For almost four decades, the Soul Brothers have sailed the turbulent musical waters and refused to be corroded by the tragedies, the highs and lows that they faced in their musical journey including political threats from the then apartheid government.
They are perhaps one of the longest serving, consistent and most intact groups in South Africa whose resistance to splits that characterise so many music groups should be commended. They have won the hearts of many, not only in their backyard but across the borders of South Africa.
They have 39 albums in their 39-year music career and are working on their 40th album set for release next month. The group has lost three of its founder members and very recently there was an attempt on the life of one of the remaining two founder members Black Moses Ngwenya who was shot at and robbed by gunmen.
The irony is, however, that the incident occurred in the same street that reggae legend Lucky Dube was shot dead some years ago.
This is part of the story of the Soul Brothers that has remained one of the most celebrated music legends in most African countries and internationally as well.
Their genesis goes back, to the Groovy Boys, a 1970 Natal band where founding member David Masondo was a drummer.
The group did not last long, but David Masondo, bassist Zakes Mchunu, and guitarist Tuza Mthethwa kept the music alive while working in a factory.
Seeking fame and fortune that did not arrive quickly, the Soul Brothers did not lose hope and their defining moment came when Black Moses Ngwenya and singer David Masondo joined forces in 1976.
Determined to push indigenous South African music in new directions, they were one of the few umbaqanga groups that emerged out of apartheid South Africa and their music kept fans on their feet.
With music being one of the most dynamic industries where those that resist change face the option of doom, the Soul Brothers is one group that has managed to keep their old style so much so that it has become their identity.
And it is probably their ability to feed their fans with the same music diet that has kept them in the music industry for 39 years.
More so, they have not lost their fans, but in fact they have kept them with a yearning appetite of their traditional umbaqanga music, something that has made the group gain more support.
In an interview with the Sunday Leisure from his South African base Ngwenya said the support from their fans have always given them the energy to continue in their music journey.
“I think all that has kept our group intact is that we have always had support from our fans and they keep us going. We have never thought of changing our music and this is something that has kept the group going. We are happy that we are clocking 39 years in the showbiz industry,” said Ngwenya.
Emerging during apartheid, that marked an aggressive era of white colonial bondage, the group managed to survive the period amid threats that saw them almost facing extinction.
From performing in the dusty streets of Soweto their township, the group managed to get a chance to perform in Zimbabwe and other African countries in the southern region with their song Umsholozi Wam becoming a hit at most night spots.
“Apartheid era was one of the toughest eras for us because the white people always aimed at restricting us from performing in certain areas, and it was difficult for us. We had to find alternative places to perform and our song Umsholozi Wam became popular in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
“From then on we never turned back even in the face of threats of arrest and harassment by the apartheid government. We remained focused and we are happy that we are one of the groups that have survived the test of time,” Ngwenya added.
Although car crashes have seen the deaths of three band members in 1979, and then bassist and founder member Zakes Mchunu in 1984, these setbacks have not seen Masondo and Ngwenya give up, instead they have incorporated dedicated musicians and dancers as replacements.
With 39 albums under their belt, the group is set to start working on their 40th album in June this year.
“We have lost four band members but this had not been a setback for us in terms of excelling. We had determination and this is what has taken us this far.
“We have also recruited some more band members and now the group comprises 15 members. So far we have 39 albums under our name, and we will start working on our 40th one this year in June,” said Black Moses.
Black Moses, however, survived a robbery this year after gunmen shot at his car, leaving him injured on the same street that Lucky Dube was shot.
He said three robbers shot at him twice and drove away in his black Audi A4 and stole a computer worth 15 000 rand, an iPad worth 17 000 rand and two cellphones worth 10 000 rand.
Black Moses said he was recovering and he would be ready by the time the group starts working on their 40th album.
“I survived a robbery early this year and thugs got away with my car and valuables. But I am sure that by the time we start preparing for the album in June, I would have hopefully recovered,” he said.
Black Moses said they missed performing in Zimbabwe and they were still negotiating with promoters to bring their band.
“We are negotiating with promoters so that we come and perform in Zimbabwe soon. Fans must know that we have not dumped them and we do miss performing in Zimbabwe,” he said.—Sunday News