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