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.
YOU hear Bad Boy Records and instantly think New York. The mention of Death Row jogs one’s memory to Los Angeles, California. But Kalawa Jazmee is synonymous with all townships in all of South Africa. In the 25 years of Nelson Mandela’s democratic South Africa, no record company has been the soundtrack to kasi life as Kalawa Jazmee.
The record company was found through a feud between two stables, Trompies Jazzmee Records and Kalawa Records. The former was co-owned by Spikiri, Mahoota, M’jokes and Bruce while the latter’s owners were Oskido, Don Laka and DJ Christos-who departed in 1995. The dispute was over ownership of Trompies hit song Sigiya Ngengoma.
They’ve gone on to churn out more hit songs as one independent company for more than two decades now, telling stories from the township while making us dance. They’ve introduced and developed a slew of artists like Busiswa, Alaska, Professor, DJ Zinhle, Dr Malinga, Heavy K, Tira, Big Nuz and so many more. It is fitting that this year’s Delicious Festival will honour Kalawa Jazmee’s 25th anniversary.
But if one were to have a Kalawa Jazmee All Stars, many would agree that these five make the starting five.
“Well in many ways Sharpa was my heart you know… from as long as I can remember… we had a really special bond. Given the age difference between us, he often joked that he knew me before I knew me… and he was right … yeah our bond was special… I mean this is the same kat who gave me the chicken pox as a five months old baby because he simply couldn’t leave me alone. Ha! … in retrospect, I’d say that was one of the greatest acts of love because I never had to experience it as a child, when one is more conscious of what itch, irritation and pain is etcetera,” says Teboho Semela, Ben Sharpa’s younger sister.
Such is their connection as siblings, that Teboho tightly grips at every memory that ties her to her older brother. Today marks a year since the iconic figure died from complications with diabetes. “As a family, his passing has definitely left an unfathomable void, but you know, we’re pushing on.”
We often think that a person’s public persona, or what they choose to show us, is all that they are. When one looks at Sharpa’s life from the exterior, it’s easy to make assumptions about who he was- a nocturnal hard-ass emcee, which only listens to Jak Progresso, in a dungeon somewhere on the outskirts. But Kgotso ‘Ben Sharpa’ Semela was a multifaceted dude, who had passion for humanity. “Sharpa may have come across as “hard” at times, especially in his music, but that guy was one the most loving guys you could ever know. It was just as he said ‘… imagine if you mix one-part hip hop, one-part love, one-part quantum mechanics and one-part God… then you’ll probably get close to what Ben Sharpa is about’…”
“I’ll let you in on a secret, that so called “hard” guy that brought us one of the most relevant records of our time Hegemony I will tell you that, before every single show we ever did together, no matter what or where, we would find a space, tune out the noise and hype, hold hands and pray together. Kgotso prayed, yo! … like a preacher … that man prayed. Through and through.
“… he was a true believer, in others, the raising of consciousness and quite simply, he was concerned for the human condition… he just believed… heck, he believed in me at times when I struggled to believe in myself… so to not have that… to not have that one person who truly got it, who got you… well… it’s the kind of hurt I really would not wish on anyone,” Teboho tells me.
That social side of Sharpa was evident last year after his passing, at his memorial service- a service which would be the envy of any Hip Hop show, in how Sharpa’s life was celebrated vicariously through Hip Hop. “Honestly, I always knew Kgotso was beloved but seeing it all in action was truly beautiful. Folk from all over the world reached out, stood in the gap, and quite simply showed up for Sharpa; and for this I could not be more grateful. On the whole, the Hip Hop community displayed such a sense of camaraderie in the wake of his passing that it is something that shall be forever etched in my mind.”
The tributes that came in were fully justified by the skill of the man and who he was, but the pity is that we gave him a floral garden when he couldn’t smell and appreciate it. “I wouldn’t be the upfront and reflective; chiselled by the sharpest knife in the drawer – Ben Sharpa – human I am if didn’t say that it is a damn shame that the magnitude of outright support for Kgotso in his passing, was not shown when he was alive to see it. Kgotso did not get the recognition he deserved, not fully. I genuinely believe that, but that said, it is done now and often the plight of many pioneers so more than anything else I perceive it as a call for us all to do better, be better. Look after our own, in life and in death.”
