If you watched the Coca-Cola Pop Stars competition in 2002, you'll remember Afro Z who made it to the top 10 in the competition.
Made up of five runners-up in the talent contest – Lois du Plessis (39), Ernest St Clair (38), Nigel Morkel (39), Naseera Tim-Holland (36) and Richard Hala (43) – the group were one of Mzansi's hot favourites, charming viewers with their singing, dancing and songwriting talents.
After the release of their debut album, Ain't It Funny, the group parted ways in 2003 to pursue careers and travel the world. But the bandmates have always kept in close contact.
Scattered around the world, all with their individual projects, the band is adamant that with Afro Z music never stops.
To their fans delight and thanks to technology, the quintet was able to come together once again to perform their hit single My Coldest War – a song they dedicated to frontline workers, as well as everyone around the world affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Richard was the one to come up with the bright idea and immediately contacted the group members, who were all excited to come on board.
Music remains at the centre of his life, Richard says. He's travelled the world and shared the stage with Nigel and Naseera as part of an international production, Diamonds and Dust. He has also performed in various other Barnyard Theatre productions.
"We consider ourselves family, and in that sense, never really separated. But at the time and due to the circumstances we had to move forward and pursue other things," Richard tells YOU.
"We always knew that we'd come together again to collaborate on a project. We never knew when or how but the option was always there.
"Over the years, we kept in touch and some of us even had the opportunity to work together on different projects."
Naseera adds: "With the recent pandemic and living so far apart and with the help of technology we were able to align our schedules."
Six years ago, Naseera and her family moved to Dubai, but she says she's grateful for her days with Afro Z as it opened up the entertainment industry to her.
"I began by working with the brilliant Mike McCullagh before joining the Barnyard Theatre.
"After that I worked more in the corporate music scene and had the privilege to collaborate with some of the industry's finest musicians and artists," she said.
Having obtained her bachelor's degree in psychology, Naseera says she's looking to proceed to an honours degree and pursue a career in that field while also living out her passion for music.
"We never chose music... music chose us," says Nigel, who, since being a part of Afro Z, has travelled the African continent as a corporate singer. Now based in Johannesburg, he's studying German while pursuing music through his new band, The Music Cartel.
In 2006, Lois Du Plessis made a move to the US, where she joined Grammy Award- winning gospel movement Israel & New Breed and did bus tours with the likes of Chris Tomlin, Darlene Zschech, Hillsong London and BJ Putnam.
After almost 12 years in the US, Lois recently moved home to SA to spend quality time with her parents and family as she pursues music and acting.
After his success with Afro Z, Ernest St Clair moved back to Cape Town and started a music production and record label called, Pipeline Records. He later appeared in cameos in many commercials and was also nominated for a SAMA award.
Ernest has also had the privilege of starring in many Hollywood action series and most recently appeared in SA's hit Afrikaans series, Arendsvlei, starring as Christopher February.
While pursuing his acting career, Ernest continues to help upcoming artists and assists the underprivileged.
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