Music

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12min3360

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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8min9420

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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“HELLO LIEFIES” is probably not the first thing you’d expect to spew from a dark-skinned fella rocking a wifebeater, chino pants with feet bare, in the backyard over Drake’s Pound Cake beat. But I guess that’s what makes Jabulani Majola- a Zulu man based in Cape Town, who has a slight lisp and enjoys his coffee- so unique.

“The word “liefies” is Afrikaans for lovers. It’s a word I started using a lot when greeting friends in the latter part of 2019 and it just stuck with me so I just started using it with everyone” Majola tells me. The young man from Greytown in KwaZulu-Natal, is one of the many emcee who stood-out during Stogie T’s refreshing Freestyle Fridays.

His geeky yet likable personality which is a mainstay in all his eccentric videos and Instagram posts might fool you into thinking Majola’s rhymes come softer than continental pillows, but the dude can actually rap. Enough to impress Stogie T.

“Every Friday during the early stages of quarantine Stogie T was hosting IG lives where he was looking for some bar spitters that would feature on his next Friday Freestyle. I joined him on one of them and he loved what he saw and that’s how I ended up on there,” shares the artist.

Stogie T’s Freestyle Friday movement reignited the love for dope lyricism, was entertaining and perhaps most importantly, shone the spotlight on dope emcees who rarely get the recognition for their skills. “I definitely think that Freestyle Friday has given me credibility as an emcee you know,” Majola says. “Being on platform like Freestyle Friday amongst some of the greatest bar spitters in the country and being shown love by one of the best to ever touch the mic. I don’t think people view me any different though. For most of them Freestyle Friday was the first time they saw/ heard me. For those that already knew me I think they always knew that I can emcee.”

Majola has been based in Cape Town for about five years now, after relocating to join a Christian youth organization called The Message Trust. “…I’ve been curious about Joburg, however never thought it was right to move that side over the years.”

During his time in the Cape Majola has been part of a band, Kinetic IV which can be categorized as a faith collective that has a strong pop sound- Gospel seemingly targeted at young people. But it’s the stuff he’s done solo that really slaps and is more compelling. The difference isn’t just sonically, but his rhymes and his storytelling have a wider reach than the material he records with the band.

“First and foremost I’m a big consumer of music, I listen to [it] all the time. I listen to loads of genres and in that I love to explore different cultures and sub cultures they represent,” Majola says. He is yet to release a solo project, but he’s done a number of freestyles which have managed to generate hype around him.

In a move that is of a bygone era of rap, he tried his luck on radio at Good Hope FM’s cypher sessions on a Thursday evening, and through that Majola left a mark on legendary DJ Ready D. “This [Thursday Hip Hop show] was a platform for all upcoming emcees to come through and showcase their skills and represent where they’re from and this is where we met initially. He then later on contacted me and started chatting on collaborating on a tune together that we then recorded at Redbull Studios.” The song is on DJ Ready D’s new album Ghoema Music.

Majola reminds me of artists such as André 3000 who are aesthetically-conscious in everything they do. This goes beyond being dapper or having drip, but having that innate knowing of what looks and feels good.

The Man holding the cup, Jabulani Majola. Photo by Zoe Hibbert.
The Man holding the cup, Jabulani Majola. Photo by Zoe Hibbert.

His vest and chinos combination with no shoes in the Freestyle Friday video is a case in point. “I use to thriftshop a lot, visit second hand bookshops, going to markets and art exhibitions. I love meeting new people and starting conversations. I’m also a writer, I write poetry and spoken word, songs and short fiction, I also love fashion. I read a lot of SA historic fiction and poetry and biographies.”

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THE two things I’ve grown weary of, are load-shedding and social distancing, occurring simultaneously. But it wasn’t so bad chilling alone in the dark, listening to Adelle Nqeto’s Need Someone from the phone.

“That is the way I’m going to recommend listening to this one from now on (minus the load shedding)!” is Adelle’s response to the impromptu-tranquil set-up.

Need Someone is a song Adelle released just a week ago. I streamed it as an attempt to counterattack the awkward silence in the room, and couldn’t help but think of how timely the song is. You would swear the lyrics were knitted together by thoughts of people all around the world, who have been feeling lonely in the last eight months.

You’re building on your own now,

Is it all you ever wished for?

Are you happy you’re with yourself?

Independence is a strain,

No one’s pain but your own to shoulder -she sings on the song, over simple guitar chords.

The calming three-minute ditty was actually written about five years ago. “I only performed it live once, for Sofar Sounds JHB, and then never played it again. People have requested it since then, but it never felt necessary to get back to the song until recently,” Adelle tells me. “It’s definitely more about how I felt at the time I wrote the song. I think it makes sense now too, considering all of the loneliness and alienation that some people have experienced these last few months. I wrote the song at a time when I was considering my own vulnerability, my relationships and inter-dependence. This year has definitely brought some of those thoughts back up.”

The artist who hails from Pretoria is currently based in Berlin, Germany and hasn’t been home in almost a year now.

The pandemic has affected people in various unimaginable ways which have also come with complex reactions. Not every artist or creative would be the perfect feature on those cute Balcony Stories XL video clips. Adelle has also felt the severity of the times.

“…the reality is that this has been a heavy time, and my body’s response has not been to create,” Adelle opens up.

