Where it all began…Trinity – Uthongathi high school band with Sizwe Shabalala (keyboards & vox), Ben Voss (drums) & Patrick O’Shea (guitar & vox)
Song: Memories (O’Shea/Ricoshay Music 1988) Recorded at SABC Studios in Durban by Sam Shabalala of Radio Zulu. 1989
These three songs were also broadcast on the Radio Zulu show Dec 1989.

Sizwe in his own words. Excerpt from the Memoirs of Sizwe Xolo Shabalala


Sizwe loved to draw – the picture above is his view of Trinity 🙂

The Music takes hold

 Patrick O’Shea, as his name suggests, was a lad of Irish stock. He was older brother to Hugh (whom we called Hughie), and played guitar! That was it! We were forming a band! With Ben on drums, Patrick on guitar and vocals, and myself on piano/keyboard and vocals, we embarked on the journey to world domination and international stardom! Well, it felt like it at the time!


trinity-sizwe-shabalala-ben-voss-patrick-oshea-uthongathiWe gave our band the name Trinity (After Ochre Blade and Syndrome – my suggestions, were soundly booted out by the guys!) We would come together for band practice every afternoon, after our sport session was concluded, and jam until, Mr Butler, or, later, Mr Hill, our dormitory master, would call an end to proceedings as it was evening prep time. Patrick loved the Beatles! In fact, the guy was the first full-on diehard fan of any popular group that I had met. He had Beatles buttons (pins), posters, a flag (I kid you not!), and tons of literature on the Merseysiders. I had, by my Standard Six year, been introduced to rock music, and guys like Jimi Hendrix, and, surprisingly (to many of my African friends, even today) Iron Maiden and Motorhead, those New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) pioneers and gatekeepers. To this day, the Maidens rate as my favourite rock/metal bands along other institutions like Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer.


We wrote a few songs, a cassette tape (!) of which I still have somewhere around the house. As can be imagined, the songs were heavily influenced by Beatles-type harmony structures. The lead riffage was shared by Patrick and myself, so that there was an interesting interplay between guitar and keyboard, which I suppose, would sound like an amalgam of T-Rex, The Beatles and Soundgarden.

My father was working at the SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation), as Music Producer, at the time, and I asked him to organize some studio time for us, that we could record our freshman magnum opus! When we went to Mr Richard Andrew William Thompson, our headmaster, to ask permission to miss the morning’s classes to go to the SABC to record, his words were, “ Boys, you want me to give you permission so you can go and SING SONGS !?” I crack with laughter at the memory of that every time.


Since then, I’ve played with the following bands : Trinity, The Prairie Boys, Zenith, Uncle Stomach, Dog Day Afternoon, Green Spray, jammed with Lionel Bastos, Steve Fataar, and did bass and supporting vocals duty for the heavy metal band, Grynd Rodd Muse. As I speak, we are currently in the throes of forming a new metal band, Blackest of the Black.

Durban, in my opinion, rocks, and that’s a fact! The list goes on and on : Nux Schwartz (Bizness as Usual, Scooters’ Union, Tim Wells Blues Band), Underground Press, Squeal, Richard Ellis, John Ellis (St. Legend, Tree63), Ard Matthews (Just Jinger), Barry Thompson, Errol (Smelly) Fellows, Madala Kunene the late Syd Kitchen, the late Sipho Gumede, the late Sis’ Busi Mhlongo, The Hinds Brothers, Craig Hinds (Watershed), Roly Struckmeyer, Dan Patlansky, Tim Wells, Brendan Jury (Urban Creep, Arno Carstens Band), Chris Letcher, Arapaho, City Bowl Mizers, Contrast the Water, Sutherland, Crossingpoint, Perez, Sean Leary,  Alan Jan Meyer, Habit To, Esjay, Tara Fataar, Guy Buttery, Nibs Van Der Spuy ….it never ends! These guys have certainly been an influence on me, and definitely a lot to be proud of. While, in the past, these uber-talented and gifted musicians (it must be something in the water, in Durbs, much like 90’s Seattle), made the move to Joburg, and some, to Cape Town, these days, they seem to elect to stay on, and pursue their musical journey emDubani! Take a look at Toya De Lazy (granddaughter of political oldguard stalwart and IFP founder Mangosuthu Buthelezi – again…I kid you not!), and Paige Mac!

Of course, while I write this, I happen to be living my life, as well, and….as fate or serendipity would have it, this last weekend (Sunday, November 25th,  2012), I had the unmitigated pleasure of meeting an old friend, Nibs van der Spuy, as well as Guy Buttery (first time….star-struck thing that I was!!!) fresh from their tour of Europe, at the Rainbow Jazz Club in Pinetown, South Africa.  Nibs , like Johnny Clegg, Le Zulu Blanc, has enjoyed a loyal following in France for close to a decade now. It also strikes me how down to earth our KZN musos seem to be. I learnt from Guy that the sitar, while it looks like a stringed instrument that one would play, guitar-style, is not at all similar, in terms of technique! The ever-generous Nibs declared that he would play some guitar at my 40th birthday! Gonna hold you to that, old buddy!

We played a few gigs at school, as well as a gig on a flat-bed truck, during a parade in Tongaat! The music was acceptable, in that quaint, innocence-of-youth, and sprightly, hope-filled lyrics, kind of way. The years spent playing piano, certainly paid off in terms of discipline and the ability to read into and improvise around a song. I’ve always felt, however, that the piano, although a beautiful instrument, and possibly the best medium through which to write, is just not portable enough! Also, I was getting heavily influenced by the glam rock scene of the time (late 80’s), bands like Europe, A-ha,  Gorky Park etc. I needed to learn the guitar! Patrick had given me some rudimentary tutelage by way of chords, but I was to learn how to play the guitar properly, at Natal University, Pietermaritzburg Campus, in 1991, courtesy of a gentleman from Johannesburg, by the name of David Graeme Clarke.