Vol.21 No.55

Thursday 8 April 2004    

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Arts/Culture Review
The many lives of Dan Tshanda

CHIPPA LEGODIMO
Staff Writer

4/7/2004 7:34:10 PM (GMT +2)

DAN Tshanda is a man who used to play his guitar at shopping malls and taxi ranks of South Africa to make ends meet. He could barely make enough money to get something to eat and never thought one day he would be living like a king, as one of Africa's most respected artist and producer.


Tshanda of Splash fame did not have it easy as most of us may think, he endured a lot of pain as a youngster but his hard work and dedication is now paying off. He is now riding high on the ladder of success. He boasts of a fleet of flashy cars including the latest Land Rover Discovery and lives in one of Johannesburg's posh suburbs of Bryanston.

Born in Chiawelo, Soweto, some 40 years ago, Tshanda's parents were from the Limpopo province, the former Venda homeland. He grew up moving between the two places as his poor parents were always migrating in search of a better life.

"I was always moving from one school to another because it was very difficult for us and I had to live school at standard four because my parents did not have enough money to pay for my education." Tshanda said.

Music has always been Tshanda's first love and as fate would have it, it turned out to be his "life". During his late teens, Tshanda started as a newspaper vendor before venturing into the taxi business. Finally he launched himself into a music career in the early 80s when he joined the then very popular Soul Brothers band.

"I drove without a Drivers License. It was illegal but it was a way of surviving poverty," he says with a grin.

Together with the late Joseph Tshimange, Paul Gabala and Penwell Kunene they formed a band called Flying Sounds whose first album was a flop according to Tshanda.

That did no stop him from following his childhood dream of making it big in music. The group 'curtain raised' for Ray Phiri and Stimela. Phiri was so impressed he suggested they changed their name to Splash.

"He said the name was more suitable for us as our music had the potential to splash out to a bigger audience and he was right. People just liked the name and it has turned into a big brand now," Tshanda said excitedly.

Splash's first album released in 1986,was the platinum selling "Peacock" which suddenly opened the gates to success for Tshanda and his group. The late Hamilton Nzimande who had so much confidence in Tshanda that he recommended he produce his own music produced 'Peacock'.

In 1987 Tshanda's first production entitled "Snake" hit the market and turned gold and thus putting Splash firmly on the musical map.

Tshanda started producing other artists such as Patricia Majalisa, Dalom Kids and Matshikos who also became major successes.

Majalisa who was then Tshanda's girlfriend went on to release hits such as "Witch Doctor" and "Poverty" while Matshikos' "The Park is mine" and Dalom Kids' "Mbalembale" were released and became chart toppers.

"The Hit machine" as Dan is also called by scores of his fans, has so far produced more than 50 albums for all his groups.

The self-styled king of disco says he is his own role model because he was capable of making life out of nothing.

"But Chicco Thwala and Lucky Dube are the two musicians I have a lot of respect for, look at what Chicco has achieved with artists like Brenda Fassie and others, he is the best producer in South Africa today" he said.

Dan himself has won some awards while with Gallo Music. In 1990 he was nominated Gallo music's best producer for Splash hit album "Eye for an eye" and the following year he got a Merit Award at CAN Gallo Limited.

But despite his massive success in music Tshanda like many other artists have not been totally free from controversy. His relationship with Majalisa ended bitterly in 1991 with Majalisa nearly killed when she dropped herself from a block of flats trying to commit suicide.

A little later Dan fell for another fellow band member, the late Petronella Mmasentle Rampou but things went sour in 1998 with Rampou accusing Tshanda's parents of influencing him against marrying her while Dan accused her of cheating on him.

"Majalisa wanted to live a dirty life, once she was famous she started going to night clubs but I wanted a woman who would always be home when she is not working, someone who really behaved well.

As for Petronella, I had tried to iron out the differences we had and she kept insisting that she did not love me. It is not true that I left her, she is the one who left me. In fact I just thought that she was only angry and would come back later but she did not," Tshanda stressed.

After Petronella died following a long illness in 1999, her parents accused Dan of neglecting her after she made money for him.

A year later while on a business trip to Botswana, Tshanda bumped on a lady called Sylvia Sehularo from Letlhakeng and little did she know that she would soon be called Mrs Tshanda.

"When I talked to her it was just like a joke but here we are today, married with two boys and everything is wonderful. We really understand each other, every relationship has its problems but Sylvia knows how to handle me I also know what she likes. I just felt even then that the two of us would make a perfect match," he said.

The two have two sons, Ndihvuwo (4) and Lefuno (2) who according to their father Dan have changed his life. His face lights up with excitement when he talks about them. He has since named two songs in his last two albums after them.

"The hit machine" has worked with record companies like Gallo and Bula music before forming his own Dalom Music in 1998. He said that he quit the two because he felt he was being cheated.

"I knew my music was selling well, but I was not given what I expected and I could not take it anymore," he said.

Dalom Music has more groups registered under it. These include, gospel singing Silk Voices, Montana, Thabile Mazolwana, Dalom Squad, Zimbabwean Albert Nyathi, Tafula Madiba, Peacock, Skibaza, and lately Botswana's Donald Botshelo who has since changed his stage name to Don B.

Surprisingly some artists working under Tshanda's stable are now singing the same tune that he used to sing while with Gallo that he is cheating them, a charge he has since denied.

Some years back Patrica Majalisa, Peter Leotlela, the Mthimkhulu brothers Patrick and Albert as well as Penwell Kunene left Splash under a cloud of controversy accusing the producer of using them to get rich at their expense.

Majalisa and Kunene later came back to rejoin Tshanda, while the other three went on to form their own Smash Boys. That was not all, Thabile Mazolwana whom Tshanda gave the name Peacock after joining Dalom Music, was stripped of that name after he accused Tshanda of cheating him. For some time Mazolwana went his own way but he has since returned to the stable.

Patricia Majalisa did not feature in most of Dalom's recent National Tour shows while Tshanda has been diplomatically telling fans that the song bird was "sick", it turned out later that she refused to accompany fellow band members for the tour.

She was later quoted in a South African Sunday newspaper saying she was tired of making money for other people. Matshikos lead singer Kunene did not even show up for a single show during the whole tour and although Tshanda had been saying that he was busy with his own productions, he later conceded that Kunene had changed his mind on the eleventh hour.

While Dan flatly denies that their problem was over pay, it is understood that Penwell has expressed resentment for his meagre salary at Dalom.

"Penwell has not come with us as I had promised people that he would be there for this final show but he has not told me what the matter is but I have since decided not to force him to do it and I will only work with those who have trust in me, I am not cheating anyone, these people forget that I am the artist, composer, producer and I am the one who pays for all the recording," he said.

He said that he did not understand why Kunene could not express his grievances to him when other band members were able to. He said he and his lead keyboardist Walter Sayuoma have always had some difference but because the latter always speaks his mind they were able to peacefully iron them out.

Sayuoma had this to say about his boss, "Dan is a good leader, although we always have our problems he is always willing to listen when I have a complaint and he always fulfils our contracts with him".

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