“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.
Zoë Modiga is such a fine collaborator, you’d be pardoned for forgetting she has a respectable body of work as a solo artist. She rectified that, with a release of her single Lengoma.
The catchy track’s West African feel is helped by vocals from Tubatsi Mpho Moloi of Urban Village. It’s heavily percussion-driven, with the opening sequence remnant to that of Pebbles’ Emandulo. But Zoë doesn’t get swallowed by the drums, she actually has room to flex her vocal skills albeit in a chant-like style.
Lengoma is different from the smooth, jazzy head-bopping offerings she’s done with Seba Kaapstad, a cosmopolitan collective that Zoë is part of. Seba Kaapstad, made up of Ndumiso Manana, Sebastian Schuster, Phillip Scheibel, released their project Thina earlier this year. The clique is signed under Mellow Music Group.
Lengoma sounds worlds apart from Zoë’s 2017 album Yellow: The Novel. There’s more maturity in the music, which comes off in the simplicity of the song. One of Zoë’s trump cards is her unpredictability as a creator, which makes her art more luring.
Dance music’s purity of purpose is something to be admired. There is no confusion about its reason for being, no ostentation. It exist to get bodies rhythmically moving to its high tempo and hypnotic groove as it mesmerizes the psyche into ecstasy and synchronizes our heart beats to its energetic bop. Which feels like freedom to the soul.
Muzi’s music also feels like freedom. Freedom from the negativity that clouds one’s perspective of the future, living in the Southern tip of Africa in the early 21st century. My first encounter with this urban Zulu’s music was after he electrified the crowd at the South African leg of the culture-vulturing Afro Punk festival in the new year of 2019 in Joburg.
I promptly went through his second album AFROViSiON after that related experience and then the album became a mainstay in my playlist to life.
AFROViSiON was implicitly an album about his struggles, laced with dance grooves which primarily employed catchy percussive progressions on attention grabbing synthetic chords and pads. What made the project unique was Muzi’s vocal texture, content and Zulufied model C cadence, which appealed to both the snotnose-Braamfontien arty coconut and the dusty Carvela-wearing mahlalela in Tembisa.
Crossover appeal is highly valued in the music industry, but usually limited to racial lines. In my not-so humble opinion, music that crosses over economic class is of a higher value, which is what Muzi’s music does so beautifully.
In his third offering, titled Zeno, Muzi maintains his masterful skills as a dance producer but in his lyrics one gets the distinct impression that the struggle is over.
In the Amapiano influenced pseudo love song Sondela, he drops a braggadocios mack on a shorty, making it clear that he is not intimidated by her social status or looks
Bangitshela ukuthi ungumpetha sondela ntombi
They tell me you are the shit girl!
I don’t give a fuck, come closer so we can get together.
A very loose translation…
Big boy now with the big dreams,
I see you in it, that’s a big dream…
Vans all day, I bet you know that.
I’m gonna be big, I bet you know that…
I Love how this dude exudes confidence through his music without coming across as arrogant or fake-humble. On Ngeke with Zithulele of BCUC, he attempts an acapella Zulu folk song, where urban ninjas are warned to rather step into the fighting circle to prove themselves as men. Instead of prancing around like peacocks thinking that they are better than the rest of the homies in a rural homestead, because that kind of behaviour could possibly lead to their families having to dress in black attire for a year mourning the death of their beloved son. That joint fills me up with a nostalgic yearning for my initiation ceremony where bitchass niggerisms were not tolerated, and heavy doses of toxic masculinity were indoctrinated into the impressionable minds of young men.
My favourite cut in the project has to be the more sombre Sunshine in which he relates his feelings about some sort of traumatic event that occurred in his life.
…Hoping all my blessing don’t go away,
I’m hoping the sun shines on me…
Ngisaba noku bheka isibuko, strangers in my room,
They didn’t take my life,
But it feels like I died that night,
Pushing away those I love,
Angazi kwenze njani,
but it feels like I died that night…
I strongly suspect that the ninja was a victim of crime as it is so often the case in South Africa. The feelings that arise from such an event are undoubtedly serious and persistent but what does not kill you should only make you stronger. Life in the concrete jungle follows the same as of nature. Only the strong survive.
