If people are not discussing his colourful clothes and unusual hairstyle, then most talk about the 17 children he is said to have with multiple women, his broken English or the fact that his father had 27 wives and he is alleged to be the 68th child.
Nonetheless Papa Penny Penny remains one of the very few South African legends that are still relevant in the entertainment industry.
Once a choirmaster at Mzansi Magic’s Clash of the Choirs, having a reality show that is breaking the internet and being booked here at home and internationally, the Tsonga music maestro stays a force to be reckoned with.
How he does it
With 24 years in the music industry, Penny Penny says he sees his career and the fact that he is still recognised as a musician as a blessing.
“Not many can succeed. It takes hard work to build a brand and I thank God for the image I have managed to build,” he said, adding that performing at the Hugh Masekela festival this weekend proofs his relevance. “I love and respect myself, and give the same love and respect to people. I maintain a grateful attitude and refuse to ever give up.”
He believes this is what has afforded him the longevity he is enjoying in the industry. “I am the original. I simply focus on myself.” Penny Penny, whose real name is Giyani Kulani, says music for him is a spiritual thing that he holds very close to his heart.
Problems along the way
“Things were not going well for me for many years; hence I tried my luck internationally. “I’m big that side and I’m already organising an international tour,” he said.
Piracy is still a big issue for musicians in South Africa. “Piracy is killing us. We are losing. We make good music but get nothing in return because of it.”
The artist says what has also posed a challenge in his music career is mixing with the wrong crowd. “People were jealous of me, but I managed to survive.”
Alcoholism, a factor that he believes is rife in many musicians’ lives, is not an issue for him. “I drink but I’m not an alcoholic. I realised that alcohol makes you mix with wrong people and wrong women. A woman is used to destroy a man, and we have to be careful.”
Papa Penny Ahee
The Shangaan disco king Penny Penny takes viewers on a vibrant journey with his reality show, as viewers are introduced to the legend’s family, life and music in Mzansi Magic’s Papa Penny Ahee.
The star says it was not his idea. “I never thought I would be on television and be part of a reality show. It’s all God’s arrangement. I was in Clash of the Choirs and the public challenged the results and viewers didn’t want to watch anymore after that. Even for my reality show, I was approached because I’m an original,” he explained.
The Limpopo-born star says he has no problem being followed by cameras. Privacy is not a problem for him. “I don’t have privacy. Privacy is when I take my wife to the bedroom. My life is not a secret.”
Hugh Masekela Festival
“People must come and see Penny Penny the original. They will enjoy watching me sing live, singing some of my new songs,” he said about his expected performance this weekend at the Hugh Masekela Heritage Festival.
“My talent is a gift that God gave me; my main key to life. I can sing every day; I’m very happy with my job.”
The fourth annual Hugh Masekela Heritage Festival returns to its Soweto home at Rockville’s Elkah Stadium on Saturday. The festival features a wide range of musical flavours, including Riky Rick’s hip-hop hits and Papa Penny’s Tsonga disco, headlined by Oliver Mtukudzi.