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Creativity, check. Technical astuteness and the ability to communicate ideas through design, check. Great visual awareness, check. There isn’t a prerequisite box that set-designers need to tick that Noluthando Lobese hasn’t. Being a hip black female and with a uniquely dope moniker like Hashtag Texture, she’s an off-kilter set-designer that tells stories authentically.

Lobese is currently the Art Director on the hit drama series, Vula Vala. The show is directed by Mandla N with Tiyane Nyembe as the DP (Director of Photography).

“Having an artistic leader as Mandla N, everyday was a wonderful challenge that my team and myself had to overcome. I think we really did well from transforming spaces to fit within our world to serve the story,” Lobese says.

As art director, Lobese created the world that the audience has been immersed in on the drama series. “From creating our own mealiemeal branding, newspaper branding and logo designs for the  soccer team ( Scorpions team) that includes banners, soccer balls and flags. It was all in the detail that can sometimes be overlooked by the viewer.”

Detail is imperative in this type of work, hence her nickname. “It definitely has to do with my work, telling stories through texture plays a great deal in my work. Texture is everything. It is authentic, through landscapes of texture stories can be told in an authentic visual aesthetic,” Lobese says of her nickname given to her by film director and friend King Shaft.

ALL SMILES: Noluthando Lobese. Photo by Zac Modirapela
ALL SMILES: Noluthando Lobese. Photo by Zac Modirapela

An award-winning designer, Lobese has been in the industry for over a decade now. She was introduced into the world of theatre by renowned set-designer Nadya Cohen.  “I studied fashion, however I’ve been lucky to have met Regina Sebright in 2008 at The Market theatre who introduced me to my mentor Nadya Cohen and James Ngcobo.”

“I design stage and costumes in theatre, production designer in commercials, TV and an art installation artist. I use my hands to create and mould materials that take a different form or shape. I call this work Mutation by using found materials, thread, and wool, plastic and other objects. Theatre and television is more collaborative, bringing a script to life through sets, locations, lighting and costumes. To be inspired and cautious of your surroundings plays a huge role in my work,” Lobese tells me.

Under the guidance of Cohen as set-designer and Ngcobo as director, Lobese made her debut as a costume-designer in 2009 in the production Thirst which was rewritten for a South African context and drew from Nguni mythology, which resonated with the past and the future.

Along with Cohen, Lobese credits Ngcobo for having given her opportunities to learn and immerse herself in the theatre world. “The Market theatre has been my school of design knowledge through the connections and collaborations I’ve made whilst there. Not so many directors are willing to give young designers / talents a chance like James Ngcobo.”

In 2008 Lobese studied in Stockholm Stadsteatern, Sweden as a design apprentice under the mentorship of Charlie Koroly. Four years later she was a designer in Salzburg at the Young Directors Festival as a production designer. She was accepted in New York, at the MacDowell Colony (NH) as an installation artist for work she developed while there, titled What It Is and it continued as an installation piece at Studio X, Johannesburg (GSAPP Columbia University).

OUT AT WORK: Hashtag Texture. Photo by Que Ntuli
OUT AT WORK: Hashtag Texture. Photo by Que Ntuli

She was an observer at the Glimmerglass Opera Festival (Cooperstown) New York. Lobese also worked on the Floating Stage (Bregenz Festspielehaus, Austria, 2013) as a design intern. She was part of the group of artists from ‘JHB Massive’ that went to showcase at The annual street festival in Accra, Ghana 2015.

Lobese is a consummate professional who has earned her stripes through her extensive travels, but even so, she says she still comes across people who don’t give her, her due respect as a working creative. “Being undermined especially the first time people work with you. It’s a constant struggle of convincing and proving yourself. Sometimes it’s because you’re laid back and do not feel the need to be dancing and sell yourself in the most basic way that the industry is expecting. I prefer the work to speak for itself and be given the freedom to create.”

She has a range of work and finds it difficult to say which stands out because the work is all unique, but said “Trapped that I costume designed in 2012, Salzburg Festspiele. It was directed by Zinzi Princess Mhlongo; It was also my first set design which was aired on SABC 1(Life is a stage) we had a crew of film makers (Born free media) documenting the behind the scenes process. A recent one is Rhinoceros which played last year at The Market Theatre.”

“I’ve designed most productions directed by James Ngcobo and have collaborated with various directors and other designers who are the best in the game. This involves working with friends and international collaborators”

Lobese spent her early stages of childhood in the Eastern Cape and then moved to Yeoville where she grew up. Being raised in a cosmopolitan space like Yeotown can nudge one into eccentricity and Lobese wears her oddness well.

She finds Yoga and shooting hoops as some of the best ways of unwinding. “I believe that I’m an inspiration to most people out there, I have not met most of them but they exist. I need a clear mind to keep moving forward and reach my highest, if I don’t do it I will never know how far I can bend my mind and remain fluid,” she says.

THA WOMAN BEHIND THA THA BRAND: Thando rocking one of her U Ts. Photo by Norman Maake
ROCKIN’ MY SHIII: Thando modeling her Unongayindoda Ts. Photo by Norman Maake

Unongayindoda, a term shoved at a girl who is said to be a boy-lookalike, has become Lobese personal task.

Unongayindoda is what I was called by the village community growing up in the Eastern Cape. Most Xhosa girls can relate to the term.  So Unongayindoda is a personal project and for the ones that can relate, I’m embracing the term. It is time we embrace shameful words that have been given to us through hate. The same way we have learned to love Soweto even though it was not by choice to vacate Sophiatown,”she says.

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THE Metro FM team rightfully celebrated the unblemished Wilson B Nkosi for his 34 year stay at the station some Sundays ago. The man has hosted all the station’s shows, bar the Jazz slot. But it’s his Sounds and Stuff Like That show that has made him a custodian of mode-setting on a Sunday.

He’s an institution with a cult following that would leave T.B Joshua green with envy. For so many years other stations have fruitlessly tried to build their own love movements on their airwaves on a Sunday. They could play the very same Howard Hewitt’s Call His Name, but for some odd reason it doesn’t sound the same on another station without the commanding but yet soothing voice of Nkosi, back-announcing it.

Sunday is a day where most people would typically unwind and later prepare for the week ahead. There’s also a sense of reflection that comes with the Sunday, whether reflecting on the weekend you’ve had or some people, thinking about the coming week, often with a tinge of anxiety. Anxious about the stress of the workplace or school-this is when the fun “weekend you” makes way for the more apprehensive version of yourself. I suppose this is one of the reasons why people are so attached to Metro FM radio on Sunday, as it’s somewhat of a safe space for a lot of adults, with all the endearing music.

But the kids have found an alternative of chasing away the Sunday blues. Leading to a shift in the sound of Sunday, slowly moving away from the melodramatic ditties such as Toni Braxton’s Un-break My Heart or Al Jarreau’s Your Song which I felt forced to listen to growing up, to that of Zoë Modiga Umdali and Sio’s Could You being played on radio.

See, a handful of radio stations have realised they can’t compete with Metro by doing exactly what the urban station has been successfully doing for many years, so they’ve taken Metro’s blueprint of Sunday radio- a complete takeover of the airwaves, not just through one slot but throughout the day, with shows that have a common thread. Creating a Sunday mood, that translates into a movement.

YFM has been one of the leaders in this regard. While their neighbours at Metro will be punting the #LoveMovement hashtag, YFM’s Sunday theme is summed up by #SundayFeels hashtag. From 6AM to 6PM the common thread on the station is feels or vibes- this talks to a person’s emotional state or the atmosphere of a place. DJ Flax who comes in at 10AM until 2PM and Just Mo’s Global Experience show follows and runs until 6PM are the station’s two protagonist in carrying out these feels. Think the late Eddie Zondi and Nkosi together in their prime.

5FM’s Selective Styles show with Kid Fonque is one of the first to display this paradigm shift or at least highlight listeners’ appetite for something different. “Sunday is a great time for radio – given that listeners make an effort to tune in and are therefore very pedantic about the music and content offering. That is why a show like Selective Styles is important,” says 5FM station manager Siyanda Fikelepi.

Selective Styles has been on air since 2016 and just two months ago, it celebrated its 200th show. “Based on the latest Rams figures the shows diary on diary variance has shown growth with a compound annual growth showing gains. What’s also important to not about the show is how it has managed to create a community on twitter where curated content is discussed and trends. This has a loyal following that can’t go unnoticed.”

Kaya FM seemed to try the Metro route with Tbose’s Touch of Soul, but they’ve now decided to approach Sundays in their own way through their thoroughly researched What’s Wrong With Groovin‘ a show that runs from 2PM-6PM that’s uniquely packaged as an audio-documentary steeped in Pan-African knowledge, art, narratives, literature and history. “What’s Wrong With Groovin’ fulfills our aspirations for radio that elevates the level of consciousness in society,” says Kaya’s Creative Head Mohau Bosiu.

“Every week, we prepare something that is unforgettable, something distinctly memorable, and because these insights we share are significant, we employ sound as a strong sense that can be deeply etched in one’s memory.”

Kaya FM’s music offering, beyond Sound Supreme, has been quite evocative, with an edge to surprise and dazzle. What is Wrong With Groovin’ follows that trajectory.””

The show is narrated by poet and author Lebohang Masango, with the music curated by Disc Jockeys Kenzhero and Tha_Muzik. They celebrated a year anniversary in the first week of October.

From Ladysmith Black Mambazo’s rendition of Nkosi Sikelela, Seun Kuti &Egypt 80’s Black Times, or Bongo Muffin’s Laduma Izulu are examples of the type of sound that dominates the home of the Afropolitan on a Sunday. “The numbers surprisingly remained stable from the first diary, and picked from the second, even with such an unconventional show. What we have seen is that the show has attracted an upmarket, academically inclined audience, and listeners who’ve been seeking something different from the ballads Sunday radio. We’ve carved an offering fit for a progressive class of society,” says Bosiu.

Playlists on these shows is dominated by insanely talented young independent artists you’ve never heard of before, who have found fame through the internet. This has also been bolstered by the success of platforms such as Soulection and the Boiler Room, which have grown a desire for ‘world music’. It helps a great deal that the people behind on these shows are DJs and/or music producers.

“I think it’s been a balance of my radio show and my record label Stay True Sounds, I have really created a space for producers who are not creating top 20 hits to shine and that seems to have rippled slowly into mainstream radio,” 5FM”s  Kid Fonque says. His show has been a platform for unknown kats to make a name for themselves on a credible stage. “I have always been into experimental electronics from a young age, way before Boiler Room or Soulection.  You could say I am a child from the BBC era, listening to shows from Gilles Peterson and Benji B every week definitely defined how I see radio and the power it gives you to introduce new talent,” adds Kid Fonque.

Bosiu says that most radio stations still sound as they did in the 1980s, but understands the importance of innovation and consistent growth. “Listener tastes and preferences are ever evolving, and any smart broadcaster would know that nothing standstill in the world of media entertainment – you need to continuously innovate. From the way people consume new music; through streaming, discovering podcasts, attending live music performances… we have learned from these trends that every second in radio is important and that we have to give people something they are unlikely to receive anywhere else. One listener once tweeted that ‘listening to What is Wrong With Groovin’ is like watching a masterpiece being painted.'”

There are kids who are as passionate about radio as Wilson B Nkosi was, that religiously listen to these Sunday shows. 34 years from now, they’ll most probably be custodians of these budding Sunday sounds you don’t yet know about.

THE FIRST VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE WAS PUBLISHED IN THE STAR NEWSPAPER

Clement Gama10/29/2020
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WITHOUT a doubt the unknown musician has always had the open mic night at some odd pub, live events which are lenient on requests for abrupt performances and also radio stations which still take music from unheard-of talent.

But there’s definitely never been a better time for the gifted and undiscovered than the one we’re in right now. I bet my worn out tyres that at least five in seven people reading this, have in the last five years discovered artists they’ve never heard of on YouTube via any of these channels; COLORS, NPR Music Tiny Desk Concerts and Sofar Sounds. Combined, the aforementioned trio has over 10 million subscribers on YouTube.

South Africa is progressively growing in this space with a number of live platforms coming through the net. Sunday’s Unplugged Sessions is one of them. “We wanted to give a different perspective to how people listen to music. In an unplugged set and an unplugged location. We saw it as a platform to also showcase undiscovered talent,” Music Director, Khanyisile Dlamini tells Tha Bravado.

Totally Unplugged. Photo by Township Boy Movement
Totally Unplugged. Photo by Township Boy Movement

Founded in August, Sunday’s Unplugged Sessions has already hosted four performances. They unplug an unknown kat and share their music with world on their YouTube channel, Township Boy Movement. “The concept of sessions is to create [an] artistic hub for musicians. We have a resident band that seeks to accommodate different artists on different episodes. Each episode focuses on a specific artist, so we get to experience the artist rationale of their crafts. We select our artist based on the level of artistic abilities that will blend with the expectations of the show,” adds Xolani Nkosi, who is the Executive Director.

The band with Backdraft on the second episode of the sessions. Photo by Township Boy Movement
The band with Backdraft on the second episode of the sessions. Photo by Township Boy Movement

The band is led by the seasoned Thulani Twala, with Mfundo playing keys, Tshepo on strings and Siya on drums.

Their second episode featured rap singer Bakdraft, seemingly in someone’s yard on a lazy Sunday afternoon as the sun was setting. “We use different locations for different artist. Depending on the style and personality of the artists. We will be exploring a lot of locations,” says Dlamini, who’s affectionately known as the first lady. She is also a songstress, who performed on the first episode.

Last month on Heritage day they opted on having a session on the street corner. “Our set up is not determined by the factors that are surrounding [on] the day that we shoot. Shooting on the streets was not determined by what day we were shooting in, but maybe our heritage stems from the streets and using the street on Heritage day will reinforce where we come from as artists. We are for the streets,” says Nkosi, who is a photographer and videographer that has been working for a number of years under his Township Boy Movement company.

Sunday’s Unplugged Sessions is a brainchild of these young Tembisans, but they have ambitions of seeing these sessions miles away from the Ekurhuleni Township. “Our plan is to unplug all the cities of Mzansi. Working with talent and undiscovered talent across the country. Hopefully incorporate brands as well to part take in this great initiative,” Nkosi says.

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In the same way a great image paired with an equally potent caption does for an article, so should an artist’s live performance do for an album. It makes it more endearing and grips the audience with a deep sense of engagement. Both artist and listener have been deprived of this exchange for the most part of the year due to the pandemic, settling for the seemingly arduous virtual concerts.

Zoë Modiga’s sophomore album Inganekwane is a body of work that has left many music lovers craving to experience it live since it was released four months ago.  “I miss people buth’wami, there’s nothing like it,” says Zoë.  “I consider myself to be an empath, I really enjoy to feel people’s energy and having that fuel me, where I’m not fuelling myself because virtual performances feel like I’m fuelling myself but the audience doesn’t understand how much of an importance they actually have in creating the world,” she says.

With only a handful of us at Constitution Hill against the women’s prison, mostly made up of the crew capturing performances which are being streamed to thousands, Zoë gave a consistent performance that should’ve been experienced live by many warm bodies at the Blooming Sounds in Joburg. My eyes closed, taking in the music, the sound of her voice is as pure live as it is on record.

