Mzansi Profiles! Local,People Thandiswa Mazwai Biography| Early Life, Early Music Career, Bongo Muffin, Discography, Ambassadorship, Personal Life

Thandiswa Mazwai Biography| Early Life, Early Music Career, Bongo Muffin, Discography, Ambassadorship, Personal Life

Thandiswa Mazwai Biography| Early Life, Early Music Career, Bongo Muffin, Discography, Ambassadorship, Personal Life post thumbnail image

Thandiswa Nyameka Mazwai, also known as King Tha, is a renowned South African musician and the lead vocalist and songwriter of the band Bongo Maffin. She has made significant contributions to the South African music scene, blending various genres and delivering powerful, politically-infused lyrics.

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Early Life

Thandiswa Mazwai was born on March 31, 1976, in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. She grew up in Soweto, Johannesburg, amidst the apartheid township violence of the 1980s. Both her parents, Belede and Thami Mazwai, were journalists and anti-apartheid political activists. Her home was filled with books, articles, and political discussions, shaping her perspective as an artist. Mazwai attended Wits University, where she studied English Literature and International Relations.

Her work is deeply inspired by her mother, who passed away when Mazwai was 15, and influential writers such as Steve Biko, Frantz Fanon, Chinua Achebe, and Kwame Nkrumah.

Thandiswa Mazwai Biography

Thandiswa Mazwai Biography (Image Credit: Instagram @thandiswamazwai)

Early Career Beginnings

Thandiswa Mazwai was a member of the musical group Jack-Knife, alongside Kimon Webster and Themba Smuts. The trio was considered pioneers of the kwaito movement, with their songs “Fester” and “Chommie” becoming club hits.

Bongo Maffin

Mazwai’s first notable attempt to gain recognition was at the Shell Road to Fame talent show, where she did not reach the semi-finals but caught the attention of musician and producer Don Laka. In 1998, she began her career with Bongo Maffin, a pioneering kwaito band. As the lead vocalist and songwriter, she became the voice of South Africa’s conscious youth.

Bongo Maffin’s music combined dance floor hits with thought-provoking lyrics, leading to performances worldwide and collaborations with musical icons such as Stevie Wonder, the Marley clan, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Chaka Khan, Sean Paul, Steel Pulse, and Skunk Anansie. The band received numerous awards, including the South African Music Awards, the Kora All Africa Music Awards, and the Metro FM Music Awards.

Debut Solo Album

After releasing five albums with Bongo Maffin, Mazwai embarked on a solo career. Her debut solo album, Zabalaza (2004), achieved double platinum status and won multiple awards, including a Kora award for Best African Female and four South African Music Awards. It was also nominated for the BBC Radio 3 Planet Awards. Her second album, Ibokwe (2009), reached gold status shortly after its release, and her live DVD, Dance of the Forgotten Free (2010), won Best Female Artist and Best Live DVD in 2011. Her music is known for its political depth and incorporates traditional Xhosa rhythms, mbaqanga, reggae, kwaito, funk, and jazz.

Thandiswa Mazwai Biography

Thandiswa Mazwai Biography (Image Credit: Instagram @thandiswamazwai)

Notable Performances and Collaborations

Thandiswa Mazwai has performed globally at prestigious events, including the 2010 FIFA World Cup Opening Ceremony, The Apollo in New York, WOMEX, the Cannes Film Festival, Midem, the Hackney Empire, Africa Brazil Festival, FESPACO Film Festival, BBC World Music Awards, and numerous Mandela 46664 concerts. She has collaborated with international artists such as Meshell Ndegeocello and South African legends like Hugh Masekela and Busi Mhlongo.

In 2017, she performed with the rock band BLK JKS at the Afropunk Festival Johannesburg as ‘King Tha’ vs. BLK JKS. In July 2012, she duetted with Paul Simon in Hyde Park, London, for the 25th anniversary of his Graceland album.


Thandiswa Mazwai is an ambassador for 46664, an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign, and an ambassador for the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. In May 2022, she was featured in Spotify’s documentary Freedom Sounds: From Kwaito to Amapiano.

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Solo Albums

  • Sankofa (2024) – Universal Music Group
  • Belede (2016) – Universal Music Group
  • Dance of the Forgotten Free (2010) – Live CD: Gallo Records
  • Ibokwe (2009) – Gallo Records
  • Zabalaza (2004) – Gallo Records

With Bongo Maffin

  • From Bongo With Love (2019) – Universal Music Group
  • New Construction (2005) – Gallo Records – Gold Sales
  • Bongolution (2001) – Sony BMG – Double Platinum Sales
  • The Concerto (1998) – Sony BMG – Multi Platinum Sales
  • Final Entry (1997) – EMI
  • Leaders of D’Gong (1996) – EMI

Personal Life


Thandiswa is the sister of fellow poet and activist Ntsiki Mazwai, as well as Nomsa Mazwai.


Thandiswa is married and has children, though details about her personal life and family are limited in the available information.


Thandiswa Mazwai: Here to to stay

The show will be a sacred space’ – King Tha on A Letter to Azania

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