I sometimes feel like artists deny themselves classic albums, for the sake of streaming numbers. I truly don’t see the purpose of an album exceeding 12 tracks, in this day in age. A 22-track album could have 10 songs that are adequate for a masterpiece.
These and many other things swirled in my head while listening to YoungstaCPT’s album, 3T. It’s a combination of laziness and also being economical with my time, which makes me shun long-ass projects. It’s for this and many other reasons that till this day, I haven’t bothered myself to listen to Drake’s Scorpion.
I forced myself to press play on the 3T album and was gripped by the seven minute intro, Pavement Special. The sound of Adhan coming from the mosque, hooting taxis and a vendor hustling on the streets, immediately put me on a sidewalk in Cape Town. Long as it is, the intro served its purpose in pulling me into Youngsta’s world.
I’ve played 3T countless times now, and with each listen I appreciate its length because the album takes you through the world of a young coloured man, learning about his origins, through conversations with his grandfather. I’ve often felt like media has denied people of truly knowing the average coloured person you would spot in Eersterust, Rabie Ridge or in the Cape flats.
Not to suggest that Shane Eagle, Stanton Fredericks or Pam Andrews are less coloured than YoungstaCPT. The rapper from the Mother City genuinely put a spotlight on what it truly is to be a coloured person, living in South Africa today.
The first track is titled VOC,Voice of the Cape, but it could be easily interpreted as Voice Of the Coloureds in how this album places him as a mouthpiece of that community.
I was pleasantly surprised by his beat selection, I expected a barrage of Boom-Bap sounds that would accompany Yougsta’s undemanding storytelling. The shit slaps.
Ignorance is bliss they say, and my heavy consumption of music made listening to 3T slightly uncomfortable at times due to the familiarity of some of the songs on Youngsta’s album. Yaatie, where Youngsta pushes himself with the flow on the bouncy beat, reminded me of Kendrick’s Humble. While Pallet Gun cringingly jogged my memory to AKA’s Dreamwork.
YVR made me wana see Youngsta perform the song live, in front of thousands of fans jumping up and down, shouting ‘Young Van Riebeeck’ under a downpour.
There is something Nipsey Hussle-esque about Youngsta. More than just the music, it’s about their strong connection to their neighbourhoods, their street credibility, their inquisitive nature and the desire to share knowledge with those around them. To Live and Die in CA has such a West Coast feel to it, you’d swear Youngsta is from L.A.
Youngsta’s hook game on this album probably has some pop artist envious. Had it not been for the significant conversations he has with his grandfather, you could just press play and let the album flow at a party. The Cape of Good Hope and Just Be Lekker are some of the tracks with a catchy hooks.
Tik Generation and 786 presented a nice Boom-Bap interval from the Trap sound which dominates the album. Youngsta’s oupa talks at the end of Tik Generation, where he likens the 70s crack epidemic in the US’ Negro communities, to the drug problem in the Cape flats today. The conversations between the grandson and his mkhulu are important to this album as Cole’s Note to self outro on 2014 F.H.L.D.
I would understand why some people might skip their dialogue, but the old man drops so many jewels of wisdom, it personally made me wana to sit down and chop it up with the old man about other things.
3T is one of the better albums to come of Mzansi in the last five years, but could’ve easily become a classic with the slashing of some joints. But it’s well worth the listen.
LAST YEAR’S OPPIKOPPI was a crime scene. And like any other misconduct, the black man is the suspect, but this time it’s him and his music that are to blame for ruining the vibes at long-running festival OppiKoppi. Or at least indirectly.
“Stop trying to cater for everyone. Keep [it] at a targeted audience. Don’t fix what isn’t broken…Oppi was and should stay a Rock festival,” said Marina van der Walt on Facebook.
Despondency came over hippies across South Africa last week when it was announced that this year’s installment of the OppiKoppi music festival has been postponed due to the ridiculous high rate of crime in 2018. The festival has fallen victim to a syndicate of pickpockets that have rampaged South African music events over the last two to three years. From Hip Hop festival Back To The City to the annual youth month celebrations at Basha Uhuru where I was personally a victim of pickpocketing- it’s become a headache for most South African event organisers.
Founded in 1994, OppiKoppi started out as an Afrikaans indie/folk Rock festival attended by a few hundreds of Caucasians from different parts of the country, in a small bar. The line-up would be dominated by alternative Afrikaans Rock artists who were in line with the Voëlvry Movement, which was an Afrikaans movement that sang anti-apartheid songs in that language in the late 80s and early 90s. The kinda boere that would chuck away Die Beeld for Vrye Weekblad.
OppiKoppi has substantially grown over the years attracting alternative African artists, who together came with a bigger and a more diverse audience. The site of Lucky Dube, Vusi Mahlasela and Zim Ngqawana sharing the stage with the likes of Karen Zoid and David Kramer did not make long-standing patrons uncomfortable. It’s the introduction of mainstream African acts such as Afro-Pop trio Malaika, HHP and AKA that left a bitter taste on most people.
“Somehow the Voëlvry Movement that started all of this has been forgotten in the static. OppiKoppi is a living creature born through the wail of the electric guitar man. You can’t change the nature of the beast. You want AKA? You want Cassper? You want all that Hip Hop? Then a new festival must be born that shakes to that rhythm. Why do you want to force the spirit of Rock ‘n Roll to be untrue to itself?” asked Ni-Lou Breytenbach on Facebook, responding to Oppi’s statement of postponement.
Speaking to Tha Bravado, Theresho Selesho who is the CEO of Matchbox Live which organises OppiKoppi, doesn’t think the festival’s growth has also been its Achilles heel. “The Festival has always been about freedom and fostered a safe environment where people can be free to connect, discover new acts, genres and have a great time out in the bushveld, which is a precious experience. We strongly condemn racism, sexism or any other form of discrimination at OppiKoppi. We are very happy with the strides that the festival has made over the years where a diverse audience can all enjoy OppiKoppi.”
But this amalgamation of cultures hasn’t been enjoyed by everyone though. “OppiKoppi has sold out for 20 years running before they took over. Still, the response is ‘genre diversity is something we have always welcomed’ their historical cult-like following is based on a Rock festival, not genre diversity,” said Peet van Wyk.
Over 80 cell phones were reported stolen last year, with items in people’s tents and cars taken, it’s by grace that no sexual assault was reported at the festival. “The crime incidences and stats nearly doubled in the previous year,” Selesho says. “This has in turn taken a lot of freedoms away from our fans and the safety of our audience and their belongings is our main priority.”
Selesho and his team have promised a return of Oppi next year, giving them sufficient time to find ways of guaranteeing people’s safety at the festival. Whether that’ll mean no Hip Hop or even House act, it shall be seen on the 25th chapter of OppiKoppi next year.
THERE isn’t anything intimidating or thrilling to a creative as a blank page, a naked canvass stationed solely for your ideas. The feeling of pressure engrosses the creative when they’ve fallen off the horse of inspiration; constantly banging their heads against the hardest surface, for the sweetest creative juices to spew outta them.
Wordsmiths will tell you of the writer’s block they go through when attempting to take their work to the next level. The agitation they get during this period, is similar to understanding a language but not being able to speak it. Or knowing where home is, yet clueless about the directions. Or simply losing the remote and not knowing where to find it. It gets really bad. Not just for writers, but all creatives.
Alcohol and drugs are then seen as keys which unlock doorways to multiple eureka moments. They help one unwind and not overthink the process of creating, but that’s only for a little while. Many times we’ve seen artists rapidly go from using a drug for unwinding, to simply utilizing it as a crutch. So drugs aren’t a long term solution to get you back on the proverbial horse of inspiration. For singer songwriter Fortune Shumba when that time comes, it hits quite hard. “I usually go looking for inspiration. I find inspiration in the oddest of places. Sometimes I go for a walk, sometimes I watch a series or porn, sometimes I start texting some of my friends-I make it a point to not listen to someone else’s music though, to avoid unintentional jacking. It happens.”
Other creatives have taken the psychedelic micro-dosing route, where a person takes a sub-threshold of psychedelic drugs daily for creative improvement, emotional balance and various other reasons. “For me, I usually wait it out. It’s frustrating in the moment, I wait it out and trust the process and just start looking for inspiration,” says lyricist Ginger Trill. “It will usually happen while listening to other music that I find genius, or even different enough to be dope. The key is patience and trusting the process, sometimes you need that drought to help you unlock another level.”
What makes this whole shandis worse is that, as a creative you’re spending long hours and days fretting over something that the average reader or listener will momentarily engage with, turn and then ask you, ‘what else do you have?’ So the pressure to keep churning out the good stuff is constantly on your back like AfriForum on Julius Malema’s rear.
Chefs thoroughly think through their meals which are consumed within minutes, long before stepping into the kitchen. It’s a double edged sword. But creative work has the ability to leave a lifetime effect on a person, even after brief interaction with the work.
Ironically some artists will engage with works by other eccentric thinkers, to spark their creative juices back to life. This act is not done to make one Austin Kleon (author of Steal Like An Artist) proud, but rather inspire you as a creative to get back and do what you do, which works for visual artist Thandazani Ndlovu, when he’s in no man’s land in front of a canvass. “I usually visit other artists that inspire me, or galleries,” he says. It could be a conversation with a fellow artist or sometimes collaborating with them. “Artists feed off each other,” Ndlovu says.
“Personally, I meditate,” singer songwriter Tsoness, from duo Tribal PunQ tells me. “[I] go to shows that inspire me, watch music on YouTube in hope of bumping into some inspiring tracks.”
Music producer Kabelo ‘KaeB’ Tsoako also finds himself pressing the same keys one too many times trying to break new grounds sonically. “When I don’t make actual music I’ll either mix songs or clean up all songs, but there’s a time [where] I don’t even touch music, then I’ll binge watch stuff on Netflix.”
Angela Mthembu who is a poet from live ensemble, PG13 doesn’t see it a drought per se. You know how Kanye West saw his breakdowns last year as breakthroughs, well Miss Mthembu’s views on clogged creativity vessels are on the optimistic side of life as well.
“I remember placing all the poetry that I’ve ever written on my bed you know, and I was like none of these are actually good enough. I remember saying to myself ‘what if the idea of writer’s block is the ability to improve your previous work?’ I held each poem I placed on the bed and rewrote it as Angela at that moment-from that day onwards, every time I go through the idea that I might have writer’s block, I have interpreted it as the universe saying it’s time to improve. ”
Each to their own right? But once you’ve coherently saturated that intimidating blank page with your ideas, it becomes work. Which often leaves you with a ting of pride and an avalanche of vindication for all the agony you went through, just to create.
FELA ANIKULAPO KUTI is a legit icon. An abrasive visionary, very much deliberate with his truth. His music is sonically enchanting, with the political astuteness to match his swagger. Rightfully celebrated in Africa, and throughout the world, his legacy will stand for a very long time.
But the Kalakuta Queens, or the 27 women that Fela married as they are shabbily known, are not acknowledged for the role they played in the life of Fela Kuti.
In today’s language you could say Fela was woke, but it was a woman that woke him up. Before meeting his American girlfriend Sandra Izsadore, Fela usually laughed at proud black Americans’ insistence on drawing inspiration from the African continent. “She was telling me about Africa, she says ‘don’t I know that Africans taught the Europeans everything they know today’ I say you talking shit. She said ‘there are books’ I say show me a book, she gave me Malcom X to read,” said Fela in an interview talking about how Izsadore put him on knowledge that would give his music meaning.
