Johannesburg - They shot to fame before they hit their teens and their popular song, Wawungakanani, pumped in nightclubs across the country before they were old enough to even be admitted into one.
Siboniso “Msawawa” Dlamini was just nine years old and Nkosinathi “Mzambiya” Zwane was 11 when they got their big break. It seemed they could do no wrong as they set the country ablaze with their teenage talent, holding their own against kwaito greats such as Trompies, Mshoza, Mdu Masilela and Mandoza. But it wouldn’t last. They fizzled out before they hit their twenties amid rumours they were broke.
Much water has passed under the bridge since then and the young men we meet today are nothing like those teenagers. Msawawa and Mzambiya are now on a comeback trail and have teamed up for their first single together in 20 years, Imoto Ka Shukela.
Their collaboration is a long time in the making. “We needed to wait for the right time,” Mzambiya says when we meet them at Sawubona Café in the heart of Joburg’s Maboneng Precinct.
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The years have been kind to Msawawa (28) and Mzambiya (31) – they’ve barely aged and look like fresh-faced teenagers but Msawawa says they’ve changed a great deal. “We were very young when we started out. Now we’re more matured and we’ve learnt from the mistakes of other kwaito stars – we’ve learnt to manage our money and time well.” It’s been nine years since Mzambiya’s last album, Still I Rise, while Msawawa’s last release was his platinum- selling single, Dlala Baby. It was around this time Msawawa moved back to his hometown of Durban, sparking rumours of bankruptcy. “I was never down and out,” he says. Throughout his career Msawawa says his parents had been saving the money he made through music until he turned 18. “I took the money my parents saved and invested it. I bought a site in Clermont in KZN and built myself a club called Msawawa’s Corner.” Msawawa, the only boy in a family of four, also used some of his savings to start the Msawawa Foundation where he donates school uniforms and books to children in underprivileged places around Durban. “I started the foundation because I’m passionate about giving back to the community.”
He also donates groceries to needy families in the area through his foundation, “so there’s no way I can go broke”.
He knows how easy it is for musicians to go broke, and how easily a child star can crash and burn out, but Msawawa says he’s been lucky to have avoided both fates. “I’ve survived a lot and I thank God for that. I’ve seen people do drugs in front of me and I have never been tempted.” He used to drink but in June Msawawa will be celebrating one year on the wagon. “On my birthday last year I went overboard with alcohol and became very sick – I couldn’t eat or drink anything for almost three days. It was then I decided to stay away from alcohol and I haven’t looked back.”
Since he stopped boozing his life has improved and many doors have opened for him, he says. “I became more aware of myself and my behaviour, how I conduct myself in front of people, and this project with Mzambiya couldn’t have come at a better time in my life.”
Msawawa also started praying before he sobered up. “I was never a churchgoer but a few months before I stopped drinking alcohol something told me to start praying. When I stopped drinking, I became very spiritual. I’m a changed person.” He’s grown in all aspects of his life and can’t be happier – professionally and personally.