Mandla Modawu was born in Pretoria in 1978. His father, Abram, passed away when he was ten, leaving his mother with two daughters and two sons to care for.
Mandla began singing at the age of eight at Sunday school, and at the age of 11, he joined a newly formed choir of which he is still a member.
At 15, Mandla began teaching himself drums. In 1998, he was asked to join Faith Tabernacle Church as its full-time drummer, as well as to sing and direct music.
In 2003, Mandla enrolled in Central Johannesburg College to study popular music with a major in drumming.
In late October of that year, Mandla met Lucas Bok, who recommended that he join Soweto Gospel Choir as its full-time drummer.