He never missed a note.
While his group members dropped lyrical genius with raps, he could be trusted to hit the high and low notes, all the time. And do all this with a kwaito beat.
Zwai Bala one of the three members of the 90s Kwaito group, TKZee. The other group members were Tokollo Tshabalala and Kabelo Mabalane, who were known for their kasi rap.
A couple of decades later, he still lives for music. He's a musical director and singer who is teaching others the tricks and trades of the music industry.
“They remind me of days I would to enter competitions,” Zwai tells DRUM, referring to choirs from different African countries he is mentoring as a musical director on the Old Mutual Amazing Voices.
The Mzansi Magic and Mzansi Wethu singing competition show airs on Sundays at 5pm.
He's sharing his wealth of knowledge with aspiring singers.
“As a child, whenever I would travel, I would wish that my people (black) would know and get to see what I was exposed to throughout those years. I have always wanted to share what I know with people who are struggling with things I have access to,” he says.
Apart from the nitty-gritties of music as an art, Zwai says he never shies away from telling people that there is far more required for one to make it in the industry.
While the industry has changed drastically especially with the age of social media, there are principles that remain the same, he says.
“What they think the industry is, it is not it! The many followers you have does not necessarily translate to money,” he says.
“I encourage young people to know themselves, where they come from, and to understand their own culture. That is the stuff the rest of the world does not now. You can be unique in that way.
“There is so much more competition now so to do what everyone does, it is really not doing them any justice because you don’t want to sound like anyone else,” We love it here singer says.
This is not just advice he dishes out to strangers, his own 14-year-old son, Sean knows it too, he says.
Sean is already into music but his foundation in music needs to be solid so he is not in a rush.
“He is on piano, I believe that is what will set him apart,” Zwai says.
His son is at the same age Zwai was in high school when he met Kabelo. “I was telling Kabelo the other day,” the father of three says.
“TKzee happened very quickly,” he says. One minute they were experimenting with music, the other, they were winning multiple SAMAs (1999) in one night. They won 4 SAMAs for their successful album release Halloween which had all-time classics, Mambotjie, Dlala Mapantsula and We Love This Place.
“That night, we would get off stage after accepting an award only to be called back called back again to receive another one,” he recalls.
Those were fun times but overwhelming too. “The days where we would receive our royalty cheques and Kabelo would carry all the cash,” he laughs.
Zwai is not done yet. He is working on his album he hopes to release soon. He says it will be a blend of genres and sounds. He's also working on a songbook which will be a compilation of songs he has written.
He tells us that he is on a hunt for a record deal to release the work of art.
What makes him consistent as a brand?
“It is not just musical, it is character.
“I consider myself a musician first before I consider myself a celebrity and of course, the appetite to keep learning. I wake up every day and I tell myself that I am going to make the best decision.
“I learn from successful people outside of the industry and I have found that what determines success is how they apply minds and their approach to things,” he adds.