Beginning her career in 1998 with Bongo Maffin, one of kwaito’s ground-breaking bands and becoming the voice of South Africa’s conscious youth with her politically mindful lyrics, Thandiswa Mazwai never thought she would have achieved all she has at the age of 40. But she says people can expect bigger things from her.
“Reaching 40 is a milestone for me,” says Mazwai. “My mother died when she was only 34, so I thought once I got to 34, I would be old and probably die too. But I reached 40 and it turned out to be a beautiful point in my life. And to my surprise, I didn’t feel old at all.
“What I found challenging about life is getting to grips with the truth,” says Mazwai. “When young, most people just have an illusion of the truth. But growing up, you learn that life’s truth can be hard, can be beautiful and can hurt. The challenging thing is facing the truth and accepting it.”
And despite all the trials life has thrown her way, she remains true to who she is. “I’m the same Thandiswa I was when I was 30 and before then,” she says. “I’m a creature of habit and I don’t change much. I’m still sensitive, wild and spontaneous. At the end of the day, it’s about respecting yourself.”
Source of strength
“My mother died when I was 16. She is my great protector from the other side,” says the singer. “My aunts’, sisters’ and cousins’ support has been a pillar of strength for me.” Mazwai says she found a father in the music industry in Hugh Masekela, who she holds in high esteem.
“Bra Hugh is like a father to me. I have always valued his advice. He’s planted the seed in my mind that I could be great.” Mazwai says the record label Kalawa Jazmee family has been her source of strength, along with everyone who buys her music, attends her shows and is touched by her songs.
“The music industry has taught me that people have the capacity to love a stranger,” she says. “I have learned that small ideas can change people’s lives. “Music is something you can’t describe, it’s the magic of life and the manifestation of God.”
Mazwai may only be 10 years away from being 50, but chooses not to count the years. Instead, she enjoys every milestone. “I’ve had such a fabulous life,” says Mazwai. “I hope to one day be 80 years old and surrounded by my grandchildren, walk barefoot and enjoy time in my rondavel in the Eastern Cape.”
Hard at work “I’m working on a show that will be staged at The Bassline for my birthday today. “I’m almost done with a jazz album and am busy with another one that will hopefully be released this year,” she says, adding she has a rap, jazz and all-women band as well.