look, I saw you doing your own thing and performing. Come join our crew. We can do this so let's start something together."

Our record CEO then said to us, "How about I put another guy, maybe in the middle and then you become Mafikizolo?" That's how we started out. They introduced Tebogo to us and that's when we started recording together.

Why did you decide to continue as a duo after your third member Tebogo Madingoane passed away?

Nhlanhla: In the early years of Mafikizolo, we struggled very hard. Then, when the doors were opening for us and success was coming, we lost a member. It was very difficult for us because we struggled together and now that we were achieving, one of us was gone. It was quite a difficult decision to make, but we felt like we didn't want to replace him. I think even the record label felt the same; we all took the unanimous decision that weren't replacing Tebogo. I think his legacy is living through us. I feel like if there was another member, it would have erased his legacy.

Your 1997 track "Lotto" became a national sensation but you reportedly weren't fans of the song. Why?

Nhlanhla: I wasn't. I think for me, at the time I felt like, "Why are we singing this one line throughout the song?" It didn't make sense to me. I felt like we are so much more than just one line, it just didn't make sense for me. I love singing and I love beautiful melodies, and I felt like there were better songs in the album, like "Majika" for instance.

Theo: I was a fan of it because I love the African sound. For me it wasn't about the lyrics because I think the lottery system was just starting in South Africa and we were all excited about it. As someone who writes and listens to music, I was very excited about it despite the lyrics. I liked the beat, the drums, the melody and the chants on that song.

MAFIKIZOLO - Lottowww.youtube.com

When would you say Mafikizolo officially broke into the music industry?

Theo: It's a spiritual thing and a spiritual moment that led us to our success. We just came back from a performance and I think at that time, we were very busy and very excited.

Nhlanhla: We were young. We were having fun.

Theo: We were young, we were having fun, we were all over the place. I guess somehow God said, "Stop."

Nhlanhla: You need to calm down.

Theo: We were driving on our way to another show and we got into a huge accident that almost took our lives. The car rolled over and they had to use the jaws of life to remove certain members from the car. Immediately after the accident, we kept on visiting each other. Sometimes it was a struggle, sometimes I would go see her with my neck in a brace.

But on this one day, God gave me a song and I sang it to a friend. And then we performed it for Nhlanhla because she's the one who authorizes the songs. So when we finally got to the studio, our producers gave us the freedom for the first time to compose music for ourselves. That freedom led to the success. That's why we named the album Sibongile meaning "God, we are grateful for what you have done for us."

I realized that on that particular album, Sibongile, we changed our image as well because we had struggled with that for some time.

In 2003, you come up with "Emlanjeni". Did the success of that song surprise you?

Nhlanhla: The song picked up so nicely. It almost didn't and we were shocked. We were surprised. But to date, the surprise is that it's still one of the biggest songs. You know, it's actually the song that won the Metro FM "Song of the Decade." It competed with so many other amazing songs and won, which was just amazing. It did take us all by surprise though.

Emlanjeni Mafikizolo (Meet Me At the River)www.youtube.com

There have been many South African bands: Boom Shaka, TKZee, Trompies and Malika. What do you think has been the major key to your longevity as Mafikizolo?

Nhlanhla: I would definitely say, first of all, like you said, we struggled for so many years, that at times we thought of doing something else outside of music. Our parents were like, "We can't afford to support you anymore". During that time, we had the opportunity of traveling with other bands and other artists. So in a way, we got to see how the industry works and we got to learn from other artists: their successes, the mistakes they made. During those years we saw people becoming big superstars and people falling through those years as well.

So I feel like God was preparing us for something big, but he wanted us to learn and to respect the craft first. We learned to respect the industry. We learned to respect each other also.

"We learned that it's important if you're in a band to respect each other because egos don't work at all."

We've seen bands breaking up even back then because of egos. Also what kept us going was the belief that our producers had, especially Oskido. He always said, "Maybe it's not your time now, but your time is going to come."

In 2013, you release "Khona". There was something very distinctive sound-wise about that song. Would you say it was intentional or would you say it was just a natural evolution for Mafikizolo?

Nhlanhla: Everything that we do is not always planned. Some of the things happened whilst we were in studio and were just like, "Oh let's do this". What I can tell you and what people don't know is that we've actually always loved the West African sound.

One night, we were like, "Let's listen to what we've done so far." The songs were very good. But you know when you kind of feel that you don't have that song but you don't want to admit it because you don't want to bring people's spirits down? Our producer then pressed a song by mistake and we were like, "Go back to that song." We listened to this song and were blown away. We recorded the song and little did we know that the song was going to become an African anthem.

