Full Circle Magazine, Sep’2009
The Full Circle - Sept 2009: Brothers With Voices
by Sean Houghton
When Mzwandile Mtyobile moved to Cape Town from Tarkastad in the Eastern Cape in 1999 he struggled to get a job. On bad days his mind would wander back home and recall the good times there, the laughter and the singing. Especially the singing!
Mzwandile had always been a singer and never let the lack of formal training deter him from doing what he loved. To keep occupied and possibly earn some money he thought it may be a good idea to start singing again. So he gathered three of his friends from the Eastern Cape who had settled in Imizamo Yethu and they readily agreed to join him.
The called themselves Brothers With Voices and the group quickly grew to eight singers (which had fluctuated slightly since then as some members have left and other joined). The core group is Mzwandile Mtyobile (lead singer); Siphelo Mantyi (first tenor); Mzwanele Mbalki (first tenor); Lubabalo Jako (sec tenor); Andile Funcuza (alto); Lulama Mzeleni (bass); Mbelelo Mbovane (bass); and Linda Ngacu (bass) and they sing traditional African songs A’capella. All the singers add value to the group and all participate in the song-writing process.
They group quickly found a ready audience in Imizamo Yethu and became very popular. In fact, on Youth Day 2005 they were awarded the Group of the Year at the Imizamo Yethu Community Awards function.
BWV practiced every day and performed whenever they were invited. As good as they are, allthey had were their voices. No audio equipment, no instruments and transport – nothing. Getting to and from venues became a major mission for eight men but they persevered.
Eventually Dwynne Griesel, Director of the Kronendal Music Academy in Hout Bay heard of (and heard) the Brothers and set about assisting them as much as she could. Dwynne has helped them raise money and must be credited with giving them their first breaks out of Imizamo Yethu. She has also helped them raise money by including them in Academy performances.
It was while they performing at an Academy function that Ike Moriz first heard Brothers With Voices. Ike was absolutely fascinated by their raw natural talent and he too decided to see what he could do to help BWV and has become their de facto manager.
Having a teaching degree in music, Ike coached the group to smooth over the rough edges, he lent them audio equipment and has transported them to and from gigs – often having to make two trips each way to get the whole group (and equipment) to the gigs and back.
“We had never sung with a piano before,” confesses Mzwandile. “Ike taught us how and how to sing with other instruments. We owe a lot to that man. He has been very good to us.”
Ike has also sponsored studio time at Paris Studios in Fish Hoek and recorded an album, Peace Dream, which included some traditional African songs, some Ladysmith Black Mambazo songs, some BWV originals and the title track an isiXhosa cover of one of Ike’s own songs. The album and the band will draw inevitable comparisons with Ladysmith Black Mambazo which is a double-edged sword. On the one hand it contextualises BWV and their musical aspirations and on the other they don’t want to be cast purely as a LBM cover band. However, this shouldn’t be seen in a negative light. What is wrong after all, with being considered Cape Town’s own version of South Africa’s most successful band in history as Joseph Shabalala’s multi-Grammy-winning group most certainly is?
“We write and sing songs about our community and about South Africa,” says Mzwandile. “We want to put out a message in our songs. Linda wrote a song called Child Abuse to make people aware of this terrible problem in South Africa.”
The Brothers have all found jobs as the years have gone by, Mzwandile becoming a teacher’s assistant at the Moravian School in Hout Bay. However, they all still practise every day in the evening and dream of the time they can all give up their day jobs and become fully professional singers.
“I wish the people of Cape Town can help us to achieve our dream,” Mzwandile continues, “If businesses have functions and events and want authentic African entertainment, let us come and sing for you. We will show you how good we are and make your guests happy!” Any restaurants, B&Bs, shopping centres or businesses that are looking for something different should consider BWV.
If people have any unused sounds systems, speakers, microphones or musical instruments they would be very helpful to the Brothers. If any car dealers wish to sponsor a vehicle for they are bound to get great mileage out of them, if you’ll excuse the pun.
With 2010 just around the corner and Cape Town expecting a flood of overseas tourists looking for an authentic African experience Brothers With Voices are going to be in very high demand. World Cup hosts should really get in early and book their services before it’s too late because one thing is guaranteed – they will be booked out!