Zola (musician)

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Bonginkosi Dlamini

(1977-04-24) April 24, 1977 (age 41)
NationalitySouth African
  • Musician
  • poet
  • actor
  • TV presenter
  • Radio presenter
Years active2000-Present
Known forGodsent Angel
Musical career
Also known asZola 7
Years active2000-Present
Associated acts

Bonginkosi "Zola" Dlamini (born 24 April 1977 in Soweto, Johannesburg) is a South African musician, poet, actor and presenter.

Biography and early life[edit]

Bonginkosi Dlamini was born on 24 April 1977 and grew up in Zola, a township of Soweto, notoriously known for its high crime rate. It is his childhood home town from which he adopted his name.[1][2] Unemployment, alcoholism, and single parent families are very common in Zola. Dlamini's father, believed to be part of the Mchunu clan, abandoned the family, leaving his mother to care for him and his older brother and sister when they were young. Zola himself served time in prison as a juvenile for car theft.[3]


Zola became well known for his role as the notorious gangster Papa Action in the second season of the television series Yizo Yizo.[2][4] The character was already popular from the first searson, where it had been portrayed by another actor. Zola resembled the previous performer, and his performance only increased the popularity of the role. He also performed the score and played a role in the Academy Award-winning film Tsotsi (2005) and the movie Drum (2004). Zola also has a prominent role in the documentary SHARP! SHARP!- the kwaito story (2003) directed by Aryan Kaganof. In 2015 and 2016 Zola had minor roles in television series Isibaya, as well as, Zabalaza.

Television presenter[edit]

Zola 7[edit]

Zola 7 was a television show presented by Zola airing from 2002 to 2010 on SABC1.[5] Each episode focused on a young person, who with support from Zola realized his or her dream.


Utatakho was a television programme produced by Connect TV in 2015 which aired on Mzansi Magic and was presented by Zola. In each episode Zola helped participants to find or reconnect with their biological fathers. Zola accompanied participating sons to meetings with their fathers and facilitated conversation. Additionally, a professional counsellor was present to mediate.[6] Having been to child court over the custody for his own children, Zola can relate to the show's content on a personal level.[7]

Hope with Zola[edit]

Hope with Zola is a docu-reality show on Moja Love. The programme started in October 2018 and is hosted by Zola. Each episode is 30 minutes and focusses on the alleviation of social problems like youth unemployment, housing shortage or insufficient community libraries.[8] Unlike his former show Zola 7, which focused on individuals, Hope with Zola addresses communities and aimes specifically for sustainable development.[9]


Bonginkosi Dlamini has enjoyed success as a Kwaito superstar, and is probably the most popular Kwaito artist in the country; Lance Stehr of Ghetto Ruff records has referred to Zola as "the second biggest brand in the country next to Nelson Mandela."[10] Zola not only performs but also writes and produces some of his own music, signing to the independent label Ghetto Ruff records. Zola will be recording a posthumous collaboration with hip-hop legend Tupac Shakur. The track will be recorded in South Africa but feature on a CD to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Shakur's death on 13 September 1996. Zola is also the owner of the music company Guluva Entertainment.[10]

Originally, Zola was not a fan of Kwaito music, because it "had no message." He has taken upon himself to change this, viewing himself as a role model. "I want to inspire a guy from the ghetto so he can stop hanging around in the corner begging and try to get some life."[11] In the song "Mdlwembe", which literally means problem child, he expresses his feelings about the neighborhood he grew up in. He talks about the horrible quality of life of the township, particularly the extreme level crime and violence. "Beware of the Zola boys, We do crime for money" demonstrates Zola's past and also the perpetual anguish of life in a ghetto.[12] Today, Zola works on behalf of younger performers, helping them to be integrated into the music industry. He is a pioneer in social action and benefit projects in South Africa.[13]

Kwaito is branded as apolitical; often associated with the advancement of personal wealth, Glamorized gangster lifestyle, and frivolous consumption themes found in much of Jamaican Dancehall and Rap. The Genre is associated with a new political freedom gain since the end of Apartheid in South Africa and less political strife.[14] The form of the Kwaito produced by Zola is in that case an anomaly in that it is very much politically charged and contains a social message.[15]

Zola raps in isiZulu with a high usage of Tsotsitaal. The latter is the vernacular slang in South Africa. This infusion of colloquial dialect with a national language allows for better interaction between the artists and the community[16] South Africans in lower socio-economic classes who live in the townships and speak Tsotsi can relate to Kwaito music differently from Cape Town hip hop or US hip hop because of the lyrics. Additionally many of his songs describe situations of life in the townships, particularly Soweto[12]

On 7 July 2007 Zola performed at the South African leg of Live Earth.

