Kwaito is a child of many. It has many namesakes with umbilical chords buried in multiple sites across the land. Of its many names, Sghubu is king. It occurred to me recently that Xigubu in Xitsonga is a term that refers not only to the drum for pre-initiation boys, but the drum’s manufacturing process (by the boys), the study of its tonal qualities, a musical repertoire that goes with it as well as accompanying dance practice (taken up and performed by girls) up to inter-village exchanges in the form of competitions (much like inter-township pantsula ‘competitions’).
For years though, Sghubu in isicamtho spoke to Kwaito. This gets very very interesting in my study of Kwaito and South African music histories. Now that Dj Ganyani made ‘Xigubu’ in 2013, with a back-to-the-roots video set towards and in Limpopo (Giyani) with some elements of Xigubu practice, I can connect these dots. The term Sghubu continues in its trajectory, dropped in House lyrics and Kwaito-influenced urban music expressions. It is my belief that in the national collective, the term Sghubu found a home in Kwaito, although it is seemingly a concept that lives beyond any genre in mainstream terms. Elsewhere I wrestle with Sghubu as referred to in Kwaito:
The use of the term Sghubu is a claim to Kwaito’s unofficial name. Sghubu is a hardcore Kwaito banger. However, like the soundsystem in Jamaican communities, Sghubu can equally refer to a physical sound system and a headspace. Interestingly, the term has traveled with the evolution of black dance music since Kwaito, easily heard in most current House offerings.
Some people may remember the early days in the journey of what we have come to accept as Kwaito, when several names were on the table negotiating this then new sound in urban dance. Since 1993 when names flew around, Gong for me remains the underlying Sghubu sound.
Big up Lindelani Mkhize behind the spreadsheets, Mdu behind the keys, Joe Nina in melodies and many other children of Gong and D’Gong (the cousins at Kalawa Jazmee). Long live foundations of an evolving black sound.
I am battling to define in words the Gong sound, so here I offer Wa Bua from LM Jam ‘The Second Phase’ (1995).
I have this dynamic growing text/mix on Gong and how it occupied a grootman space in the House of Kwaito. Coming out now-now. Watch this space for reviews on key Gong albums with Mma Tseleng the goat of the road. Listening parties are scheduled for the summer of 2014 celebrating 10 years of Gong!
At the Alex Theatre, Braamfontein, Johannesburg
A roll-call of music concepts on drinking & dancing and singing about dancing & drinking in South African music people dance to, then and now. SA artists have over the years offered big jams on intoxication, taking some interesting perspectives on the presence of beer in our life, from political repression (Yvonne Chaka Chaka’s 80’s jam) to the politics of music itself (marabi genre of the 20’s).
In no particular order:
- 6 Pack – Cndo ft Big Nuz /DJ Tira /DJ Cleo/Professor
- Yvonne Chaka Chaka – Umqombothi
- Sweety Lavo – Trompies
- Egoli – Brothers of Peace
- The Brother Moves On – Dagiwe
- The Brother Moves On – Babalaas
- Shwela Jwaleng – Makhendlas
- Jolas – Thebe
- Via Orlando – Vetkuk vs Mahoota
- U Dakwa Njalo – Mafikizolo
- Utshwala Begazati (Shared Beer) – Amaswazi Emvelo And Mahlathini
- Tlabalala (Home Brewed Beer) – Philip Tabane
- Madlamini – Boom Shaka
- Zamalek – Mob Club Masters
- Mafikizolo – U Dakwa Njalo
Looking for more, I know this is not exhaustive at all, please help with the list.
Image source: www.oneworld.co.za
Before DJ Cleo’s share of Nairobi’s dance-floors with Facebook, Yvonne Chaka Chaka’s Umqombothi not only moved a sector of the Kenyan society, but assumed new meanings in the process. So did Luanda and Lagos, the latter singing along their own rendition that refrained ‘Uphi umqombothi…‘ with ‘Looking for husband…”. Heavy, ne?
I enjoyed that people in Nairobi were dancing (or not) and singing (and ululating) along with/to the Ten Cities concert acts, instead of documenting with their smart-phones. Some did, and shared on Social Media in pure service to a beautiful scene (actually, I was told that I have only experienced a middle class scene, I know fokol). I dug Dj Danylo’s set, who later observed how the people took serious attention to the dance-floor, bewitched by what was supposed to be his opener set. The response to new music (and ideas) was most beautiful to experience, it was a pleasure to play music for the people of Nairobi!
Thanks to the Goethe-Institut Nairobi for a brilliant writers’ seminar and concert. I am part of a group of writers engaging with the public sphere and urban space space through the lens of club cultures in five African cities and five European cities. Together with Sean O’Toole, we are chronicling some of Johannesburg’s club cultures from 1960 to now now (a hi hat to The Chronic).
Return right here for my next post, on this very exciting topic.
Tomorrow at SKAFTIEN # 3 I will be experimenting with Simphiwe Tshabalala on drums and Tito Zwane on electric bass. This will be the beginning of a new direction for me and Tito. Simphiwe is a house DJ, and has done this before – a great help, loads of brilliant ideas coming out. Looking forward.