In Untitled 45 and NguniLanding any misgivings about Muzi’s ability to produce house music in the purest form without vocals, but just ‘head-banging-while-your-tongue-is sticking-out’ beats on dope melodies. In the easily accessible Mncane he features Samthing Soweto with no vocal input from Muzi. I feel if he can get the video out for this joint it will raise the album’s buzz to new levels.
This is an excellent album, listen to it if you consider yourself a music lover, if not. Then why bother reading this shit anyway?
It was record executive Dino Woodward who bestowed the nickname Black Moses on Isaac Hayes. Woodward believed Hayes’ music had the same effect on people as the leadership of the Biblical figure, Moses.
A then devoted Christian, Hayes found the juxtaposition sacrilegious at first, but later titled his album with the same name, seeing it as a symbol of black pride. “Black men could finally stand up and be men because here’s Black Moses; he’s the epitome of black masculinity. Chains that once represented bondage and slavery now can be a sign of power and strength and sexuality and virility,” Hayes said in an interview.
Over 40 years later, a queer young man from rural KwaZulu-Natal in Ndwedwe has resurrected the Black Moses moniker and taken its ownership. “Though I grew up hearing his music around the house, I never really paid special attention to him,” admits Thoba Ndlovu, who recently dropped his debut project Black Moses.
“It was only in 2014 while reading an old Rolling Stone Magazine that I came across his story about having desires to liberate the black people out of the ghetto. This reminded me of our own leaders in post-colonial Africa who like Isaac Hayes have promised the black masses liberation by postulating themselves as saviours yet similarly became disillusioned by money and power. This prompted me to write the song Black Moses which later became the favoured title for the EP.”
It’s not so much of postulating himself as the saviour and leader to the promise land, but the Ndewdwe-native understands the importance of representation. “Growing up in an environment that was not very accepting of not only my sexual orientation but as well as my gender, performance means that visibility is very important to me. Not seeing images of people that look like you can be very detrimental for children. It is thus my mission that I tell my story as loud as I can be it through visuals or vocals. So being from e Ndwedwe has allowed me to appreciate representation so much more because I was starved of it as a queer child growing up,” Thoba says.
The six track EP is produced by Juice, Dave Audinary as well as Lance Romeo and the production heads served their purpose. Thoba has solid vocals and compelling lyrics, but had he recorded on lethargic beats which are more on the Afro-pop side, the album would have limited reach. “I have been getting a lot of positive feedback, people really seem to be vibing with it. What is more exciting is the varied audience as people have different favourite song. It’s made me very happy with the direction we decided to take in terms of sound as this means that it responds to various music tastes.”
The beats on the project are the stuff that could be ridden by Hip Hop group Las Days Fam or Neo-soul singer Bilal. The songs Ungowami and Buyela are gems that should be fixed on radio station playlists across the country. The project’s songs were written over a period of time, with some tracks being jotted down over five years ago. “The recording was a much quicker process though. Recording with Lance Romeo was one of my best experiences in studio. I was so comfortable and felt like he actually listened to me while pushing me to do more with my voice.”
Thoba is currently based in Joburg, having moved from his beloved KZN last year for a gig as a Grade R teacher. “Since it was a year of firsts (first time in JHB, first time teaching Grade R as well as finally working on a project). I really needed to make sure I settled in to all of these roles. It is only this year that I am beginning to venture out by putting my music out there and looking for opportunities to perform. It’s been a whirlwind of emotions being away from home and everything familiar, but also knowing that you need to get your act together ’cause you are far away from home. So there has been a lot of growth.”
He studied Psychology, then went on to do his honours in Industrial Psychology at UNISA before returning to University of Kwa Zulu-Natal to do his Post graduate certificate in education.
The independent artist is using this EP as a vehicle for inspiring other queer boys and girls who might not have enough bravado to be themselves. “The album is of course the goal however it is one of the goals, alongside exploration of other avenues that can lead to the hypervisibility of a queer body in order to combat false narratives (like us being unAfrican) by living our truths. This is my more immediate focus right now. I therefore cannot say when an album will be available but it’s in the plans.”
“The eye sees what the mind believes” and that is a scary thought considering that most of us as children of the soil, believe whatever they want us to believe. Zothile ‘Solo’ Langa wants us to believe that it is possible for a South African celebrity pretty boy to possess a high capacity for introspection and an above average level of critical thinking.
