IT’s like being soul-crushingly stood-up last minute by the one you’ve been pursuing for a long while, and then jiki-jki you’re cringingly excited by a random call or text from your perpetrator, not long after being let down.
So that was it; how I felt after the announcement of this year’s AfroPunk Joburg line-up. A friend who had the flyer on his WhatsApp status was going crazy over GoldLink finally coming down south for a performance. SMH. After a closer look, I also saw the names of Solange Piaget Knowles and Micah Davis. SMFH.
The three of them; Solange, GoldLink and Masego abandoned their South African fans and left them hanging in the past few years. It was in the afternoon of December 2017 , Central African Time, when Beyoncé’s baby sister dropped the bombshell on Insta, stating health reasons for cancelling her performance at AfroPunk’s inaugural African event. “…however it is important to me for the people in South Africa, a place that has tremendous meaning to me and that has given me SO SO MUCH, to know why I won’t be performing at Afropunk this NYE. The past five months I have been quietly treating, and working through an Autonomic Disorder,” she wrote on social media.
AP organisers vehemently promised to have the dope-ass creative the following year, mara nex in twenty18. A part of me is like “Tsek!” after I saw her name on this year’s flyer while another leans on the proverb “better late than never”.
While Solange was specific about her condition, rap singer GoldLink just said he had a health issue, in a statement released by Rocking The Daises organisers. “Due to unforeseen personal health reasons, GoldLink will not be performing at this year’s Rocking The Daises and In the City festivals in Cape Town and Johannesburg. GoldLink is extremely disappointed that he won’t be playing to his South African fans this weekend but promises to return soon.” He is returning soon, sooner than Solange was promised to us.
Jamaican-born musician Masego had fans dissatisfied last year, when he was booked to headline the Flying Fish Flavour Odyssey together with rapper J.I.D but cancelled due to “unforeseen circumstances”. The Navajo singer was stranded at an airport, in another continent just a day before his performance. Like a decent human being, he apologised and made the promise to return. And he kept it. Masego performed earlier this month to throngs of his fans. I’m just not sure whether South Africans want to see more of the lanky dude,so soon.
AP better have a back-up plan should all three decide to take a rain check-the three have left scars on their Mzansi fans which will take some time to heal. “I have very hectic trust issues. This line-up is triggering me. The ghosts of all the money I threw away at Flying Fish, Rocking The Daisies and AfroPunk2018 is screaming at me right now,” said ManchaM on twitter.
This year’s line-up was released earlier than AP usually publishes their list of performers. It’s kinda too good to be true. Only time will tell if the said artists will perform at this year’s AP.
Kippies, Moses Molelekwa, Mankunku, Lulu Masilela, Pat Phasha, Mongezi Feza, Pat Matshikiza, my father’s discarded collection of vinyls, or just maybe an incessant search to justify the emotions I love Ikageng invokes. The panic and ease that happens with most of Molelekwa’s whimsical melodic sounds, proving that jazz is not just technical, Molelekwa often is the instrument in his renditions relaying what lies within him, leaving one completely immersed in the sound, the pauses and the underlying stories of just but a symphony.
The term “jazz”, carries so much more than a word is meant to carry; love, freedom and resilience. Jazz strips you naked, anything akin to pride is forgotten as soon as the mourning horns of Yakhal’ inkomo lend on the ear. That is jazz, the ability to make the unimaginable clear, the knack to put feelings to sound, and sound to words without necessarily speaking.
Although the influence of jazz might be in doubt in a densely pop art influenced South Africa, regardless there is a new wave of different fusions and characterization of what jazz is to the present times. The definitive voice of Nono Nkoane, Nduduzo Makhathini’s keys, Feya Faku, the amazing lyricism of Nkoto Malebyane comes to mind. In jazz there has always been tragedy as much as there is triumph. The apartheid regime had almost done away with jazz at realising its transformative impact. Today jazz suffers at the hand of current pop sounds all the while experiencing an immense change of tone. The impressive and magical factor of jazz is the capacity to remain, to transform, adapt and survive-comparable to black people.
