Solomon Popoli Linda was born near Pomeroy, on the labor reserve Msinga, Umzinyathi District Municipality in Ladysmith in Natal, where he was familiar with the traditions of amahubo and izingoma zomtshado (wedding songs) music. He attended the Gordon Memorial mission school where he learned somewhat about Western musical culture, hymns, and choir contests in which he participated. Influenced by the new syncopated music that had been introduced into South Africa from the US during the 1880s, he included it in the Zulu songs he and his friends sang at weddings and feasts.
In 1931, Linda, like many other young African men of those times, left his homestead to find menial work in Johannesburg, by then a sprawling gold-mining town with a great demand for cheap labour. He worked in the Mayi Mayi Furniture Shop on Small Street and sang in a choir, known as the Evening Birds, managed by his uncles, Solomon and Amon Madondo, and which disbanded in 1933.
Linda found employment at Johannesburg’s Carlton Hotel and started a new group that retained the Evening Birds name. The members of the group were Solomon Linda (soprano), Gilbert Madondo (alto), Boy Sibiya (tenor), with Gideon Mkhize, Samuel Mlangeni, and Owen Sikhakhane as basses. They were all Linda’s friends from Pomeroy.
The group evolved from performances at weddings to choir competitions. Linda’s musical popularity grew with the Evening Birds, who presented “a very cool urban act that wears pinstriped suits, bowler hats and dandy two-tone shoes”.