The Bala Brothers go global

The Bala Brothers are ready to take on the United States with their home-brewed sound. Loyiso, Phelo and Zwai will be embarking on a US tour kicking off in November, following their appearance on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) corporation’s pledge performance special earlier this year.

Recorded at Johannesburg’s Lyric Theatre in October 2014, The Bala Brothers concert DVD made its debut on March 2015 on PBS’s public TV stations as a fundraising pledge show. PBS has over 350 TV stations and transmits to all 50 states.

The live concert featured a 26-piece orchestra and an appearance by the Drakensberg Boys Choir and, according to the brothers, is a viewing treat.

Loyiso said their concert “has been seen 263 times by over 60 million people in the US. This is an opportunity for us to tour the US. We have real fans now over there.”

International artists such Andrea Bocelli, Chris Botti, Josh Groban and Joe Bonamassa have been featured on the PBS music specials.  Bocelli’s participation in PBS pledge drives took him from “a near unknown in the United States into a hugely well-remunerated superstar”, according to Variety.

Barry Ehrmann, president of Enliven Entertainment which has produced PBS music specials, told Variety: “PBS is pretty much in every household in America. You can’t say that about AXS TV, HBO, and Showtime. It reaches 90 percent of the homes and that is the big difference.”

Ahead of the tour, the Bala Brothers will be touring the States to promote their new self-titled album and live DVD. They’ve also signed a deal with Warner Music in London.

M&G caught up with the Bala Brothers to talk about their US tour, their new album/DVD and how they work together as a family. 

What does the group hope to achieve on the US tour?
Zwai: What we would like to achieve goes way beyond the US on it’s own. The US is a great stepping-stone. It’s a dream way of trying to get what we’d like to get. In terms of exposure, this is a dream that any, even an established musician, would die for. So the next step would be [conquering] Europe and having our record released in those territories as well. The real objective is to go around the world, which I think will be a real treat for the people around the world.

What do you think makes the Bala Brothers different from all the other trios?
Zwai: I think there have been the three tenors and that kind of set-up. It’s been done; I don’t know if it’s been overdone, but I think we bring something really different in a sense that we are three tenors, three African singers and brothers. We bring a lot of variation.  

What happens to the funds raised at your the pledge performance?
Loyiso: What PBS does is shoot these specials, like the one with Bala brothers, for the pledge season which happens around March and September to raise funds for the TV network so that it can carry on giving the audiences good programming. We hope our concert helps the PBS stations as much as they’ve helped us with launching into the international arena.

What can your fans expect with your latest album?
Phelo: People can expect new material that we haven’t done before and new songs that the South African market hasn’t heard before. What is interesting about this album is that we are performing for a new audience, for people who have never seen us before. 

What are some of the challenges of working with siblings?
Zwai: I don’t think the challenges are very dominant and we can’t call them challenges, because they don’t really affect our progress and the objective. We are fortunate in the sense that we have been in the industry for a while, so we know what breaks groups up and a lot of the times it’s the egos. We treat it [the group] as a business first and foremost because we have learnt over the years that if you take the emotions out and treat it as a business, you filter out a lot of the nonsense. And there is also mutual respect. Nobody has a bad idea.

Do you break out in song during family braai?
Phelo: Yes all the time. In fact anywhere, for example, in the car. We live music; music is our life.

All three of you are solo artists in your own right. Are your solo projects now on hold?
Zwai: We made a decision when we started getting into this Bala Brothers project that this takes priority. We’d like our solo careers to live overseas so whatever happens first is going to help the other. You need to think wisely and strategically that here is a vehicle that’s moving and we need this in order to help everything else that we are busy with. Our solo careers are important and we are busy with them but this we believe is going to be the springboard for everything else that we do.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories


press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday