“It’s a beautiful thing man, music is a beautiful thing,” Mac Miller jokingly said on his NPR Tiny Desk performance. But nothing could be closer to the truth. Listening to music and singing together has been shown to impact neuro-chemicals in the brain, many of which play a role in closeness and connections.
The music-events industry is built on this fact. But not all events harness the beauty of umculo. Cue the Beast, People Series that takes place tomorrow at 4ROOM Creative Village in Tembisa. It’s a sequence of gigs around Gauteng, which was founded by DJs and producers from various parts of the province.
It includes founder DJ BlaQt from Vosloorus, Soweto’s DJ Medicine, DJ Killa Kane and Backdraft of Mambisa. “The gig started in Vosloorus as Beats, People & Vosloorus. This is the second installment in Tembisa, we’re headed to Soweto with the next gig,” Backdraft tells me. “What connected us and still connects us to this day is our love for the music and I believe it is the reason our name starts with Beats,” Backdraft, who is the musician in the clique says.
“The purpose of the show is to grow audience, have people appreciate what we do because we’ve realised that ja, the vibes that we bring are not necessarily mainstream and is not what people get all the time. They actually want to get it. We are bringing it to them and taking it to different hoods,” says Protea Glen’s DJ Medicine.
Much as this is about music and how it brings people together, the guys understand the potential ecosystem such a movement presents for stakeholders themselves as well as entrepreneurs e lokxion. “…because the whole thing is for us to do our shit you know, benefit from our shit and grow our shit with the people that like what we’re doing, without compromising the vibe. But also including the people that are in that hood we’re going to, and making it grow in that hood,” Medicine says.
There’s already merchandise like T-shirts and hoodies sold at their gigs. The merch is simply laden with the aesthetically pleasing name of the movement which is also their logo. “Well the name was simply to do with what my vision was; the music and all people in and around the hood or townships,” BlaQt explaining the origin of the name. “Tembisa will be our second edition of the Beast, People Series…we had great success in my hood. We’re preparing for the next gig as we’re talking.”
Vosloo was a success that set a high bar for the succeeding hosts, but Backdraft is convinced his Tembisa has a unique proposition. “Our geographic position, we are where Ekurhuleni starts or ends, depending on how one views this. We attract people as far as Pretoria, Centurion, Midrand, Alexandra, Daveyton, Kempton Park and even Joburg. We are a melting pot for different cultures and offerings. We have our very own celebrities, artists and DJs who hardly ship their skill beyond hood boarders, therefore providing an experience that one will only experience in our hood,” he says.
The gig at 4ROOM has eight DJs on the line-up with Backdraft himself and the Musa Mashiane Trio as the night’s only live performers.
“Unfortunately no females entered the Beat Maker of the Year Beat Battle and this is something we are going to address in 2020 and get more females interested in taking part.” said Beat Makers Market founder Enzo.
The absence of females at the Beat Maker of the Year Beat Battle was a glaring gap in the contest. “I know there are some ladies who are interested in the art of beat making and we just need to make sure they come out and participate,” Enzo said.
Cyrus Beatz was the eventual winner of Beat Maker of the Year in the battle. “I came here for a win and I believed that you know what, I’m gonna take it. Last year I was in Durban with the same mentality, but then…this time was different because I’m going through personal stuff, so in the process nje of going through the stress I only prepared three days ago.”
On a sombre spring afternoon in Johannesburg after “xenophobic” attacks gripped the city that week, the Beat Makers Market took place at the Good Luck Bar in Newtown. The ambiance of the event was hassle-free and communal, satisfying to both ear and eye enough to please the production geek and the average music lover. With more sponsorship this year, growth of the Beat Makers Market is visible, since being found in 2017.
“…I think this year, in our third year we’re definitely heading towards the right direction. We’re growing, people understand the concept you know what I mean, even the vibe is dope you can feel it as you walk in, there’s this aura in the air that beat makers are out here to share, celebrate and inspire each other through beats,” said Enzo speaking to Tha Bravado after the end of the Beat Battle.
One of the dope features of this year’s program had patrons vibing like zombies with headphones on, in the Silent Disco. There were three DJs simultaneously playing their sets, but with no sound outlet in the form of a speaker, but a limited number of headphones were dished out to attendees. “We had about 80 to 100 headphones and you could basically choose your own DJ. Our tag line is ‘Beat Makers Market where music and technology meet’ and today we were trying to show people that, that music and technology meet-somebody walked in and asked ‘where’s the music?’ and started seeing people dancing, and was like ‘ooooh!’.”
While that was happening, YFM’s DJ Sabby hosted the legendary King Don Father Mandla Spriki of Kalawa Jazmee together with Tweezy on the main-stage in the Power Beats Panel discussion.
Enzo defended the judges’ objective stand, regardless of how rowdy the audience became in the Beat Battle, at times seemingly swaying their ultimate decisions. “The judges we had have made experience of judging competitions so they knew what they were doing and who they felt to be beat maker of the year.”
