Shangaan disco king Penny Penny takes us on a colourful journey with his reality show as we get to know the legend’s family, life and music. A father to more than two dozen children, there’s no shortage of baby mama drama for him.

How Papa Penny made it to the top

31 May 2019

Papa Penny’s reality show has turned him into a national legend, but it’s taken 25 years of hard work to get where he is today.

More good times and Gaza Palace upgrades for Papa Penny. Ahee!

His larger-than-life personality has made him a fan favourite and Season 3 of his reality show has everyone talking.

Dancing to his own tune

Being one of 68 children – yes, you read that right, that’s 68 brothers and sisters – the young Giyani Kulani, better known by his stage name Penny Penny, had to learn to survive from a young age. His father was a local witch-doctor who had 25 wives (try to keep up with the numbers). As a result, there was often little to eat, and the young Giyani received no formal education.

But this kid had a destiny, and he knew it. As early as the 80s, he started making music, fusing his African style with the influences of breakdancing and Michael Jackson. Those who saw him dance dubbed him “Penny”, and a persona was born.

Watch Papa Penny Ahee S3 online on DStv Now »

By his 19th birthday, Penny Penny had started working in a mine to provide for himself, his mother and his siblings. He opened his own restaurant and got a job as a janitor at a music studio. “I had no place to sleep,” he says in an interview with Rolling Stone. “I would hide in the building and clean the place. When they opened the studio in the morning, the place was clean.” It was here that he introduced himself to music producer Joseph Shirimani, who produced his debut album, Shaka Bundu, in 1994. Against the odds, Papa Penny’s self-named “bubble-gum style” music shot up the charts, and the Penny Penny brand became a sensation.

If Looks Could Kill/golden touch

With an iconic hairstyle that pushes the boundaries, especially for a self-confessed traditional man, one look at the perfectly done up-do leaves an everlasting impression. For Penny Penny, all that glitters really is gold, and viewers have seen just how much he loves the colour. From the décor in his living room to his music studio, it’s a treasure trove of gold ornaments. One of his singles was even titled “Gold Bone”, referring to a beautiful light-skinned coloured girl whose skin was, well…golden.

For the love of Giyani

But Penny Penny isn’t just about the bling. Unlike his counterparts in the music industry, he resisted the urge to relocate to Johannesburg and his activism in the impoverished region of Giyani in Limpopo has not gone unnoticed. He has publicly advocated for free running water and promoted micro-farming of the rich yet underutilised land in the area to ensure that even impoverished households have food. He even set out to introduce his mother tongue to the world, recording his songs in a mix of English and the local Tsonga dialect of Xihlanganu, which is only spoken in the Limpopo region. From a kid who never went to school to music star and reality show sensation, Penny Penny fought the odds and won. You kind of get why he’s so full of himself. And when he uses his power for good, well, it’s no wonder the fans love him.

And then there were 25

Unlike his father, Penny Penny is not a polygamist … yet … (there was that joking-but-not-joking comment about a second wife). He has actually gone to the trouble of marrying and later divorcing the mothers of all his children – as far as we know.

Still keeping up with the numbers? Good, because 2019 marks the year the 57-year-old will welcome baby number 25. Penny Penny proudly revealed that his wife Mama Nomi is expecting a boy. He even jokes that he can’t be beaten by former President Jacob Zuma who has sired … okay, let’s not even go there. And if you’re wondering when Penny Penny plans to slow down and rein it in, he laughs that as long as he is able, he’ll keep on having children.

Clearly, he’s applying the same multiplication theory to successful seasons his show. While fans were still ululating over the latest addition to the family, all of Mzansi had the Twitter-lols when Penny Penny kicked off the season three of the show with a whole soirée for the unveiling of … the pool!

His not-so-humble abode, nicknamed Gaza Palace, hosted the whole village and everyone drank a toast … to the pool. Something tells us there’ll be more toasting and celebrations before season three ends, and in true Giyani style, we salute “Ahee!”.

Watch Papa Penny Ahee S3 on Wednesdays on Mzansi Magic (161) at 20:00
Also available on Catch Up and DStv Now »