Sharpa was a classical violin player that was part of the youth orchestra, which is one of the things that connected her with Teboho who is also a violinist, singer and flautist- the two would often collaborate. So it makes sense that it’s his sister, making sure his name doesn’t wither with time. “So in line with what we consistently discussed – right up to the very last, I mean it was one of the various topics we touched on the last time I spoke to him before his passing – so in doing due diligence and honouring what I believe to be one the most eloquent rappers and beat makers of his time, this past year I’ve been quietly building the BSharpa Foundation.”
The genius emcee recorded a project before his premature passing, but Teboho is quite ambiguous about its release. “Chances are chances you know… so you all are just going to have to wait and see… I will say this, it is phenomenal.”
After the birth of his twins, the release of his album and just pretty much living his life, Reason HD addressed that abrupt beef he and Flex Rabanyan had at the back-end of 2018.
The cringe-worthy conflict between the two spawned form Reason giving the young rapper advice on how to carry himself in the game. This after Flex whined on Twitter about a failed payola attempt on Metro FM. Reason’s older -brotherly words of wisdom were used as material for a diss track targeted at him, by Flex in For Whatever Reason.
The lukewarm track didn’t warrant fire emojis for its dopeness, but for its shock value. The 2017 Vuzu Hustle winner took personal jabs at Reason, talking about how the former Motif Records artist lives off his partner and babymama Loot Love because she seemingly makes more money than him due to Reason’s unsuccessful music career.
Patiently waiting for over six months without really addressing it, Reason timely responded to Flex two months after the young’n complained on social media about being broke and having to sell his car.
Talk is cheap, but I’ma cross between
The type of blacks who speak rationally
Fuck with me
Then I’ma have you hiding where you at for weeks
Actions speak louder than an empty pocket testing me
Actually why that wack nigga try to flex on me
Look at my chick, look at my crib
Look at the shit on my wrist
Look at the hits, look at the list
Then you go look at your shit
Like, where do you live
Where do you get, my nigga why is you big
Show me the bitch that’s trying to get under your dick
‘Cause nobody know who she is
Rappers are dying and all of you niggas are lying or beefing on your timeline
Just for the sake of signing you lie to yourself like you all in the lime light
But why try, when all of you fly by
Should figure that time flies
You did it for high fives to nice tries
But let’s get to the bye byes
Talk about having the last laugh.
Reason also took the opportunity to let everyone know that he’s put back the HD in his moniker, following the embarrassing confusion from that Black Panther film soundtrack which introduced TDE’s Reason to the globe. On the joint Seasons, Reason from the US is alongside Sjava which led to people assuming it was two South Africans on the song.
Johnny Clegg just wanted to play music. But South Africa’s white people never understood why he wanted to spend time with black people writes Styles Lucas Ledwaba
He tells a good story just as well as he makes music. He’s an interviewer’s dream. You ask one question and he tells one great story after another.
It’s perhaps a wonderful thing that he’s writing a book on the band Juluka, which took him and his friend Sipho Mchunu from the obscurity of playing music in the migrant hostels of Johannesburg to international fame back in the late 70s and early 80s.
In September 2013 he’s hoping to take his life story, through a musical titled The Johnny Clegg Story, to the stage.
Hopefully this story will portray incidents like the one that happened while he was walking down Rissik street in central Johannesburg back in the early 1970s, strumming his guitar, singing maskanda music, an almost unthinkable sight in a South Africa in which the apartheid laws forbade any sort of inter-racial or cultural flirtation.
“Vuilgoed!” a white firefighter, seemingly disgusted by the sight of a young white man flirting with black culture and language screamed from the top of a building.
“Voetsek!” came Clegg’s defiant response.