Official MAFIKIZOLO ft Uhuru KHONAwww.youtube.com

What would you say has been your best work thus far?

Theo: I think I'll still go back to Sibongile because it was one of our best albums and a classic album. No album can replace that album; even today it's years and years afterwards and we get so humbled that people are still dancing to "Ndihamba Nawe". People in Australia are even dancing to "Ndihamba Nawe", whether they're getting married or whether they're doing any kind of celebration really. It's a classic song. It's a forever song. Yes, "Emlanjeni" is big, "Khona" is big, but I always say our best work will always be "Ndihamba Nawe".

Nhlanhla: I think for me, I would say "Ngeke Balunge", our current single, simply because we've both, in our personal capacities been through so much. We've also been through so much together as a band, and I feel like it really does take a special person to still be here and still be standing. Through life's hardships, and the obstacles and challenges of everyday life and everything that we've been through, I feel like this song speaks about that because it's a victorious song. It really speaks about the wins and the challenges, but at the end of the day, it says you are victorious.

Ndihamba Nawewww.youtube.com

What would you say the next 10 to 20 years look like for you?

Theo: We love music and it's difficult to leave music. Even if we retire from our music, I will probably do something around music, I just don't know what. The reality is that there will come a time where we will say, "We've done everything now, let's produce other artists. Let's open doors for other artists as well."

It's always nice to retire on that high note and do our final shows like Mafikizolo doing an African tour. There are other things that are involved as you grow up. You've got kids, you've got a family, you've got other things that you now need to take care of, and you'll continue to celebrate music and your legacy in a good way.

Nhlanhla: The most important thing for us has always been helping and developing young people of our country, so we will be continuing to play that role and helping in the way that we can. It's about just making sure that we give them the chance or the platform that we were given and support them and their dreams just as much as ours were supported.

Africa In Your Earbuds
Photo by Hector Vivas - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

Kizz Daniel Performs At The FIFA World Cup

Nigeria's Kizz Daniel recently thrilled fans when he performed at the FIFA World Cup.

Renowned Afrobeats singer, Oluwatobiloba Daniel Anidugbe, also known as Kizz Daniel recentlymade his debut performance at the World Cup to raving fans. The singer performed songs from a selection of some of his well known smash hit records at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, which is still ongoing.

Some of the songs that he performed included: 'Buga', 'Cough', 'Lie', 'Pour Me Water', 'One Ticket', 'Eh God', 'Good Time' and many others.

The singer performing at the World Cup was somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy because earlier in June, he had shared on social media that he wanted to perform at the World Cup this year.

His tweet read: "God I want to perform 'Buga' for World Cup with a mass choir. Help me say amen."

During his performance, he was greeted by over 50,000 fans, who excitedly chimed in as he delivered some of his heavy-hitting songs. The 28-year-old also featured a live-band show during his performance.

Kizz Daniel is one of the many African artists that are leaving their mark on the global music scene. When he released ‘Buga,’ he received massive recognition from the record and it quickly became an anthem in Nigeria. To many, the song was one of the most prominent African songs of the year.

Kizz Daniel's recent performance at the World Cup marks the rise in global popularity that many of his peers are also receiving.

According to Sports Brief, Kizz Daniel's performance was a part of the FIFA Sound, which had at least five international artists in it's lineup who performed on the main stage during the famed sports event. Sports Brief also shared that all of the performances were an extension of FIFA’s entertainment strategy, which is an initiative that is created to establish solid relationships between the world of soccer and music.

Following his performance, a thrilled Kizz Daniel took to social media to show some of the excited reactions that fans had during his performance.

VADO OF AFRICA 🌍 on Instagram: "AS A NAIJA 🇳🇬 BOY I SAY THANK YOU AFRICA 🌍 THANK YOU WORLD 🌎 #fifaworldcup2022 #qatar2022 ‼️"

News Brief
Photo by Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images via Getty Images

South Africa Shocked After DJ Sumbody's Fatal Shooting

The popular Amapiano pioneer, DJ Sumbody, was tragically killed in Johannesburg.

News recently broke that the well known South African Amapiano music producer Oupa John Sefoka, popularly known as DJ Sumbody passed awaythis past Sunday, November 20th.

The family reported that specific details of DJ Sumbody's passing could not be released because the issue was a part of a larger, ongoing investigation.

