Zwai Bala is recognized as one of the top crossover producers and musical directors from South Africa. He is currently based in Nairobi, Kenya working as Music Director on the third season of Coke Studio Africa which will see him produce collaborations by some of the continent's much celebrated urban artists which include Olamide, Chameleon, Ice Prince and 2Face Idibia, among many others African stars. Zwai is an artist with many lives. He has journeyed and matured from the kwaito trio TKZee into a musical entrepreneur. When the TKZee members took different directions to pursue solo careers, his creativity in other areas of the arts flourished. 2013 is the year Zwai Bala released his long-awaited solo album, “The Indigo Child”.
Many years in the making, this smooth, adult contemporary album sees Zwai step out from behind the desk, producing hits for others, into an album that showcases his incredible voice, filled with his trademark melodies and string arrangements as well as guest appearances from Zakwe on “Umlilo (Masibase)” and Tokollo ‘Magesh’ Tshabalala on “Play That Music”. Today Zwai is a celebrated musical director, show producer, composer, arranger, conductor, singer, songwriter, teacher and public speaker who has graced stages and studios around the world. Zwai’s TV career spans from acting on Isidingo, hosting a cupid programme All You Need is Love (2nd season) and was known as the Dread Maestro on Classic FM’s CHART SHOW called Classical Countdown. In 2003, he judged Coca-Cola Popstars, South Africa, and formed award-winning group, Adilah. The next year, as head judge, he was instrumental in founding hugely popular girl group, Jamali. Zwai was invited to provide his judging expertise on Popstars East Africa, which saw him tour Uganda, Kenya & Tanzania. The series was broadcast on ITV, throughout East Africa. MTV Base award winner Blu 3 was formed in Uganda.
He kicked off 2013 being the runner-up Choirmaster, with Team Mpumalanga, for the first season of “Clash of the Choirs”, which aired on Mzansi Magic in January 2013. Bala has had the opportunity to direct and compose for projects like South African Music Awards (SAMAs), Channel O Music Video Awards, South African Film and TV Awards (SAFTAs), M-Net’s “Face of Africa”, Glo-CAF Awards (The Confederation of African Football awards), Evolution, a live music programme - aired on SABC 1 Tribute/SABC 2 Achievers Awards, Gospel Gold on SABC 1, Coca-Cola Popstars on SABC 1 and Ibhola Lethu on Supersport.
Zwai has been at it since he was eleven when he first entered The Shell Road to Fame in 1986 along with his sister Pinky Bala and reached the semi-finals. At age twelve he entered again, this time as a soloist and placed 1st runner up in the national finals and became the youngest soloist acclaimed choir school and a year later took a prize as the Tenor soloist of the Year. As early as fifteen years, he had already taken an interest in doing more than using only his voice.
The young Zwai Bala was developing as an all round musician. His passion for this industry was growing immensely; he demonstrated this by conducting the DBCS and the Natal Youth Orchestra in Vryheid and Cape Town. Bala continued to educate himself musically at reputable institutions such as the London based Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, UNISA and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow, UK, along the way collecting only distinctions.
His professional music career kicked off when he met high school peers Kabelo Mabalane and Tokollo Tshabalala, who then formed a group that changed the face of South African music TKZee. The trio arrived and made waves on the kwaito scene releasing singles Take It Eezy and Phalafala, which became national anthems. Shibobo was yet another single released in 1998 featuring Benni McCarthy; this was at the height of soccer fever during the France World Cup to which South Africa had qualified. In fact, all the singles produced by Zwai, went on to become SA’s fastest and biggest selling singles ever - reaching over 280 000 units. When HALLOWEEN hit the streets later that year, the album sold 400 000 copies and that was the beginning of things for TKZee as a group.
He has completed his studies through BerkleeMusic.com thus attaining the Masters Certificate in Orchestration for Film and TV. Zwai is about to release a special album celebrating 21 years as a recording artist featuring artists and friends such as Pitch Black Afro, Jamali and Tsepo Tshola. This is a showcase of all that he has learnt in this period as a producer & artist with musical styles varying from Big Band, his signatory sound Guz to Jazzy House and never heard before vocal arrangements of great South African standards such as Lakushon'ilanga and special tributes to Bheki Mseleku and Victor Ntoni.
The group raked in awards left right and centre. At the SAMAs, in 1999, they took home an unprecedented five awards for Best Kwaito single, Best Kwaito Album, Best Single, Best Video and Best Duo or Group. A record only broken in 2012 by Zahara. Between 2000 and 2003 Zwai was kept occupied by the growing popularity of TKZee Family and his gospel inspired project, Lifted. TKZee Family scooped SAMAs in 2001 for Best Kwaito single for Izinjazam and Lifted from the Zwai Bala Presents Lifted Volume 1 from his gospel collection, won Best Rap Single. TKZee Family’s Guz 2001 was a runaway success, reaching double Platinum status.
In 2008 Zwai was appointed as musical director and composer of the first annual Stars of Mzansi Awards (South Africa’s equivalent to the Emmy’s).
Ali Campbell of UB-40 fame also enjoyed the mastery of Zwai Bala when he put together a collaboration with Grammy winners, Ladysmith Black Mambazo in Munich, Germany.
Soweto Story – The Musical, which saw him win a Naledi Award for The Best Score and Musical DirectionTelkom Business - Customer Experience 2012 - composing, arranging and conducting the Cape Youth Orchestra and featuring performances by Soweto Gospel Choir, operatic numbers sung by Magdalene Minnaar (Soprano) and Nicholas Nicolaidis (Tenor).
Co-composer on an animated movie, “Adventures in Zambezia” – South African release in December 2012. “Adventures in Zambezia”, a major Hollywood feature film, casts the voices of Samuel L. Jackson, Leonard Nimoy & Jeff Goldblum.
Castle Lite Experience 2013 - featuring Kanye West, AKA, HHP, Tumi, Reason and Zakwe.
Mining Lekgotla 2013 - Gala Dinner Entertainment featuring Mzansi Youth Choir.
When he was in Standard 8 at St. Stithians College he was a Soloist with Duke of Cornwall.
In his adult life Zwai, as a soloist and as member of both TKZee and Bala Brothers, has performed at many prestigious events including: United Nations 50th Anniversary, Nelson Mandela’s 80th Birthday Celebrations, Thabo Mbeki’s Presidential Inauguration and Archbishop Tutu’s 75th Birthday Celebrations.
Hugh Masekela’s album 'Revival' enjoyed two very talented producers’ inputs Zwai and Guffy’s earning two SAMA nominations – Best Producer and Best Male and going through the 1st round of selection for a Grammy nomination – Best Contemporary World.
He has worked with a range of musical greats in different genres yet the seed was planted much earlier in his life.
Zwai is also busy developing film scores for movies by top South African film makers, soon to be released. Among these is a movie based on the book, 'The Whale Caller' by well renowned South African author Zakes Mda; a Romantic Comedy called Winsome, a first in SA feature films with commendable reviews at the Pan African Film Festival in California in February 2015 and a musical theater production 'Two Worlds Apart' to be staged early 2016.