The experiments include breaks and cuts of TKZee’s Mambotjie and Madala Kunene’s Ubombo (Smith & Mighty rmx) amongts others, across genres.
By Kagiso Mnisi
The foremost traits from any popular angle would be that Kwaito is breed-spawning from grubby townships, wags a finger in your face, is irreverant and a head-bop-inducing soundtrack to a deviant youth, perhaps from Meadowlands, Zola or Emndeni. But what this observation aims to precipitate is that the genre has shown interesting anomalies along the way. These woven into our societal narrative with moderate enthusiasm have been a (or the) source of cultural interest – mine at least (I’m biased).
Take for instance the trio that were enveloped by the trappings of private school education at St Stithians, laden with curfews, choir practices, prefecthood, olympiads, abundant extracurricular activities and dining hall camaraderie. Yes, the threesome that evolved Kwaito to Guz had the fervour of ivy leaguers coupled with command interhouse sporting codes and the signature war cry to cheer on the resident mascot. All these privileges enjoyed by Tokollo Tshabalala, Kabelo Mabalane and Zwai Bala of the much famed Kwaito outfit TKZee, a grand ponder indeed considering that Kwaito has always been a nonsensical can’t-touch-come-ragnarok phenomenon to the highbrow. Now how close to the royal suite has the jester been, we ask?
TKZee Guz crusade roped in football star Bennie McCarthy in a track known as Shibobo, as an entree to what was to be France ’98. The song galvanised and entertained in one take, it also punted the trio as having a progressive take in the musical landscape with bravado to match. With this arsenal we were on their side as much as we were on Bafana Bafana’s. Though the ultimate outcome on the sporting field was several dismal performances on the world stage and the irksome neglect by the national coach to arm the squad with Doctor Khumalo’s footwork, we were bopping amid kan jy nie sien o Bennie maak jou maal. Yes, those Methodist school boys had us street bashing along regardless of Pierre Issa’s own goals.
But get it – when it was TKZee who took off gloves to exchange blows with Mdu Masilela in the parodied Masimbela, they had declared war against a player whom many deem a pioneer of the game. The row got pronounced after a project gone wrong while Tokollo Mabalane had moonlighted as part of Mashamplani, a group managed by Masilela under his MDU Music label. Masimbela‘s refrain goes as follows:
ne kile kwana Mashamplani/afihla’nketsetsa mathaithai/hela ntate/helantate waka/moshiman’onketsetesa mathaithai…
which sonically and lyrically unfolds how Tokollo (and Sbu, who feautures on the track) was done wrong or poorly compensated in whatever deal was struck by the A&R Mdu. Things had gone way past pleasantries, as the Ymag cover would depict a spread of the trio demonstrating their sense of triumph. As colloquial lexicon would have it, they were running the streets.
But like with all rock ’n rollers, dealings with the devil for fame have shaky repercussions. The latest fad in the TKZee camp was to binge on contraband and forge brotherhood with the maverick Moses Molelekwa. Molelekwa’s troubled keys are an exact analogy with TKZee’s dive into ‘high’ times. The story amazingly takes in its stride anecdotes such as Mambotjie, which had with it the myths on how a tokoloshe’s mischief can be circumvented by having a mattress on top of bricks. This is relayed in the song’s video starring a burly DJ Fresh trying to ward off all the miniature creatures in his room, but they were not ordinary in that Y-fm’s live and dangerous breakfast show host Phat Joe was one of them, reeling along a vinyl desk. Curfew and the obligatory mass after class was now a distant memory.
The plot would further thicken when a student from Sacred Heart College, one named Kagiso Diseko aka Gwyza, sought attention from the group and later ended as roadie. His persistence led to a feature in the self-affirming We love this place. The empire saw a need to expand operations with inclusions of Sbu and Dr Mageu. This resulted in a further addled, media loathing, dyslexic (confusing fiasco for fiesta or vis-a-vie) TKZee Family.
The mid-break clad with anomalies is not only for TKZee to claim, though! What of that Italian bella, conceived in Belgium, wanting to tread the road less traveled? Her cue should’ve been prompted by those who previously shone the scene aglitter, like Jacknife featuring a prepubescent Thandiswa, for that matter. Let us not be presumptous with Tamara Dey’s union with Oscar Mdlongwa’s younger brother, DJ Pepsi, though. But good enough suggests that they too are of the romantic musing on ‘the unlikely’. Coming through with gem What Am I To Do and the ever so mellowsome anthem Deeper, the combo had concocted an alluring formula that saw Kwaito assuming maturity.
So that is an emphatic yes – the genre has been akin to hymns sung by church-school lads just as it drove a Belgian-born songstress to skip curfew so as to club-hop with one Dj Pepsi. A far end observation from dusty streets, Yizo-esque and truant activity. Just a look at the unlikely, that’s it.
Image – notation by Nkosinathi Mathunjwa