SINGER Mbuso Khoza’s (pictured) story is one of determination and blind faith.
At age 21 he decided to leave eShowe in KZN and head for Joburg, the music capital of Southern Africa. It was November 1999 and a taxi from eShowe to Jozi was R80, which left him with a mere R40 when he arrived in the city of sin.
At that time Bassline was yet to move to Newtown and that venue was still known as Mega Music. The venue has many rehearsal rooms where some of the greats still practice to this day. Across the road is an abandoned municipal building where the homeless have taken up residency.
Khoza chose this as his home due to its close proximity to the rehearsal rooms. Was he not scared to just head off to the most ruthless city in the country? He shakes his head confidently. “I had no relatives or friends there. It was the passion that drove me to go there, the passion of music.”
He struck a deal with the in-house engineer. Basically he would help in the studio and rehearsal rooms for no money, just as long as he would lend Khoza his phone to make business calls when necessary.
“There was a call box outside and I used that as my landline in case people needed to contact me for business.”
He then also introduced himself to various musicians in the building. He would wait until they had finished their food and then eat their leftovers.
Sometimes he would meet a person who would promise him work in the studio. “They would say I will meet you at 3pm and then I would wait and wait and wait and I would be too scared to go get a vetkoek in case they came. But they never did.”
“When you have no money and no job you feel so brainless and worthless. No matter what you utter it doesn’t matter.”
Eventually the work started coming through and he did backing vocals for Thandiswa Mazwai, Siphokazi, Sibongile Khumalo and Themba Mkhize. It was Mkhize who really helped him break through.
“Themba Mkhize was recording some Shembe music and I grew up Shembe. Someone recommended me and when he heard my voice he said, that’s it.”
Mkhize invited him to record a few songs on his Sama award winning album, Hands On.
That was in 2006. The two of them then shopped around for a record deal for him to no avail.
In 2009, he recorded vocals for Lebo M who was working on the opening ceremony for CAF. Through this, sound engineer, Richard Mitchell recommended him to Mbongeni Ngema who agreed to record Khoza’s debut album through his KZN Music House. This resulted in his debut album Zilindile, which went on to win a Metro FM Award for Best Contemporary Jazz in 2013.
“That award changed my life and people started taking me seriously.”
He has subsequently recorded a Shembe album and also recorded with Carlo Mombelli in Switzerland on his latest album, Stories. In 2012 he also played the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz. Khoza is currently in pre-roduction for his next album with Afrika Mkhize, the award-winning pianist and son of Themba Mkhize.
He has also been commissioned by the Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini to teach schoolchildren about Amahubo – traditional Zulu hymns and war chants. He is taking it further and is planning to record an album of these hymns with an orchestra.
His motto is simple: “If you don’t do it now, there will never be another now. It will be then.”
Mbuso Khoza is performing alongside Johnny Clegg, Vusi Nova and The Soil at the annual Jazz on the Lake which takes place this Sunday at Zoo Lake. The concert is part of the Arts Alive Festival and is free.