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After a long, long struggle trying to get hold of TS Records co-founder Sibusiso Leope – better known as S’bu – imagine my relief when he calls me out of the blue and simply said “Mpintshi yami, (meaning my friend), lets do the interview tomorrow”. In a flash I found myself comfortably chatting to one of SA’s most talented young music moguls about TS Records and his career in our very own Rosebank offices.
Talking about TS Records, the YFM DJ said the idea of establishing his own label was his childhood dream. While he was working at YFM, he met his business partner Thembinkosi Nciza, better known as TK, who at the time was working for Ghetto Ruff.
By then TK was promoting Zola’s first project – Umdlwembe. TK talked to S’bu about the idea of starting a record label and this thought just fell on the right ears. S’bu was up for it and TS Records was founded, eventually becoming what it is today.
Interestingly enough, around the same time the controversial character Mzekezeke would call celebrities from YFM and “diss” them live on-air. Due to the controversy surrounding Mzekezeke, S’bu and TK seized the opportunity to sign Mzekes Man (as he is commonly called) to TS Records and introduce him to the music industry.
In 2002 the first project of the masked Mzekezeke was released and sold 150 000 units. From that moment, other musicians like Brown Dash (who is often associated as the man behind the Mzeke’s mask due to a number of collaboration) as well as Ntando, and Izinyoka, were also signed under TS Records.
The motivation and reasons behind the establishment of TS was to launch a label that would be representative of black people who are from disadvantaged backgrounds. It is this reason that apparently led Mzekezeke to secure a record deal with TS, as he is unable to speak English properly (which he refers to as the “language of the model C people”).
“When we introduced Mzekezeke in the music scene, we wanted to give courage to those who think they can not do anything because they don’t know how to speak the ‘Queens’ [language] or don’t wear fancy clothes. Mzekezeke was brought into the industry to build self esteem and motivate people that aren’t from the upmarket areas. They can still make their dreams come true”, said S’bu.
S’bu believes that TS is where it is today because the people behind the stable understands their target market and they make music that appeals to people from the townships.
On the issue of allegations that S’bu is actually Mzekezeke, the TV personality said the whole argument is good for business – it keeps TS going. “People don’t stop asking if I am really not Mzekes man and this keeps people talking about us [S'bu and Mzekezeke]“.
People are blessed with different talents, and S’bu modestly admitted to having the ability to create something new and unique, which is why he is involved in coordinating the recording of all TS projects. TK is a business-minded person and is always in the office making sure that everything is running smoothly. Due to the different abilities of each of the partners, the label runs smoothly with minimal stress.
When questioned about the challenges that the duo faced when trying to establish TS Records, a friendly S’bu said lot of people who had been established in the music industry for many years were hesitant and refused to give them information. Regardless, the pair pulled through mostly with the help of Mzekezeke for his antics which included gate crushing other concerts to perform his own music. All the controversy that Mzekes Man was causing in the music scene drove the attention of promoters, concerts organisers and media to him. This was the break through for TS Records into the world of mainstream entertainment – and the independent label began to be in real demand.
If you want to make your business successful in the music industry, S’bu pointed out that passion for music, understanding of the genre you will be focusing on, having a good team to work with and being financially stable will make your dream a realistic possibility.
TS have also branched out into the business of making Video’s/DVD’s. Their first project is the biography of Mzekezeke which will be released in DVD format before the end of this year. Apparently we also should brace ourselves for Mzeke’s literary debut! This independent label is also embarking on a new philanthropic venture, The TS Foundation, a non profit organisation meant to help the community is also on its way.
S’bu said that the company’s future plans included a desire to become the first fully black owned major record label and become a major brand in the industry.
Building up to Christmas we can expect a brand new album from Brown Dash which is coming out at the end of September and yet another release from Mzekezeke to be dropped in October. MIO had an opportunity to listen to one of the tracks which we were told is on Mzeke’s soon to be released album. The masked man seems to be pushing very hard! Hope you will enjoy it too.
To the musicians out there, S’bu said “If you can sing, carry on practicing and keep your hands knocking on each and every door. I know it is not easy but if you are talented, don’t give up. And to those who wish to establish their own record label, everything is possible, if you have a will, you can achieve it”.
Have you produced music that you think TS might like? Here is your opportunity! All you need to do is to call Sanele Hlamini or Sipho Hlamini on 011 482 7788 so you can arrange to send in your demo.
Visit www.tsrecords.co.za for more info on the label and artists.