“With the virtual space we’re in right now, I suppose me trying to be consistent is the understanding that I know it’s an awkward place for everyone to be in, I know we all like to doll up when we go watch our favourite musicians so I think that consistency is not taking that for granted ukuthi people are gonna be in PJs, they probably don’t want to watch a show in PJs, but they’re gonna tune in anyway and that means something to me. I suppose another thing, it is the music [and] it is the passion but also the product and I feel like if you want to exist in spaces where people respect the brand as well, you need to be able to do it professionally, regardless of the circumstances that you find yourself in,” Zoë tells me after her performance.

Zoe Modiga performing at Constitution Hill, with Banda Banda behind her. Photo by Sip The Snapper
CONNECTING WITH HER PEOPLE: Zoë Modiga performing at Constitution Hill, with Banda Banda behind her. Photo by Sip The Snapper

As Stogie T gets his turn on the Blooming Sounds stage, between the historic walls of Constitution Hill I find a quiet space to talk to Zoë about her work. Inganekwane, a Nguni word for fairy-tale, is a project that’s preceded by adjectives such as ‘moving’ ‘divine’ and ‘healing’. Poignantly released at a time when black youth is enamoured with being woke and is having conversations about what it means to be black in this world- it’s the perfect soundtrack.

Stogie T at Blooming Sounds in Joburg. Photo by Sip The Snapper
SMOKING THA STAGE: DJ P-Kuttah and Stogie T at Blooming Sounds in Joburg. Photo by Sip The Snapper

“This album is about a lot of conversations that I had been having for three years after Yellow The Novel, my debut album was made and released. There’s a lot of conversations about the state of black people and what’s that like. For the longest time I felt I couldn’t express it in my language, but I began to be affirmed by my audience you know, that’s the power that my audience has and that music lovers have, is that sometimes they can cause you to move into spaces that you would not qualify yourself for. So even with the response of the album, it feels the same way. People are qualifying you. It’s such an affirming thing because for me music is a personal thing, but for me the motive I have is to move people’s souls first and foremost before I formally get recognised formally through awards and those kinds of things,” says Zoë.

Zoe having a vibe on stage at Blooming Sounds in Joburg. Photo by Sip The Snapper
KUMNANDI LA: Zoë having a vibe on stage at Blooming Sounds in Joburg. Photo by Sip The Snapper

Her music moves more than just the soul. Her performance of Intsha had the tiny audience dancing, and probably a lot more streaming viewers’ hips swaying. “It always makes me lose my breath and twerk myself into a disaster,” a panting Zoë says while on stage. “It’s a song dedicated to the youth of 1976 and it’s a song that reminds us that young people are always part of watershed moments, we always make big changes.”

As James Brown’s message on Say It Loud, I’m Black & I’m Proud cannot not be misunderstood, so is Zoë’s Abantu. It’s a candid conversation she has with Bantu people- touching on black on black violence, self-image, and poverty but yet the song is mighty reassuring. “This song is dear to my heart because it’s part of all the conversations we’ve been having. It’s a beautiful love letter because it’s a song that puts us in a place of realising that we commit so much violences [sic] amongst ourselves as black bodies and part of that is calling systems into place that have allowed us to think in this way,” she says during her performance.

Zoë doing her thing at Blooming Sounds. Photo by Sip The Snapper
IYAGIDHA INTOMBI: Zoë’s dance moves display how in-shape the artist is. Photo by Sip The Snapper

With her trademark brush-cut, rocking a leather dress and snakeskin print ankle boots Zoë looked elegant. A glimpse of her Instagram page will let you know, that she’s an aesthetically-conscious one, and is comfortable in her style.

The moving imagery from Inganekwane, that takes us back to her childhood.
QUEEN IN THA KRAAL: The moving imagery from Inganekwane, that takes us back to her childhood.

