It was in 1992 at Pimville Square in Soweto when then teenagers Nani Tengo, Sonto Dladla and Neli Gwala, dressed in their Zulu maiden garb, danced while some passers-by looked on and others joined in with their own versions of the Zulu traditional dance.
The joyous scenes jump between the trio’s dancing at the shopping centre and the wedding party at Wandie’s, a popular restaurant in Dube, where a newlywed couple is celebrating its union with song and dance.
This is the five-minute music video of Platform One for their song Isencane Lengane, a debut hit that would launch their careers through three decades.
Now in their 50s, the band specialising in feel-good music seem to be enjoying the same amount of attention that they got as teenagers at Pimville Square when Sowetan meets them at Thokoza Park in Moroka, Soweto, earlier this week for a photo session.
It takes a few minutes for people, mostly those who grew up listening to their music, to realise who the ladies in the black skinny jeans and beaded necklaces are.
They might have aged a little and show little flesh but they have not lost their rhythm as they would later show Sowetan with a mini rehearsal.
The female group is known for popular and timeless hits like Womnyakazisa, Thuli, Esibayeni and Makoti, among others. Sowetan met the group to chat about their latest album, Jabula-Jabula. The 18th offering comes after nine years of not releasing new music.
Ntengo, the lead vocalists from Mzimhlophe, says: “It is great to be back again in the industry and we are excited. It is has been a while but we are back and this time we are saying Jabula-Jabula. Touring is what kept us busy and we were unable to go to the studio.”
Gwala explains that the group hasn’t recorded because they have been touring and performing in countries like Canada, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda and Swaziland.
“This album is a proof that we still exists and hot like before. We are still around because we’re doing our own thing and not imitating anyone. When people do not see us they should know that we are in other countries performing. We get busy during wedding seasons as people who are getting married book us.”
The album hit the digital streets and shelves three weeks ago. It has 11 tracks and features Zimbabwean singer Zinja Ziyamluma. Jabula-Jabula is a unique fusion of Afro-pop and the maskandi sound.
Dladla explains that through music they dish out advice to young women who are about to get married.
“Zimbabwe has turned into to our second home because we get lots of bookings there. Other countries also pay us, except our own country.
“What excites us the most is that our fans who come from all over Southern Africa are excited about the new album. We also have a song called Isoka Lami, which is a song about true love. It speaks about a woman who wants her parents and family to accept her boyfriend whether he is working or not. The song is basically saying allow me to walk with a swag with him because I love him.”
It’s amazing that they are still popular 32 years after Isencance Lengane in 1990. They were brought together by music legend Freddie Gwala.
According to figures on YouTube, Platform One’s appeal remains firm as the group’s hit Taste and Pass has clocked more than 2m views followed by Lezontaba with 1.6m, Isencane Lengane with 1.3m and Womnyakazisa Mayelele with 800,000.
Sadly, demand for their shows comes mostly from outside SA.
“It’s funny that in SA people want us to come and perform for free or give us expensive alcohol. They forget that our kids must eat food, not alcohol,” says Dladla, from Zola in Soweto.
The Mzimhlophe-born Gwala says: “It hurts that we don’t get bookings locally. If we do, we are booked by people from other countries. Zimbabwe has turned into to our second home because we get lots of bookings there. Other countries also pay us, except our own country.”
They will resume their southern African tour from next month, followed by the shooting of their live DVD at Soweto Theatre on November 6.
Catch Platform One performing at Hillbrow Inn in Johannesburg on July 31.