Khanyile ''was born in Soweto, and was forced to abandon his education at the age of fourteen in order to earn a living, after his mother died''. His father was a miner and performed traditional a capella songs, and his brother John played in a reggae and soul covers band.'' Jabu followed them into music, first joining a local band called The Daffodils, and in 1974 joining John's band The Editions as a drummer, later becoming the group's vocalist''.'' In 1977 he moved on to The Movers, and by 1984 Khanyile had joined Bayete as drummer, a band that combined Afro-jazz and reggae. Bayete split up in 1992, and Khanyile embarked on a solo career, with releases credited to Jabu Khanyile & Bayete, although none of the original members of Bayete were involved by this time''.'' Khanyile became known internationally in 1996 after an appearance at the Royal Gala evening in honour of Nelson Mandela''.