Exuberant, vibrant and irrepressible – Mabaleka is a both a musical bond and a brotherhood of spirit; two Canadian siblings -- Malusi and Khosi Mabaleka – who write, perform and record acoustically based country-folk music. Propelled by the dynamic rhythms of powerful tandem guitars, their handcrafted harmonies transport convincing messages of optimism and celebration from the prairies of Saskatchewan to the world.
Unknowing audiences, who might expect delicate song stylings when Malusi and Khosi take the stage with acoustic guitars, are in for a surprise. Mabaleka cut their proverbial teeth performing above the rowdy din in raucous venues. “In our early days we were playing battles of the bands with acoustic guitars against heavy rock and roll, the favorite style in Ottawa, where we grew up,” they note. “So we had to bring that big sound.”
Not to overstate the obvious, but Mabaleka bears scant visual resemblance to many of their country-folk counterparts. “We have this opportunity to surprise people, because they are automatically paying a little more attention, to see if it’s going to be real,” acknowledges the duo.
Born in Zimbabwe, Malusi and Khosi came to Canada as infants, and began develop their vocal and performance skills in church, where they gained additional proficiency plus the experience of playing in bands.
They developed their vocal and performance skills in church, where they gained additional proficiency plus the experience of playing in bands. Hillsong United and the artistry of the church’s Joel Houston and Marty Sampson were prime influences, as the brothers would play along at home with their concerts.
As a duo, this shared background was imperative. “We wanted to be able to sing music that talked about our faith, but not necessarily from a religious genre standpoint,” they emphasize. Modern country artists like Darius Rucker, Keith Urban and Florida-Georgia Line also express these positive themes. “We fell in love with country music,” they acknowledge. “We shifted our focus to gospel-country, but in a secular way.”
Although influenced by musical role models, Malusi and Khosi have created their own opportunities in establishing their musical identity. Since their founding as a duo, Mabaleka has released two EP’s, with both their eponymous debut and Do You Like Me? earning prime slots on radio playlists. A narrative video for their single “Crashed Upon The Wave,” garnered an honor for the Ottawa International Film Festival Music Video of the Year.
A chance meeting at the Canadian Country Music Awards has led to opportunities in Ireland, where the duo conducted their first-ever international tour and appeared live on the series BalconyTV in Galway. “Being in the industry means having the chance to travel and meet people,” they avow. “We only live once, and we never know when these opportunities will present themselves.” Plans are underway to make regular tour jaunts across the UK and to Australia.
Meanwhile, as Mabaleka continues to enhance their artistry, they are expressing themselves with new songs in tune with an ever-expanding global audience. In recordings, they might augment their sound with additional instruments, but in live performances they maintain the unmistakable musical chemistry of two brothers, two guitars, and one kindred sound in harmony with passion and purpose. “It started with us wanting to perfect the two of us, and that’s what happened,” they note. “We’re brothers. It’s the family vibe. We keep it simple – and simpler makes it more essential.”