It was her vision that inspired the album cover art, helped by an amazing team of creatives in its execution. “I’m blessed to have people who believe in my visions,” she says.  The idea for her cover stems from a visit to her paternal grandmother as a 5 year-old KwaMpisi, in rural KwaZulu-Natal.  “I’d always have this moment of looking into cows for a long period of time, and she’d [grandmother] always look at me like I was crazy. That’s the power of this record that it’s allowed me to really look back into childhood, look back at what’s made me who I am, right now.”

Clement Gama09/23/2020
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THERE probably isn’t a better adjective than ‘blooming’ attached to the spring season we’re in. But the word is also apt in describing the six young, fresh and eccentric artists who’ll be performing at Constitution Hill this Saturday at Blooming Sounds.

LaliBoi, Witney, Manu WorldStar, Moonga K, Lolo Skai, and Umlilo are the six Gauteng-based artists who will be presented on the day. Blooming Sounds is put together by Institut Français d’Afrique du Sud (IFAS) the French Institute of South Africa in partnership with Total South Africa, in association with Kaya FM and is produced by Bassline.

Umlilo on stage. By Jerri Mokgofe Photography-2
Umlilo on stage. By Jerri Mokgofe Photography

“I was struck by the quality of the music sent by the applicants, and I am very proud to say that each of the six selected acts will present a highly original and powerful sound to our audiences,” said Selen Daver, the Cultural Attachée at IFAS, in a statement.

The half-dozen of artists were chosen by a jury which included Josh Georgio from the Hugh Masekela Foundation, the Bassline’s Andrew Poane, Jerome Galabert from the Sakifo Festival in Reunion Island, Kaya FM’s Katiso K. Matabola and and Daver.

LaliBoi, who is one-half of Radio 123 is vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, who collaborates with Spoek Mathambo to create a unique blend of hip-hop, jazz and traditional South African tribal music. He will be performing on the day, including Zambian-born musician Moonga K who was raised by a musical family. Umlilo is a genre and gender bending multi-disciplinary artist whose signature sound has been dubbed as ‘future kwaai’.

Lolo Skai. Photo supplied
Lolo Skai. Photo supplied

Manu WorldStar is a Johannesburg born Congolese artist who has been lauded as the breakout artist as well as ‘a must watch’ African act. Zimbabwean-born vocalist Lolo-Skai’s music is influenced by neo soul, afro pop music and poetry which she has loved from an early age, will also grace the stage. Witney, an independent vocalist, songwriter, model, actress, aspiring producer and DJ, whose powerful lyrics are carried by her eclectic voice and soul-inspired sound is part of the chosen six performers.

Moonga K. Photo supplied
Moonga K. Photo supplied

“They all have a fresh sound and seem to be really paying attention to their craft. They seem to be trying something daring and original with their music,” says jury member Georgio.

The concert will be free to the public, who can enjoy the acts from the comfort of their own homes. The broadcast will take place from the iconic Constitution Hill against the women’s prison and will kick off at 16h00 and end at 20h00.

Laliboi. Photo supplied
Laliboi. Photo supplied

Skyroom Live will be the online live-streaming portal. They showcase live performances and have been ranked 12th globally as live concert producers by iRock.

Sakifo Musik Festival will also be a part of the French team behind the event alongside IFAS and Total. This annual music festival, which has been hosted on Reunion Island since 2004. The Sakifo network is a streaming partner and will be promoting and broadcasting the concert from its Facebook page.

Witney. Photo supplied
Witney. Photo supplied

The broadcast’s primary aim is to provide as much exposure as possible for new musical talent by giving them the opportunity to perform alongside the headlining artists Zoë Modiga whose sophomore album titled Inganekwane, was released a few months ago to critical acclaim and renowned god-emcee Stogie T.

“Blooming Sounds from Joburg is not only about revealing fresh talent, it is also about creating long term opportunities for this new generation of musicians,” Daver says. “We wish to have some of these acts grow and show South African music’s diversity and modernity abroad in a few years’ time.”

Manu WorldStar. Photo supplied
Manu WorldStar. Photo supplied

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