“SO much happened during lockdown- this whole year really. I think we all know that. Personally, I’ve been in protective/survival mode and creating has been difficult. I am not one of the people proposing that people be productive and come out with an incredible body of work after this time. I think if that’s how you deal with a pandemic, then good for you. But it’s been the opposite for me, and that is ok. I have spent a lot of this time sleeping/trying to fall sleep, reading, crying, writing, chatting to people I love, trying to pay my bills – while also trying not to feel guilty for not meeting the deadlines I set for myself.”

SIMPLY ADELLE. Photo by Susan van Tonder
SIMPLY ADELLE. Photo by Susan van Tonder

“I’m slowly starting to feel the shock of everything starting to settle now- at least emotionally, and I’m beginning to find a new rhythm of life, and the words to articulate what I’ve been feeling in this time. I’m almost certain that this will influence whatever work I release next, but even if it doesn’t, the words and melodies written in this time will not have been a waste.”

It certainly will not be for nought, when you see how a song written about half a decade ago has unquestionable relevance today. “I was terrified about this release- it’s SO simple and bare that I wondered whether it was necessary to even release it. I wasn’t sure how it would land, but the feedback has been great.”

Need Someone is a stand-alone single, but Adelle confirmed she is working on new releases.

Listen to Need Someone HERE

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It was in May of 2016 that then SABC Chief Operations Officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng, temerariously declared that all the national broadcaster’s radio stations playlists will be dominated by home-grown ditties. The infamous 90% local music quota.

Motsoeneng was like the uncle who in his inebriated state at a family gathering, announced that the whole family should come to his house the following weekend for another get-together where there would be an ubiquity of food and beverages, without discussing it with his frugal wife.

The redundant radio station managers who never seem to sheath their appetite for payola, being the stingy wife in the analogy.

Although the move evinced Motsoeneng’s strange benign for artists, he never thought through the execution of such a catalytic move. In an interview with Nicky B on Kaya FM’s World Show around the same time, Nakhane Touré said one of the problems with the ratio is that listeners won’t be introduced to new music by radio stations. “Instead of hearing one Mafikizolo song a day, we’ll now hear two or three,” said Touré. Of course the Fog singer was making a mere example (he did say he loves the dance duo) but his point was clearer than a pair of new specs.

Of the countless utterances we’ve had to endure from Motsoeneng, I’m pondering particularly on this very one during the Covid-19 lockdown, because I’ve been immersed in South African music of different kinds for the last few weeks and I imagine how South Africa would be sounding like, had Motsoeneng’s wish been carefully granted.

To be more specific, it’s the Siya Makuzeni Sextet album, Out Of This World that has had me imagining a world where South Africans are exposed to their finest talent.

Siya Mukuzeni is an insanely talented artist who delivers her craft with ingenuity, ubuntu, vigour and in what looks seamlessness. The trombonist who also belts out notes has been in the industry for over 15 years now, playing in some of the biggest bands with fine musicians on world stages. She was part of Carlo Mombelli’s Prisoners of Strange ensemble between 2002 and 2011. She was also in the Blue Notes Tribute Ochestra where she played with the likes of Marcus Wyatt, Johnny Dyani and Chris McGregor. Together with another unique ensemble of equally talented artists, collectively known as Spaza, she released an album of the same name a year ago.

With the Siya Makuzeni Sextet, she put together some of her favourite musicians who she enjoys to play with to create a body of work that I believe more South Africans need to hear. The sextet comprises of Thandi Ntuli on piano, Ayanda Sikade on the drums, the trumpet being blown by Sakhile Simani, Sisonke Xoti playing the saxophone and Benjamin Japhta on bass.

There’s often the juxtaposition to bassist Esperanza Spalding because they both are female, sing and play an instrument. They’ll always be comparisons of females, especially in an industry without women in the forefront. Although the groove in their music is undeniable, Siya’s got the juice. That unfiltered African juice form the wells of the Eastern Cape.

Like on the title track, Out Of This World which teems with traditional Xhosa music from the first second, this while embracing modern sounds. Her voice is undeniably infectious as Stevie Wonder’s or Thandiswa Mazwai’s. The song New Age is a reiteration of a sought-out truth, while landing somewhat as a lament. Say Sibusile Xaba’s Uyahlupha. The joint has swing and it serves its purpose.

The seven track album has a fair balance for the padentic jazz ear that prefers songs without vocals, only the sound of instruments dancing. Another one composed by Makuzeni on the album, a Brazen Dream is a good introduction to Jazz for someone new to the abyss that is the genre.

I’m a sucker for great vocals accompanied by some dope show-don’t-tell typa lyrics which take the role of a travel tour guide, when listening to the music. Imagine a congregation singing Moya Oyingcwele in unison, truly in the spirit. It slaps umoya.

I feel the Holy Spirit’s presence each time I listen to this song-I’m overwhelmed with questions of how this song was conceived. With churches being open now, I believe choir conductors/worship leaders should introduce Moya Oyingcwele emasontweni, if they haven’t.

Out Of This World is just one of many great projects by a South African artist. People need to hear more of this and many other albums. To enjoy them, while simultaneously putting some randelas in the artists’ pockets. True “proudly South African” shit.

Listen to the album HERE


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