There’s a question that keeps coming up in the comments on Thabo’s music on YouTube, and that is: “Why don’t more people know about this?”
The Zimbabwe-born Thabo’s name means joy in his mother tongue Ndebele. His songs unerringly target the heart of issues our world struggles with today, in heartfelt messages and an exquisite voice, wrapped in glorious grooves. We caught up with him at his home in Huddersfield, UK looking relaxed and exhilarated after his band’s recent UK tour with Seal.
Parvati Magazine: You have a massive voice. What is your training?
Thabo: My training is informal. It all started in church singing duets with my sister and being part of an acapella group with my friends. In church we didn’t have any instruments, so there’s a lot of acapella singing. Later, when I came to England, I joined a band and that furthered my musical education.
PMAG: What is the passion that drives you?
T: The desire to find out what life wants of me. Life has birthed me in this era for a purpose that is unique and suited to me. I must find out what it is and then do it.
PMAG: You just finished touring with Seal. How did that happen?
T: To be honest, there’s a gentleman named Charlie who put in such a resounding recommendation on our behalf. He said to Seal’s manager Maya, “I only have one name, Thabo, and if you can get him, that is what you should do!” After hearing our music, they asked us to come do nine of the eleven shows. Our booking agent Diplomats of Sound handled the rest and off we went… however, it all started with Charlie, whom I owe a huge hug!
PMAG: What was the tour like for you?
T: Amazing. Incredible. Usually when you are an opening act, you are playing to an empty room that is filling up as you go along. However this was different because Seal was touring symphony halls, seated venues. So doors would open at 7, and at 7:45 they would announce, “Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats. The opening act Thabo is just about to come on.” and so you walk into a room with 2000 people already waiting! Every night we performed to an audience that was receptive and appreciative. By the time we ended our set, it felt like music had done that wonderful thing it does when it synchronises hearts and minds. Seal would then come on stage and take the show to even greater heights. We learned so much from that tour.
PMAG: What is Future Liberation Sounds?
T: This is a term coined by our manager Dave Randall, describing the type of music we do but also the intention as well. We feel that we are in an interesting time when human consciousness is waking up to the interconnectedness of life. Our music is intended as a soundtrack to that story, a story that matures years from now, maybe even after we are all gone, and another generation builds on the work we started in this age.
When I think about apartheid in South Africa, the national anthem was the song that really structured [the movement to end it]. When you hear them sing: “Nkosi sikelel…” – “God bless Africa” in the first line, you felt it! Now when we sing that national anthem, it has so much optimism, there is so much “Oohh!”, who knows what Africa could become?
So what are the songs now that we could be making, that in the future we’ll be like, “Remember always singing that song? There was literally only a glimmer of hope, and now look we are singing that song in front of a fire, dancing around a fire that really started off as a spark.” So that’s what Future Liberation Sounds is about. The campfire songs, if you would.
PMAG: How would you describe your music?
T: Bob Marley inspired, Dolly Parton emotiveness, Michael Jackson conviction!
PMAG: Your song Sensible has been on heavy rotation at our office. What does it mean to you?
T: That song is my personal pep talk. Any time I’m getting scared of something and there’s a decision looming, the song is saying “Okay, cool, let’s talk.” It’s a five minute listen and by the time it’s done with me, confidence and audacity have risen from within and I’m ready to do what I was previously afraid of! Many times it has brought me to tears but once that crying is done, a stronger Thabo emerges.
PMAG: If the world could change through your artistry what would you want that change to be?
T: It would be that everybody discovers why they are really here and focuses on doing just that. The goal with our music is to educate, entertain and empower the listener to be their highest self.
THABO first broke through as an artist singing with a Yorkshire hiphop band in the late 2000s before embarking on his own solo career in 2011. He recently supported Seal on the UK leg of his Standards tour and will be releasing a new EP entitled YOUR MAMA. https://www.t-h-a-b-o.com/