Remember the band Malaika, who once ruled the local charts with their popular track Destiny? The same hit track that Cassper Nyovest aka King Fill Up recently sampled, featuring the US singer Goapele?
Shortly after that video dropped in August, Malaika’s leading lady Tshedi Mholo stirred up a social media frenzy when she tweeted that nobody sings Destiny better than she does.
Many would agree. But then few have heard of Mholo or Malaika since their chart-topping run.
What happened is a cautionary tale for anyone who still thinks the music industry is all fame and fortune. First, band member Jabu Ndaba died in 2008 following a battle with TB.
Mholo and Bongani Nchang continued performing as Malaika, but eventually the group split in somewhat acrimonious circumstances.
Since then, despite her previous successes, Mholo has had a hard time breaking out as a solo artist.
“This is my first jazz festival in this country,” she revealed after a stellar performance at the Mahika Mahikeng jazz festival in Mmabatho. “I even announced it on stage... that’s how bad it is.
“As excited and honoured as I am to be part of this momentous event, the irony of it is that this is my first ever festival in this country in about five years”.
According to Mholo, it’s been difficult breaking free of the shadow of Malaika.
“People don’t play my songs because they are still angry. They want Malaika. To date, I’m still being asked why I left Mailaka. But they don’t understand that before Malaika, there was Tshedi.”
Despite having released her solo album Victory in 2013, Mholo says none of her songs have received any airplay.
“I don’t blame anyone though because people are still attached to Malaika. I wanted to show people my potential but things didn’t go down well with some. But then again, maybe the album came out at the wrong time or perhaps I worked with the wrong people, so I guess it’s one of those things.”
When she felt her former record label wasn’t providing her with the support she needed, Mholo decided to go it alone.
“I decided to record and release my music so that when you search for Tshedi, you will still be able to find me. I wanted to remain relevant,” she says.
In the meantime, rather than sulking about her misfortune, Mholo has taken her destiny into her own hands.
“I have been performing. I was doing mainly corporate gigs. I manage my own business, I do my own PR, I run my schedule. At the same time, I’m a mother.
“I am also a brand ambassador for the Department of Basic Education and The Smile Foundation.”
And there’s even the possibility that Malaika will put their differences aside and reform. Mholo revealed that she and Nchang met earlier this year to talk about the possibility of a comeback.
“We met about five months ago trying to revive Malaika. I don’t think it will be easy, but we’re definitely looking at the possibility of working together again in the the near future”.
In the interim, Mholo says she will be dropping more music.
“I would like to release a few singles in the new year. I also need the right producer, who is going to understand me.
“I want to produce great music that will speak to people and tap into their hearts.”
She credits her spirituality, and some very famous friends, for her ability to stay strong during what has been a very difficult period in her professional career.
“I’m a spiritual person, I pray a lot, and I surround myself with influential people. My mother, mama Yvonne Chaka Chaka and mama Abigail Kubeka have been my support system.”
Hopefully, that support has helped her turn this corner. Mholo was in illustrious company, performing alongside the likes of Caiphus Semenya and Letta Mbulu, Selaelo Selota, Zonke, Zahara, Amanda Black and Mafikizolo.
She more than held her own with a performance that left the crowd wanting more. Only time will tell where her career goes from here, but for that brief moment, she was on top of the world once more.