Battlekat, Rashid Kay and Nyambz had the responsibility of adjudicating on who the beat maker of the year would be. The criteria was broken down into categories such as creativity, technical ability (the mixing and mastering), diversity as well as crowd reaction.
“You might have a beat that has four elements, but those four elements might just be captivating for the crowd. Do you reward the guy that was technically more superior or the guy that has the crowd? You know with Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry Be Happy, it’s just him and that was a very big song. I think it’s solely debated on crowd reaction, but the bad thing about that is that sometime you don’t have a neutral crowd, but that’s why we’re here to balance it out,” Nyambz said.
The night’s performers were forced to do their thang in front of a handful of people, after an exodus post the beat maker’s battle. “Moving forward, the Beat Makers Battles will be structured in a way that involves breaks between, with performances.”
HE coyly strides to stage with a notebook in hand, scribed on the pad’s cover is a quote of Psalm 46:10. He walks as though attempting to hide himself from the eager intimate audience that’s gathered to see him perform. Scrawny and with a scruffy nerdy look, he gets behind the mic and belts out Molweni, the excitement that was in the audience just moments ago bursts- and the guy was merely greeting us. Right there and then, I see that Mandisi Dyantyis is a conduit of this music.
“For me, it’s umm…very surreal, I can never get used to that concept. It’s not just Joburg, we went to Grahamstown for instance, the reception as just amazing. And I kid you not, when we start playing this project, just as a matter of playing the music you know, I felt bad that I was not playing the music, some of the the songs are old and I had gone into theatre, writing for theatre. But I love it [the audience’s reaction],” Dyantyis tells me.
Mandisi is one of the most slept on talents in South Africa, and we have plenty of those la e Mzansi, today. His album Somandla was released nearly a year ago, but the SAMA nominated project has slowly grown on South Africans. “I do feel that way, but I’m sorta enjoying it because I have people who’ve known me for a very long time and every day you get someone who says ‘I was put on your music by this person or I was at this house and I heard you music’. So for me that’s the natural progression of something that’s for everyone. People catch on it at their own time, for instance the album has been out from October last year and still today, you have people who are saying ‘why didn’t I know this’ and for me that’s amazing. Because also, you must understand that this is all done by us- we don’t have a PR team doing things….we haven’t been on TV and radio stations don’t play us. It’s understandable but I like it,” he says without grain of despondency in his tone.
Dyantyis performed at the Sophiatown The Mix in Johannesburg last month to onlookers of probably no more than a 100. His show had the spiritual and musical astuteness you’d find at a Nduduzo Makhathini gig. This without denying himself and his audience the indulgence of a fun evening of love through song and childlike vulnerability- the stuff of Ringo Madlingozi or a Vusi Nova. His show had two sessions, which catered for the jazz enthusiast and one for the singer along fanatic-a balance he flexed on his album.
“The song is a story whether personal or not, and every time I tell them [the stories] I need to be honest in the way I tell the story. I can never short change the story because that’s what people have connected with. Even with Olwethu, a song that doesn’t have words but people cry when they listen to it- these are people who don’t necessarily listen to wordless music.”
“Some of the songs at the top of the show require that sort of sensitivity you know. I never kinda plan it, but I was telling someone that I think I wana get through those songs because they mess me up. But also, you have to be cognisant of the fact that you don’t necessarily have all jazz people, they can wait for their songs. But that’s what we are as a people, we don’t have one side in us, we all have different sides.”
Dyantyis’ control of the stage allows him to take his audience on an emotional and spiritual trip, at times oblivious to the audience itself. Far from the fella that looked shy before opening his mouth or playing his trumpet. It’s palpable that when he sings about love, patrons blush together with him and immediately become contemplative in the somber section of the show- Of course it helps that his fans are sitting with bottles of wine adjacent. But Dyantyis is in charge, without being bossy.
“That’s why people, when they come out of the show, they go ‘Mandisi we cried, we laughed, we fell in love and our hearts were broke’ in the same evening and for me that’s always a good compliment. In that whole evening, people feel like they’re in a traditional ceremony, they feel like they’re in church in all of these spaces in one evening- and people are like, ‘how are you able to do this?’ but aren’t we all like that…don’t you wake up from a night of clubbing and go to church? We need to embrace what we are, we are a full people.”
Dyantyis jets off to Australia in a few weeks and then he’ll spend eight weeks in the United Sates. “Writing music for theatre and doing musical direction for theatre takes up most of my time. The band hasn’t started touring abroad yet, I’m taking other [theatre] shows abroad. A lot of people from overseas have come, saying they haven’t heard something like this in a while so, all those invites are starting to come and next year looks promising.”
He played some of his unknown ditties on the night and says they might or might not be part of his next album, whenever that project comes out. “I think in the same way Somandla decided when it wanted to be recorded, the next album will be the same. Until then I’ll keep on playing and playing. But in terms of recording, I’ll wait.”
He will wait, for Dyantyis knows and understands that Somandla is God.
You’ve heard of it before right, the Pull Her Down Syndrome where women pull each other down, seemingly because of intimidation or gross baseless hatred toward other women. But the exaggerated animosity doesn’t stand at the Vavasati Women’s International Festival. It hasn’t for the seven years of the festival’s existence.
