It’s a Monday afternoon, a band of nobodies are sweating it out for practically nobody in a small room in South Africa’s Limpopo province. This is Shayamore (which means hit more) rehearsing for their next gig.
As the band plays, I find myself tapping and nodding to the rhythm. It’s hard to believe that a hot and raw talent like this is unknown.
The band is made up of five members, for whom music is their daily bread: Goodman Mndawe, a bassist; Solly Ndlovu, a pianist; Lazarus Silubane, a guitarist; Surance Chimbilini, a pianist, and Thabo Khoza, a drummer. For 18 years, they’ve been working and playing in vain.
“We’ve performed in a lot of places but we’ve never had any exposure or media interviews. This is actually our first interview ever,” says Silubane, co-founder of the band.
Gigs are as scarce as interviews.
“We sometimes go for three months without booking any shows,” says Silubane.
“We have to spend our own money to organize gigs, design posters and distribute it just to get our names out there,” says Khoza.
On Sundays they do jazz sessions in taverns. They charge R3, 000 ($215) for a performance and share it between themselves.
“We end up coming back with R2, 000 ($145) because of expenses like transport and food. And then we have to divide the money by five. And it happens that we hire dancers as well and have to pay them,” says Khoza.
To them music is life as well as bread.
“Music feeds my soul… I can tell my story through this music,” says Khoza.
For Khoza, who joined the band in 2014, becoming a musician wasn’t easy.
“After my mother passed away I had to stay with my aunt and she wanted me to become something else. I lost my relationship with my dad. Every time I would run away and go to practises, until she was convinced that I’m really serious about music. Then I started playing music in clubs and local taverns. I had a guitar which was a gift from someone,” he says.
“I had to sell the guitar for R700 ($50) because I was desperate for money and I needed to move out of my father’s place. I couldn’t stay with him when he didn’t believe in me and my music. When I went back to Mpumalanga that’s when I met Lazarus and he introduced to me to the band,” says Khoza.
“Every time we’re behind the instruments we tell ourselves that we are on a big stage, even if there’s no spotlight, and that the universe will one day recognize us.”
They want to release an album, but money is a problem.
“We don’t want to be signed under any record label because we’ll lose our freedom to do music the way we want. Our aim is to be independent,” says Silubane.
“You see this guitar I’m holding, I take it as my lover. And I’ll never stop playing it, only death would stop me,” says Madalwe.
In five years’ time, they want to be like one of the world’s greatest icons, Michael Jackson, and perform in New York and London.
It’s nice to dream, unfortunately the reality says next year this time around they’ll be playing in Limpopo. That’s just the way it is.