That is only just one aspect of the impact women have had on Fela. Critically acclaimed Nigerian musical play, Fela and The Kalakuta Queens goes deeper into the life-long bonds Fela had with these women who are unknown to the world, who left their homes to build a life with the off-kilter artist.
“History has not been fair to the Kalakuta Queens because they were his pillar and backbone during his struggle. They stood for him against all odds and they were never remembered. It becomes important to tell their story because a story about Fela is incomplete with his women. History will never forget the Queens with the musical we have which shows the role they play in the struggles with Fela,” says the play’s director, Bolanle Austen-Peters.
Fela and The Kalakuta Queens has been at the South African State Theatre just over a week now, until this coming Sunday. It premiered in Lagos two years ago and has been a global hit since. It is choreographed by Paolo Sisiano and Justin Ezirim, with renowned composer, Kehinde Oretimehin on the production. The character of Fela is projected by both OLaitan “Heavywind” Adeniji and Patrick Diabuah who lead the thirty-six members cast, backed by a fifteen-piece band in the ensemble.
Auten-Peters is an award winning writer and entrepreneur who has established different businesses, including Terra Kulture, a combination of museum, an art gallery and a restaurant all rolled into one in Nigeria, and the Bolanle Austen-Peters Productions (BAP).
Stories of phenomenal black women who found themselves sharing life with great men, are limited to their roles as wives, with society shunning their individuality and unique contribution.
“Well, overtime I have seen different plays written and stories told about Fela. However, there has been little or no emphasis about his women. I have come to realize that it is time for us to tell our own stories so I decided to tell Fela’s story from a different angle. I took a critical look at the life of Fela and I saw that there is a gap that needs to be filled, an uncharted territory that needs to be covered and an amazing story to tell.”
The musical hasn’t only been appreciated by fans of Fela, but also the real life Kalakuta Queens. “Most of the Queens are alive, in fact some of them came on stage to give testimonials when we first staged the musical. They have been very helpful in the course of this production and I must say without them we would not have been able to put this together accurately,” says Austen-Peters. “They gave us real accounts of what transpired in the house and details of how they lived together with Fela.”
“People leave the arena crying because many never understood the things the Queens went through with Fela. The Musical is not only educative but also very informative as the audience gets to be informed about the ordeal between Fela, the Police and his women.”
THANDAZANI NDLOVU is big, quiet and quite meticulous-like an elephant. A herd of elephants has tight matriarchal bonds, led by the oldest and largest of the female elephants-similar to Thandazani’s upbringing.
The Zimbabwean born artist understands and knows the significance of a home led by a strong woman, so much so that he’s dedicating his first solo exhibition to women, titled Depicting Woman. This of course was inspired by the head of the Ndlovu herd. “My mother, who took over and raised us as a single parent after my father passed away,” Thandazani tells me.
For nearly 10 years it seemed like his passion for the arts was gonna be buried in a nine-to-five he had at a factory. “To provide for my family I designed shoes. The visual arts was my first love and I felt torn not being able to give 100% and dividing my time between both places. I took a chance on my passion and it worked out for the better.”
“I’m inspired by the role my mother played in my life and the role women have in the township and around the world,” says the self-taught artist from Nkulumane Township, in Bulawayo.
Depicting Woman opens today at A-Lounge in Nelspruit Mpumalanga, where it’ll run for a month. “Women are powerful, they are strong and can do anything! Looking at how they raise children manage homes.” Thandazani will have 20 pieces on display for Depicting Woman.
He learnt about dedication and focus during his time in the shoemaking industry, which he still uses today in his art. There’s a sense of abstractness to his work, but with a sharp focus of depicting the emotions of his subject.
Although this might be his first solo exhibition, Thandazani got on the scene after creating a series in which he portrayed fading African cultures-which led to several commissioned work, one of which sits in the National Gallery of Zimbabwe. “I will do an exhibition in Gauteng, but [with] a different theme.”