SAPS members generally exist to protect and maintain order, but one officer has made it his job to safeguard other people’s dreams as well.

Sabelo Tolbard (35) voluntarily manages a Maskandi group known as Abanqobi Bezizwe (‘World Conquerors’).

“I grew up as a big Maskandi fanatic cos it’s a popular genre in my home town Centane in the Eastern Cape. I used to go watch live performances and that’s how I met these young men. Though they often collaborated, they were still solo artists at the time and I fell more in love with their music. One thing that struck me was how they were struggling. Yes, they produced all the great songs but there was no progress,” Sabelo recalls. He adds Centane has groomed and honed one of the best Maskandi artists.

Sabelo presses the rewind button on his life back to his young days.

“I was raised by both parents and alongside four siblings. My parents weren’t able to take me to tertiary so I had to go find a job in Cape Town in 2005. It was painful cos I would’ve wished to study further. I was an active person at school and I played javelin. I was super good in Mathematics and Physics.”

At only 21, Sabelo had to pack his bag and head to the Mother City to see what life had in store for him.

“In 2006 I got a job at SAPS. Life in the township is different but you must remain grounded to your roots at all times. Urban areas are ahead in the sense that there’s more job opportunities here than there.”

It was in Cape Town that he started following the artists who are now Abanqobi Bezizwe.

“I grew closer to them and it became more apparent they needed assistance, and that’s where I stepped in. What I saw was a huge talent that would go down the drain if nobody intervened. We just clicked from the onset and early 2018 they form the group.”

One of the jovial members, known as Sound Mind, says their union was inevitable.

“We had a good working relationship as solos. What we noticed was the songs we collaborated on were the most popular with our fans. And we thought we’re better off together than apart. Also, our respective fans as solo artists came together after we formed the group and became one,” Sound Mind adds.

“You’ve to bounce off ideas past other members and see what others feel about it. You’ve to understand each other,” says Scorpion, another member of the group.

Sabelo admits he got more than he bargained for.

“They approached me and asked me to be their manager and to be honest I didn’t want to. I just wanted to assist where I can and I wasn’t looking at anything beyond that. I was scared cos I became their fan from a distance and I didn’t think I was up for the challenge.”

A second member of the trio, Scorpion, says their manager isn’t cut from your regular cloth.

“Working with him wasn’t an overnight decision. We chose him amongst other people cos his work spoke volumes. We went to different places with him and he stood out from the rest,” Scorpion added.

The music calling was too loud for Sabelo to ignore so he succumbed.

“I ended up giving in to their demands! Now we needed to go record an album but they didn’t have money and I needed to dig into my pocket.

September 2018 I drove them to Joburg where they could record a high quality album and I paid for their studio time with the last penny I had. That’s how much I believe in their talent,” says Sabelo, the father of three.

Abanqobi Bezizwe’s music is only going up and they’re not planning to tone down the volume.

“We launched the album Vumani in December 2018 and it’s been in demand since then. Mzansi loves Maskandi music. I get calls from places like KZN and Eastern Cape and people want to buy CDs. But there’s no financial gain for me. I’ve got to make sure I use that money to buy them uniforms so they look presentable. I’ve got to knock on doors for them and manage my time effectively as I have my day job. The journey just started and we’re taking over Maskandi,” concludes Sabelo.

Bapushe, the third member, wraps up the interview with a few words.

“You mustn’t look down on where you come from. You must seek for assistance from those who have more experience than you, and try to infuse it with your own knowledge.” He drops the mic.

For bookings and CD purchases contact: Sabelo Tolbard on 083 547 7728
Facebook: Abanqobi Bezizwe


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