My default setting when it comes to dealing with pretty people is the prejudiced idea that evolution does not allow them the development of interesting genuine personalities and/or characters. Consequently, I was sceptical when a fellow shinobi declared that Solo’s latest musical project is fire and an essential addition to the playlist of anyone who considers themselves a mature Mzansi Hip-hop head. I have no frame of reference as it pertains to Solo’s musical journey or growth because this is the first time I have listened to any project by the Diepkloof native. I have always viewed him as a rap purist whose focus was more on lyricism than the music and I generally lack an appetite for such artists. After listening to Solo’s latest offering C Plenty Dreams, I feel bloated from the shit load of humble pie that this mo’fo has been feeding me and I have nowhere to hide my shame.
Sonically, Solo generally fuses kasi and isiZulu vocal samples with mellow melodies to create a laid-back and familiar sonic textures, which often feels uniquely South African without the usual pretentiousness that one gets from most mainstream Hip-hop artists trying to reach a wider market. Upon these textures he lyrically delivers priceless gems of wisdom to the young urban black youth of Mzansi. In the retrospective joint Imali he starts the track with a menacing sangoma chanting sample and later questions the instances of “bottle wars” that often occurs in SA’s nightclubs What is boasting anyway if it ain’t a hate on yourself…
On my favourite song on the album Imposter Syndrome, he explores the process one goes through in order to reach their dreams and/or goals by offering practical and authentic insights on how to approach such a dilemma “...jump on the stage while picturi’n people naked everybody naked, people just say shit, kodwa that’s one of my favourites…how do we walk around downplaying victories, highlighting miseries often eclipse…I’m talking about the delusion of chasing perfection while flaws are what sharpens the gift…”
It is clear that Solo has put a lot of effort into improving his creative process in order to become more musical without losing his lyricism. With that said one feels that the back end of the project he reverts back to his hold habit of monotonously rapping with generic vocal inflections which are void of any real emotions. In the kwaito influenced joint Promises, he predictably features Kwesta who recites some throw away verse to get that feature money and royalties. Solo delivers some wack ass rhyme scheme which one has heard a million times before “…I have had the visions since u pikinini ngi gijimisa u grot, figuring the business get my business get my niggers out of the woods…” In the following joint Ubuntu Babo he goes into a double-time rapping tiered which makes my eyes glaze over with disinterest over the entirety of the joint. Hypocritically though I love the last track Take me which is a boom bap tribute to Hip-hop legends who passed away in 2018 “…I have lost heroes that’s how villains are born…the cloth that I am cut from isn’t withering the storm , and what is a left is expensive fabric that you new niggers know nothing about… “
The two interludes in this project, Highlight reel and Show the Bloopers are touching monologues by his parents which leave a “broke-ass-know it all” blogger with daddy issues feeling a bit tender. In the first interlude his mother reflects upon the circumstances that have led her towards living a spiritual lifestyle and how that ended up influencing her children. In the second interlude Show the Bloopers, Solo starts the joint with a cold eight bars which contain a moving tribute to Gugu Zulu
“…I was a defrabulator with those with no pulse, really shouldn’t be looking in those parts, pull the fuse and leave the room with no spark, Gugu Zulu put me in a go cart, who would have later known later that I would be so clutch, hope his daughter knows he had the biggest heart”
This is followed by his father, who dishes out compliments about Solo’s work ethic “…to do the right thing…ireward of doing that…iyazizela…when a person thinks about doing good right.. some people say ‘I do good so that should I die, I go to heaven’…and let’s say there is no heaven but you would have lived a good life…If you do something correct, ireward iyayizela…I promise…you will see”
In totality this project is dope as fuck, not chart climbing and internet breaking kind of dope. The hidden gem kind of dope, buried underneath the pop singles of the Nasty, AKA or Casspers of the game. This album is an important contribution to Mzansi’s Hip-hop culture because it is a clear indicator that our music can be more than just a bottle pusher in the North of Jozi. Hip-hop can be an authentic contributor to this country’s story and legacy. Due to that fact, I can’t wait for the next album from this not-so solo any longer pretty boy.