To be brothers in psalms...
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After glimpses of their performances here and there, it is finally happening. The Jaziel Brothers are embarking on their first national tour during which they will showcase their extraordinary musical talents. They spoke to Therese Owen about the tour, their third album and developing our musical nation.
The Jaziel Brothers are shy men – even though they’re two of the most talented musicians in the history of South African music.
Not for them the bravado of the young “’sup bee-yatches?” rappers, or the arrogance of some kwaito artists, or the cool sunglasses at night idiocy of certain DJs.
No, Luthando and Ntobeko Ngcizela are unassuming, quiet people; when they enter a room, you would never guess they are are award-winning, platinum-selling producers, composers and performers.
They came to our attention when they produced and performed on the hit that launched Jub Jub (Molemo Maarohanye), Ndikhokhele.
It was a first all around, actually. The first big hit for Jub Jub. The first big hit for the Jaziel Brothers. And the first big gospel/rap hit for a South African.
The Jaziel Brothers went on to sell platinum with their debut album, The Beginning (2007).
The Journey Defined was released in 2009 and sold gold.
Since then they have worked and produced on hits for Siphokazi, Theo Kgosinkwe as well as Bongi and Collin, among others.
They were the musical directors for the musical Tap Boots and they used some of their academy artists on the show. They set up the Jaziel Academy where they have been preparing artists for the shark-infested music industry. This involves teaching young people about the legalities of the industry, how to style themselves, how to write songs and the difference between playing live and recording music. After all, they should know.
While they prefer to remain in the background off stage, give them a mic and they become superstars. Every time I have seen them perform the crowds have watched in awe, with rousing cheers from young and old. They are enchanting, riveting.
And with the first leg of their tour starting on May 31and June 1 at the Lyric Theatre in Gold Reef City, Joburg, fans have much to look forward to.
“Its a six-piece band with three backing vocalists and a big choir,” explains Luthando. “Over the years we’ve always wanted to do our own show. We’re taking them through our journey from the first album and we will include gospel songs.”
The two are known for their great renditions of gospel songs as well as their Afropop ballads.
The show will feature Bricks, DJ Cleo and one of their new artists, Tsoakae, who’s released a debut CD.
Tsoakae was part of their choir in their home town of Welkom. In fact, many of their up-and-coming artists they have worked with come from the North West.
“There are three influential places for us,” explains Ntobeko.
“The Eastern Cape, where we were born, the North West and Welkom, where we grew up. We work with people from those areas because we come from a background where there were no role models in terms of music. We had to come to Jozi and make our own contacts and we can help them with that.
“We can learn from them, too,” he continues. “Also, the church played a major role in developing us as musicians.”
Bricks is part of the show because he is one of the featured artists on The Journey Defined.
“Bricks was the first kwaito artist to do a kwaito love song with Sweetie, My Baby,” says Luthando. “It was produced by DJ Cleo. The song influenced us and we wanted him on this album.”
Bricks features on two tracks on the album, one of which is an R&B- influenced Afropop ballad which also has the brothers crooning away. It sounds jumbled on paper, but aurally it works beautifully. A classic in the making.
Of the ditzy kwaito artist, Ntobeko laughs: “Bricks is an excitable person to work with. From the first time he came to the studio he loved the song. He took it home and came back with the lyrics. When we are working with him he doesn’t mess around. He is focused, but still vibey.”
Understandably, they have been busy since their last release in 2009, but four years is a long time between albums.
“We took our time to do this album,” replies Ntobeko. “We wanted people to experience the wide spectrum of what we can do.”
Throughout the interview the two listen to each other and there is an unspoken understanding between them. Their calm closeness suggests they never argue, a near impossible dynamic between artists.
While they are not blood brothers, the two grew up to- gether from an early age.
“I remember we were eight years old and were fighting” recalls Luthando. “Our mother smacked us so hard and we were taught to respect each other and not shout.”
Ntobeko continues: “We’ve got each other’s back and that creates a platform to question each other and get that person to show creativity. We believe love is important. When things are done out of love you will want to hear that side of the story.
“When you write a song it is not an easy task. It only works out if you love and understand each other.”