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I resist the urge to ask Vuyo Tyolo when I see him sprawled on a couch at record company Native Rhythms. But after leaving the premises, and by the time we sit down at a chic eatery, I can’t hold it in any longer.
“Do people often tell you you look like Lloyd Cele?” I ask, wincing and hoping he won’t be offended. After about two seconds, he laughs.
“I don’t know why people think that,” he says through a smile as he looks at Mpho Hlahla, who tries his best to stifle his laughter.
In their own words, before Tyolo and Hlahla are Deepa Trybz – Native Rhythms’ deep house duo – they are friends first.
Deepa Trybz recently released their debut album, U. We. Us, and have been riding the (radio) wave better than some surfers. Their smash hit Carry You has ensured that the pair, who each have a rich musical background, find new instant fans.
“People always think I’m lying when I tell them the story of Carry You,” says Tyolo. “When Mpho was finished making the beat, we wondered what the song should be about. Then I thought: ‘Maybe I should just go into the booth and sing.’ The album was already sounding like it was all about women, dreams and other things that go on in our lives, but we’d never had a love song dedicated to music. We’re basically saying: ‘Thank you, music, for not giving up on me when I gave up on you.’”
After poor sales of Tyolo’s debut solo album, Genesis 1, and the subsequent chemistry between Hlahla and himself, it became clear that music hadn’t yet given up on this preacher’s son and the DJ-cum-producer who thought of Pretoria’s DJ Pat 4 as his icon. Having both contributed as producers and songwriters to Native Rhythms’ artist roster which includes Camagwini, Siphokazi and Zuluboy, they decided it was time that they worked on a project of their own.
The two met while Tyolo was a part of Memeza (a play based on Brenda Fassie’s life) and Hlahla was an engineer for Sello “Chicco” Twala, and Hlahla says the Cele lookalike’s voice was a fresh note to what he was used to hearing.
“You know, when you’re working with Chicco, you hear Chicco in every song,” starts Hlahla, “but South Africa has never heard a voice like Vuyo’s. It’s just refreshing.”
It’s also just what Hlahla – who was in Suspect, a seven-man kwaito group with Durban kwaito king, Professor – needed after deciding to come up with a soulful, vocally driven deep house album that he would produce.
“Deepa Trybz is not just a group,” Hlahla tells me.
“It’s an institution and we want to make sure that kids come after us get to join the institution, so expect to hear more music from us.”
• Deepa Trybz play live on (Live)5 at the 5FM studios and on radio, Saturday, 6pm to 7pm.