TK (Tsakani Mhinga) PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 29 November 2008 17:36

TK (Electromode records)Tsakani "TK" Mhinga

Born: 1979

Died: 27 February 2006, Bryanston, Johannesburg, South Africa.


Cause of death: Drug overdose.

Notable because: Talented singer on upward career path succumbs to depression and dies young.


Tsakani "TK" Mhinga was a SAMA award-winning South African R&B and kwaito artist who went by the stage name of TK. She was a princess of the baTsonga tribe of the Limpopo Province, as well as the niece of veteran South African singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka.

Her singing style was sometimes compared to that of Mariah Carey, and her voluptuous looks and charismatic stage presence reminded some of Beyoncé Knowles.

She was found dead in a Bryanston, Johannesburg hotel room by hotel staff on 27 February 2006, of what seemed to be either a drug overdose or a drug-induced suicide.

Mhinga was the eldest child of Chief Shilungwa and Tebogo Mhinga of the baTsonga tribe of the Limpopo province, growing up in Soweto, Johannesburg. At age 12 she first sang in public, singing Over the Rainbow, at a talent competition.

Though her first name “Tsakani” means “to be happy”, the singer’s life was often less so. Mhinga’s relationships with men seemed to have been disappointing, starting with her father, whom she described as being “more like a visitor to our home” with her mother raising her and her three siblings mostly alone.

Her first taste of the music industry came from her electric, chemistry driven collaborations with rapper Mizchif.

Since her father was opposed to her being a singer, she launched her solo musical career without telling her family, with her debut album, TKO, in 2000.

This was followed in 2001 by a second album, Tsakani, that included the club hit Eject yo’ ass.

In 2002, TK performed with international act Foxy Brown at the Gauteng R&B Hip Hop Festival and opened for Keith Sweat and Deborah Cox on their South African concerts. TK was also a participant in Celebrity Big Brother UK during this year.

Her third and last album, Black Butterfly (2003) was considered her best. TK’s vocals on the title track (which was written and recorded in only one day) have been compared to that of Mariah Carey. It also includes a poignant rendition of Over the Rainbow, of which TK professed a certain fondness. In celebration of this album, TK’s record company suggested she have a butterfly tattooed onto her left arm. After having them phone her mother for permission first, she happily consented.

Despite being a celebrated artist, none of TK’s albums sold more than 25 000 copies, though she still hoped to reach a worldwide audience, by infusing her style of Rhythm & Blues with an indigenous African flavour.

During her short career, TK had some considerable legal wrangles, the first; surrounding her stage name "TK", with that of similar sounding Kwaito group TKZ. The second turned out to be disappointing, when she was offered a seven-record deal with UK based label Polydor shortly after the release of her first album. This deal was quickly revoked after threats from the local producers of the album.

In the inlay of TKO, Mhinga wrote “I am holding my breath whilst writing my thank yous”. This she explained as fears of the reception of her musical style, for which she was often criticized and ridiculed.

Black Butterfly is a good example of her fusion of styles, with tracks ranging from upbeat hip-hop to sultry R&B ballads with some kwaito remixes thrown in.

TK had a considerable following under the South African gay community, based on her sassy vocals, cheeky lyrics and the grinding beats of her tracks. When asked which woman she would hypothetically pursue a relationship with if she were gay and given a choice, she replied that it would probably be Alyssa Milano for her beauty and seemingly fun personality.

In 2002, she caused minor tremors posing nude for local women’s magazine Pace, while pregnant.

She had one child, her son Oratile, and raised him as a single parent. She refused to reveal the identity of her son’s father, who left her before the birth, saying that only the baby needs to know who his father is. TK’s single Mind yo’ business off her debut album speaks of the realities of life where a Prince Charming doesn’t exist.

Her last relationship ended sometime around Valentine’s Day, two weeks before her death, after which she subsequently moved into a hotel in Bryanston, while looking for a new home.

On the day before her death, Sunday 26 February 2006, she apparently she was entertaining a few friends, including kwaito star Mandoza, at the hotel where she was staying. The gathering subsequently turned into a late-night party in her hotel room.

At around 10:00 on Monday February 27th she spoke on the phone with her manager, and at around 11:00 a friend dropped by, wanting to take her to lunch. She declined, saying she was going to take a bath.

Mhinga was found dead at approximately 13:30 by hotel staff, after she failed to answer their calls.

Speculation that someone else was in the room with her is derived from the fact that her partially dressed body was found covered with a sheet.

Police have stated though, that her body did not have any marks on it, and that there was no sign of forced entry into her room.

The most common assumption is that the cause of death was either a drug overdose or a drug-induced suicide.

Mhinga was working on her fourth album at the time of her death. EMI records plans to release a compilation of her work. A trust has also been established for her young son.

Local newspapers were quick to make comparisons between Tsakani Mhinga’s death and that of other 27-year-old musicians, such as Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain.


Last Updated on Friday, 22 June 2012 08:00

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