Today marks the fourth Friday since the festival commenced this month. The works at the festival address systemic structures of power that continue to discriminate against women, under the theme Inequality: Seizing the Megaphone! The name Vavasati is a Xitsonga word meaning women, reiterating the power and strength that women possess when they unite.
The internationally acclaimed women’s arts festival annually takes place at the State Theatre in Pretoria throughout the month of August, with over 20 works created solely by powerful creative women from different spheres of the art world- in photography, music, choreography and performance art.
“The fact that the festival is in its 7th year, already that is growth alone. Actually the State Theatre has done an amazing job to cater for women. We are enhancing the festival some more now. The budgets have grown and the number of participants or works put in the programme has increased. Some women debut their works here and others find their voice here in this platform to grow and become the best. There are collaborations that grow from and within the festival. So women can work together!” says co-curator of Vasati International Festival Mamela Nyamza. Kgaogelo Tshabalala is the other co-curator.
According to Nyamza, the programme invites (through a call out) artists and companies to submit proposals each year for the month-long fest. “When we receive them, we have readers that are asked to go through the proposals and recommend works. We went through some of the works that they have recommended. I also being new in Pretoria, I met Kgaugelo Tshalabala who knows the artists in Pretoria, and asked her to come join me in curating. We have a pool for musicians, poets, dancers and actors. Some proposals were taken out and others taken in. I made my selection and so as Kgaugelo,” she said.
The team has something novel in this year’s programme, with the Open Market and Live Music segment that take place every Sunday. This is a lively setting on an open-air rooftop towered by landmark surrounds overlooking the arts complex.
Created and inspired by women, but the festival is for all- including men and young boys who are often perpetrators of the abuse received by women and girls. So attracting a diverse audience is important for Vasati International Festival’s impact in society. “We are continuously making an awareness of the festival. With the exposure that is out there, we have been loud than ever. The participating artists have been active in the joining the campaigns. The programme is diverse in such a way that it caters across all genres. There is everything for everyone. There are educational works, provocative works and family inclusive works,”says the choreographer Nyamza.
Inclusive and progressive works are synonymous with the State Theatre, which supports young artists and has opened its doors to stimulating uncaptured work. “Including other provinces nationally and other country’s participating, already it puts State Theatre as thee theatre for Africa. This aligns with our overall vision and artistic mandate to be a pan African theatre that is inclusive in its programme offering. Already I have calls from artists abroad asking when is the next festival.”
The industry is a dirty place man. Not the Moonchild Sanelly gyrating her assets on stage, pleasing kinda-dirty. But I mean the witnessing of someone getting robbed in the streets of Joburg, in broad daylight, ice-cold kinda dirty.
That’s why having an experienced and genuine individual, who has your best interest at heart is a miracle in this entertainment industry. This Sunday, Dumza Maswana hosts his Celebrating African Song show, at the Joburg Theatre. Last year the Molo singer held a similar show at The Orbit Jazz Club, where he unleashed a teenage boy wonder in Vuyolomzi Solundwana. This year he’ll share the stage with 15 year-old Likhey Booi, who Maswana is mentoring.
“I am very passionate about young talent. When I started in the industry I never had a person who was already in the industry to help me take my first steps. No one was willing to share their platform. I believe young artists need a mentor who can help them develop the inner and outer resources essential for staying true to the joy of creating,” says Maswana.
“Whether they ultimately become artists or not, the experience of working seriously with a mentor can be valuable. I always refer them to other artists or producers in the industry who can give them something different to what I can offer.”
Celebrating African Song had sold-out shows in the Eastern Cape in the past three months, at venues such as the East London Guild Theatre and the Port Elizabeth Opera House. “I was accompanied by my industry friends Ntsika, Max Hoba, and Eastern Cape based artists Ohayv Ahbir and the two that are also performing here in Joburg, Likhey Booi and Odwa Nokwali. I never expected such reception, love, energy, especially in PE, where the theatre was much bigger. I also did two nights at the National Arts Festival, and both nights were a success.”
Ntsika, Jessica Mbangeni and Mbu Soul are the other artists on the bill for this Sunday.
Maswana went to Canada at the Sing! Festival, travelling with the Mzansi Ensemble earlier this year. While there Maswana says he “…had the opportunity of collaborating with a Canadian musician and producer Aaron Davis. I really hope I’ll do more with him, we had a very limited studio time- we only had three hours.”
The baritone and bass singer is raising funds for post-production of his live DVD on Click N Donate, which he says has cost him close to 400K. “It’s such a beautiful production. I pray for this campaign to be a success, also hoping for sponsorships. I’ve already spent close to R400K, the remaining amount is just a quarter. I really urge my supporters to show up and help,” says Maswana.
The money generated from Celebrating African Song shows isn’t plentiful to cover post-production costs of the DVD which was recorded a year ago . “In most cases the money I make from these shows is just enough to pay the band and petrol, literally. But whatever change we make will go to the DVD.” He plans to release the live DVD in November this year.
Should you want to donate to Maswana’s cause, click here.