Khayelitsha duo Amawele kaMatshawe surprised everyone, perhaps even themselves, when they defeated well-known artists and walked away with the best artist of the year award at the Eastern Cape Music Awards on Saturday February 2.
The awards held at Guild Theatre in East London celebrate Eastern Cape talent.
Artists such as Betusile, Butho Vuthela and Dumi Mkokstad were among the top musicians eyeing the award. But it was Amawele kaMatshawe’s night – votes from their fans ensuring they took home the top award.
The duo sing Maskandi music, a genre dominated by KwaZulu-Natal artists and long regarded as outdated and only popular among the elderly, but Amawele kaMatshawe have changed that and have left an indelible mark in the music industry in the process.
Two cousins Zama Ntenteni, known as Tornado, and Masibulele Gompo, known as Nongoma, formed Amawele kaMatshawe in 2009.
They both hail from the small town of Centane in the Eastern Cape, and, unlike their stage name suggests, they are not twins.
They were raised by their grandmother so opted to call themselves by her clan name.
Amawele kaMamtshawe started making traditional music on a home-made guitar in the late 90s. However, in 2003, they joined a traditional dance group, Yizo Yizo.
With the help of the Department of Arts and Culture and the SABC, they recorded their first album.
Tornado says the awards mean their music has grown and show they are heading in the right direction. He says they feel motivated to continue making music and putting their home province on the map.
When they started singing, he says, many doubted their talent and put them down, but their love for music kept them going.
He says young people have now started listening to Maskandi, giving it new life.
The 33-year-old says Maskandi connects people with their roots, helping them embrace their culture and heritage.
“We started playing a home-made guitar while we were boys. Maskandi music is in my blood. The award means a lot to us.
“I believe such accolades motivate us to raise the bar. We now have fan base groups and that means we are loved.
“The key in this industry is to remain humble. We are also producing other artists as we believe that we should share our knowledge and skills.
“We have released three albums so far and we are working on a fourth album. The future for us looks bright.
“I appreciate everyone who has been with us especially our manager, Sivuyile Nqaphi.”
Tornado says it’s tough making a name in the music industry and things like piracy and getting recording labels to take you seriously are big hurdles but he has never looked back.
Nongoma says he never anticipated they would win the award as they had been competing against some of the best artists in the country. It hasn’t quite sunk in yet, he says. He says everything they have achieved in their careers is because of their fans and they will always be indebted to them.