Commonly called Magesh, died on Monday morning following an epileptic seizure.
Bala and Kabelo Mabalane and Tshabalala formed award-winning music in 1996 but knew each other as early as age 15.
“I don’t remember the exact time I met him but it was in boarding school at St Stithians College in Joburg. I was fresh from the Drakensberg and came while in Std 8. They were doing Std 7. So I was just seeing a bunch of juniors.
“But later, one starts recognizing them the more one sees them. He [Tokollo] was just a chubby boy. We used to call him Bingo,” Bala said.
At the time, the school had musical nights and Bala was tasked by the household master to organize their house to sing a song that was meant to be sung by everyone.
“Kabelo had an amazing beatbox and I thought it was so phenomenal. And what got Tokollo into music was Kabelo’s influence as someone who always listened to music. Tokollo caught onto it and struck his own thing.”
After their school time, when Tshabalala was done with school and Bala had come back from studying in the UK, they started working together.
“We started making beats and Tokollo and I just jumped on it. At that time Kabelo was at Wits Tech. I was getting a lot of guidance from him in terms of music-making. I sometimes felt like my chords were too churchy and he got me into the hang of things.
“He had lyrics that he was writing over time and laid them while we were working. But as time went on, it was more on the spot and coming up with music on the go. He had terrible handwriting and you wouldn’t understand what he was doing. But the moment he switched on, those lips of his would just create magic,” Bala said.
Bala also said Tshabalala was the funniest person he has ever met. He could emulate certain personalities accompanied by sound effects that immediately would leave him in stitches.
“If anything, the humor is what was paramount to our attraction to each other. We laughed a lot.”
Bala said he can’t find words for how he felt about Tshabalala’s death.
“This is someone that I used to hang with so closely, so this loss is a lot more personal. It’s a real shock but I have to deal with it,” he said emotionally.
“I was telling someone today that I don’t know how everything is going to be going forward because we have known each other most of our lives. I can’t even imagine what life will be like, but in the same breath, I am really glad that I got to know such a man who had a true mark of genius, and made history together. Nothing can ever wipe that and I take it as a true blessing,” he said.