"Artist and musician DJ Sumbody has died. Details of his untimely death cannot be released but the artist allegedly ran into an unfortunate incident that led to his passing in the early hours of Sunday morning, November 20 2022," the family released in a statement, according to News24.

According to several unconfirmed reports, the renowned South African DJ was traveling on Woodmead road in Johannesburg when gunmen attacked his vehicle with a hail of bullets, which instantly killed him and one of his bodyguards.

He was en route to perform at an event in Woodmead for the All White Veuve Clicquot Picnic on Sunday. Apart from being an Amapiano pioneer, DJ Sumbody was a creative force in the South African entertainment industry. In the early hours of Sunday, Sumsounds Music, his management team, confirmed the news.

DJ Sumbody was a pioneer of the well-known viral Amapiano sound, a word that translates to "the pianos" in Zulu and is an eclectic genre that started in South Africa in 2012 and fuses house, jazz and lounge music for a unique sonic experience.

During the pandermic, OkayAfrica featured him in the pieceDJ Sumbody Is Ensuring Amapiano Stays Alive During Times of Coronavirus and Social Distancing.

Social media users went online to share their shock about the unfortunate event.

Photo Credit: Sope Adelaja

Travel Diary: The Warmth & Beauty of Senegal is Unparalleled

In OkayAfrica's latest Travel Diary, Nigerian photographer and storyteller Sope Adelaja heads to Senegal to learn what it's like to embrace the "Teraanga" lifestyle.

After about 10 hours of flying and stopovers I landed in the city of Dakar, Senegal at about 11pm. I approached immigration to have my passport stamped and then proceeded to get my luggage. I immediately noticed that almost everyone spoke French and very few people understood English. I understand little French, so I knew then that it was going to be a struggle. With the help of Google Translate, I was able to then negotiate and hire a cab to drop me off at my residence for the night.

Photo Credit: Sope Adelaja

The language barrier was not as much of as an obstacle as I thought it would be. This largely had to do with the generosity and warmness shown by the community during my visit.

Senegal is known as the “ Land of Teraanga." Teraanga, which is a Wolof word, is often defined as meaning “ hospitality." But that is a very loose way of translating it. It's so much more complex than that. It is a process of discovery and expression. It is a way of Life. Teraanga is aimed at showcasing a narrative of hospitality and beauty that exists across different cultures.

Photo Credit: Sope Adelaja

Unity over adversity is a running theme of Saint-Louis, a town located on an island at the mouth of the Senegal river. It is an outstanding example of a colonial city by its natural setting and colonial architecture which gives it a distinctive appearance and identity. (These features are why the island is on UNESCO's World Heritage Site list.)

Photo Credit: Sope Adelaja

Saint-Louis is a city that will charm you. Beyond tourism, this community has come to embody its resourceful spirits. A big part of the way of life is fishing. It is the main occupation of people living in Saint-Louis, also known to the locals as Ndar.

Photo Credit: Sope Adelaja

When shooting in Africa, it’s easy to lean on visual crutches — like ornate jewelry or bright, striking clothing. But that’s only skimming the visual surface of the community of people. Digging deeper requires an extended stay, as well as collaborating with locals who have grown up in the area.

Photo Credit: Sope Adelaja

In the course of digging deeper, i discovered Ndar had a lot more to offer beyond beautiful aesthetics, very rich culture, and history it holds strong remains of past colonial times.

Next up was Gorée Island and the destination is an exceptional testimony to one of the greatest tragedies in the history of humanity: slave trade. Even with its complicated history, Over the years, Gorée Island has become a well known destination, with figures like Nelson Mandela and even Unisted States President Barack Obama and his family visiting the island.

Photo Credit: Sope Adelaja

Storytelling is so powerful. And as a photographer, it's my intent to show the warmth, beauty, and hospitality of Africa across different regions. I strongly believe we as people of Africa have a responsibility to further shape the narrative of Africa’s unique culture and people.

See more photos from Senegal below.

Photo Credit: Sope Adelaja

Photo Credit: Sope Adelaja

Photo Credit: Sope Adelaja

Photo Credit: Sope Adelaja

Photo via Mavin Records

The 9 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring Mavin Records, Asake, Stormzy x Amaarae x Black Sherif, Fally Ipupa, Pheelz x French Montana, and more.

Every Friday, we highlight the top releases through our best music of the week column, Songs You Need to Hear. Here's our round-up of the best tracks and music videos that came across our desks.

If you like these music lists, you can also check out our Best Songs of the Month columns following Nigerian, Ghanaian, East African and South African music.

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