Before he knew it, the fireman and an accomplice were chasing him down the street. But when he reached Walmer hostel, where he was well known among the Zulu migrant community, his pursuers backed off and resorted instead to insults.
It was incidents like these, which happened often, that saw him earn the isiZulu praise names, bamzonda eKillarney\bamzonda eHillbrow\ abafuni umlungu odla uphuthu nabantu!
Loosely translated, it means “they hate him in Killarney, they hate him in Hillbrow, they despise a white man who eats uphuthu with black people.”
But he was popularly known in Zulu street music circles as Madlebe, big ears, for reasons best understood by looking at his ears.
“That was my life. I grew up in the hostels,” says Clegg just hours before he is set to receive the Order of Ikhamanga from president Jacob Zuma on Freedom Day.
Clegg was awarded the Order of Ikhamanga for his excellent contribution to and achievement in the field of bridging African traditional music with other music forms, promoting racial understanding among racially divided groups in South Africa under difficult apartheid conditions, working for a non-racial society and being an outstanding spokesperson for the release of political prisoners.
“Hee, mfowethu! People don’t know what we went through,” he says of his constant conflict with the apartheid laws.
His forays into the hostels and befriending Zulu migrant who also doubled up as street musicians, often led to his arrest and police harassment.
As a white man, he had to apply for permission from the authorities to be allowed into in a hostel. But such an application would most probably be turned down or take many months before it was granted. And even then permission would be granted for just a few hours.
“I just wanted to play music. That’s all I wanted to do. But the white people could never understand why I wanted to spend time with black people. To them it was always something criminal, they thought it was about dagga, they never thought these were just normal people. But I went anyway, I wanted to play,” says Clegg.
And he paid a heavy price.
He was often arrested for trespassing, for being in a black area without a permit; at school he was ostracized by some of his peers and on the family front, some relatives accused him of bringing disgrace to the family name, all because he dared to defy apartheid’s racial segregation laws and reached out to the other side.
“I always asked them why they were criminalising my behaviour because I was doing nothing illegal? Even then I was aware that there’s something as an unjust law. I never even thought of giving up,” he says.
And from the hostels he learnt more than strumming the guitar and dancing. Instead he learnt important aspects of Zulu life and culture, isiZulu, stick fighting, traditional dance, ukuphalaza, the use of intelezi and the sacred ways of healing. But what intrigued him the most were the stories of the men, proud warriors in their villages and regions, but reduced to sweeping the streets for a pittance in the city, yet remaining upbeat and continuing to embrace life with a wicked sense of humour.
It was these stories, he says, which influenced his strong lyric writing which produced such hits as Woza Friday, ScattIerlings of Africa, African Sky Blue, The Mainstay Cup Final Song, Zodwa and many others.
His proficiency in isiZulu and his adept dance moves earned him the monicker The White Zulu. But Clegg thinks otherwise.
“I’m more than a Zulu. I’m a South African. The Zulu experience helped me develop an African identity,” he says.
Clegg points to his childhood in Zimbabwe and Zambia as the strong foundation to his non-racial outlook on life.
He went to five different primary schools in five years in three different countries, in Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa. But it was in Zambia where he went to a multi racial school, that the idea of multi-racialism was entrenched.
When he began touring overseas with Juluka, Clegg used the opportunity to campaign for change in South Africa. Many of his songs were banned by the SA Broadcasting Corporation but this never stopped him from scaling great heights in the international charts. He’s been honoured widely overseas and here at home, but fame, it seems, has not gone to his head.
He still visits the hostels and his friend Mchunu in Kranskop, KwaZulu Natal and has his feet firmly on the ground.
And while many artists from his generation struggle to grapple with our fast changing society, Clegg believes the ground is fertile for a new revolution, which is transformation.
“During apartheid we were always against something. But when apartheid ended we had to be for something, which is what I think many people have struggled to deal with. But these are exciting times, transformation is the new agenda,” he says.
Thanks for the music, Madlebe! – This article first appeared in the City Press in 2012