Durban’s award-winning Isikatamiya band, The Kholwa Brothers, returned home to a hero’s welcome. They outdid themselves at the World Performing Arts Championships in Los Angeles last month.

They walked away with 32 gold and 18 silver medals.

Not only are the Kholwa brothers putting isicathamiya on the map, but they’re doing it in style. Isikatamiya is one of the biggest music genres in South Africa. It embodies the a cappella group singing style. It was founded in 1990 by Derrick Mlamba. It is now an all-male group of 11.

The group is mainly made up of young South Africans. And by coincidence, most of them were engaged in by the head of the group, who is a school teacher during the day. Brian Ndwandwe, 22, from Ntuzuma, joined the group when he was just 10 years old. He says it keeps him busy and out of the street.

“I can say it wasn’t easy because when I started I was doing it as a hobby and I just wanted to hang out with the guys. But over time, I saw that I could make a living doing what I was doing. It was very difficult because I was all over the place. One can say that he did not choose music for the first time. But as time went on, I saw that maybe it was in my blood, because there came a point where I saw that I liked it.”

Similarly, Ntandaenkosi Majola says isicotomy is an integral part of his life.

“It was something I really enjoy, and now, even when I’m not in rehearsal, I feel like I did something wrong, so Ishihatami is now a part of my life.”

Founder Derrick Mlambo says he is extremely proud of their success.

“We made sure we went number one in four songs and number two in two songs and that’s how we were able to bring 32 gold medals and 16 silver medals to South Africa. I am very proud of us. I am very proud of these young people who came off the streets to participate in this genre. It is a great honor for me to work with them.”

Isicathamiya became popular outside of South Africa and the African continent after Paul Simon’s album Graceland featured tracks such as “Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes”. He was then supported by the world famous Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

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