Zola rocking the airwaves[edit]

Multi-talented Zola is riding a new wave of success, this time venturing into radio broadcasting. Dlamini is part of the newly-launched Massiv Metro, an online station pioneered by DJ Sbu. eNCA was in studio to witness this historic chapter and sat with Zola after the show to hear how he feels about his new job, Back To The City 2017 and his wish for South Africa. Zola said he aims to use the platform to inspire and empower fellow Africans. Bonginkosi Dlamini, Zola 7 has the drive time show at the station between 5pm and 6pm weekdays, which is targeted at taxi commuters. Speaking to HuffPost SA from the station's studios in Rosebank, DJ Sbu said that he went for Zola 7 because of his wisdom and experience.[17]

DJ Sbu also mentioned that South Africans have an undying love for Zola. Over the years, he has proven through his work that cares about South Africa and the black child. He is very wise and sharp. As soon as we switch on the offering in taxis, it's going to be crazy. His show has a huge following already, even though they are only online for now, so one can only imagine what's going to happen when we go live in the taxis. Of the rest of the line-up, DJ Sbu said his choices were informed about his dream to open up the industry. They are all about that raw township talent. When he thought about the line-up, he thought about the people they are targeting and those are ordinary South Africans, and then wanted presenters who would relate and talk to those people in a language they understand. By ordinary South Africans, He did not mean the Sandton or Camps Bay South African, but he was referring to people from townships across the country. People who would not otherwise be able to listen to an online radio station.[18]

Giving back to the community[edit]

Zola 7 is on mission to boost education. Musician, actor, philanthropist and community builder Bonginkosi Dlamini, also known as Zola 7, continues to empower the youth, this time with his recent bursary programme partnership. Dlamini, who has dedicated most of his life helping the needy, said he couldn't say no when he was asked to be part of the Afribiz Academy technical training institution's initiative. Dlamini said that he was connected through his manager. He believes they contacted him because of the work he has been doing throughout the years trying to help with the bursaries wherever he could. He was asked to assist in their project and he jumped into it. The pushed it, and it became an overwhelming success said Dlamini. Tameez Chothia, the marketing manager at Afribiz Academy mentioned that they are trying to give back to the community in whichever sector where they find a deficit, hence they found it important to invest in education and the future of the youth.The institution, through its partnership with M2 Engineering Academy, has been offering various courses such as electrical, plumbing, building and other construction-related services.The institution has become a beacon of hope for young unemployed people in South Africa seeking to acquire suitable skills.[19]



  • Yizo Yizo season 2
  • Zola 7
  • Rolling with Zola
  • Zabalaza season 3
  • aYeYe season 1
  • isiBaya season 3 and season 4
  • iNkaba season 1
  • Utatakho season 1
  • Zaziwa season 1



  • Umdlwembe (2000)
  • Khokhovula (2002)
  • Bhambatha (2004)
  • Ibutho (2005)
  • Tsotsi (soundtrack of the 2005 motion picture)
  • Impepho (2009)
  • Unyezi (2011)
  • Intathakusa (2014)


He has four South African Music Awards - SAMA

  • Artist of the Year - 2002
  • Best Soundtrack - Yizo Yizo
  • Best Music Video - Ghetto Scandalous
  • Best Kwaito Album - Umdlwembe

He also received three Metro FM Awards 2001

  • Song of the Year - Ghetto Scandalous
  • Best Album of the Year - Umdlwembe
  • Best Kwaito Album - Umdlwembe[20]


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 10 February 2008. Retrieved 22 February 2008.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) The Kwaito Generation
  2. ^ a b Rogers, Douglas (2002-06-20). "Straight outta Jo'burg". The Guardian. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  3. ^ Shota, Babalwa (2004) 'Dare to Dream.' "Sunday Times Magazine", 9, 10–12 May.
  4. ^ "Zola: the townships' beating heart". The Independent. 2006-04-14. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  5. ^ Moganedi, Kgomotso (2015-01-15). "The return of Zola 7?". Daily Sun. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  6. ^ Mopedi, Kemong (2015-06-15). "Bonginkosi 'Zola' Dlamini back with a bang". Destiny Man. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  7. ^ Mkhwanazi, Katlego (2015-07-02). "Utatakho - A dose of paternity drama". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  8. ^ Mothombeni, Aubrey (2018-09-02). "Zola 7 back with new telly show". The Sowetan. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  9. ^ Kekana, Chrizelda (2018-09-07). "Wondering if Hope with Zola is the same as Zola 7? We've got the 411!". Sunday Times. Retrieved 2019-01-08.
  10. ^ a b The Kwaito Generation : Inside Out :: A production of 90.9 WBUR Boston, MA Archived 10 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ BBC World Service | Rhythms of the Continent
  12. ^ a b Mhlambi, Thokozani. "'Kwaitofabulous': The study of a South African urban genre." Journal of the Musical Arts in Africa, vol 1 (2004): 116-27.
  13. ^ Zola: Rising music icon of our time
  14. ^ Stanley-Niaah, Sonjah. "Mapping of Black Atlantic Performance Geographies: From Slave Ship to Ghetto." In Black Geographies and the Politics of Place, ed. by Katherine McKittrick and Clyde Woods, 193-217. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2007
  15. ^ 'I saw blood on the street' | Features | guardian.co.uk Film
  16. ^ nhlanhla sibongile mafu, Johannesburg, 2002 "hybridization and slang in South African poetry" Kagablog 12 December 2007
  17. ^ https://www.enca.com/life/zola-rocking-the-airwaves
  18. ^ https://www.huffingtonpost.co.za/2017/06/23/massiv-metro-is-all-about-about-raw-township-talent-dj-sbu_a_22583822/
  19. ^ https://www.iol.co.za/the-star/news/zola-7-on-mission-to-boost-education-13671565
  20. ^ http://www.redlive.co.za/happened-bonginkosi-dlamini/

External links[edit]