Musicians have always spoken truth where lies subjugate the world, Simphiwe Dana’s Bantu Biko street comes to mind. The living conditions of the black majority in a now democratic South Africa can easily harden the heart, and that is where jazz comes in, in such times a song is a respite. One can always be swallowed by a song even in the chaos of black tax and financial seclusion on institutions.
That is jazz everything that has been, is and more.
Humanity is a disease to mother Earth thus motherfuckers don’t deserve my love. Why are we so destructive, unprogressive and hopelessly retarded in our pursuit of happiness? As I pen this piece of mind it is the 7th of May 2019. The day before South Africa holds its sixth democratic election to select the political organisation which will get to rule my home country for the next half a decade.
The winner will most certainly be the African National Congress. A well organised collection of liars, thieves and killers. Everybody knows what they are but nobody can prove it and most of us do not care. Admittedly lying, thieving and killing are a necessary component in a social struggle against oppression.
That does not translate well when a liberation movement becomes the governing party. The history of Africa since its independence bares testament to this unfortunate truth. Although that history is not without its heroes and heroines. Thomas Sankara, Steve Bantu Biko, Ruben Um Nyobè, Tambo just to name a few. Their courage in the face of Caucasian tyranny transformed their lives into monuments of beauty in this cold white world.
Beauty is the source of joy in life and for this not so humble writer, the beauty in anything lies in the thought behind it. This is why some of us as pretentious Hip Hop heads do not fuck with Trap music and refuse to acknowledge it as a fundamental part of Hip Hop culture. We simply do not understand the intent and the thought behind it.
I only started to appreciate the beauty of Trap after watching a documentary series called Noisy Atlanta. In the series a nerdy and scrawny white male follows influential Trap artists through the American city of Atlanta. The city is a critical transportation point for that country’s economy. Consequentially illegal drugs coming in from Mexico have to go through the city. This creates an opportunity for the disenfranchised African American population in the city. With a heavy drug and gang culture, Trap houses spring up all over the city like mushrooms.
A Trap house is basically a comprehensively fortified house in which dealers produce and sells narcotics. Those menaces to society live in a constant state of fear. They are always on the lookout for the pigs and snitches who try to put another black man behind bars, but there need for the all mighty dollar drives them to remain in the game. Some of these delinquents are able to express that state of mind through music. That is how Trap music came to be.
Generally Trap beats are filled with sonic textures that create an atmosphere of fear, which is contrasted with cheerful bells or strings. The lyrics are always about drugs, money and sex. With that said, when one takes a deeper listen to the music, you will come to understand that Trap is about the hustle. Trappers take pride in their work ethic and the ability to come out on top with the odds stacked against them. Which is quite effective when one is in the gym or on their way to a stressful meeting and they need to kill it. Trappers do not allow fear to get in the way of what they want and what they need.
Fear is a necessary evolutionary response when one finds themselves in a dangerous situation. It inspires action where a person either has to fight or flee to survive but fear stifles thought. Without thought there is no beauty and a life without beauty is a life filled with misery. This is the reason why the South African Bantu is such a sorry excuse for a human. We are filled with fear.
With 17 million people on social welfare, we have chosen to live on our knees rather than dying on our feet. We afraid of truth, sacrifice and change. The truth is that the consequence of capitalism is inequality. Free markets do not give a fuck about social cohesion and the common good. Its only concern is profits and losses. We as a people have to sacrifice luxury and a bit of comfort. In order to effectively address the issues that we face as a society. We are afraid of change. We need to let go of unprogressive tribal, cultural, and social norms that are no longer relevant in this current space and time.
Thus it is fear that retards our pursuit of happiness. It has turned us into illiterate, binge drinking and brash people. In other words fear has made us ugly.
I’M of the strong belief that the location in which one choses to consume music at, has an effect on how the songs are received. But specifically listening to an artist’s album, in a place where they were born sorta gives you a high-definition experience of the body of work.
This realisation came as I listened to Mandisi Dyantyis’s album Somandla, while in Port Elizabeth,his place of birth. I’ve had the 12-track album on my playlist for well over a month now; it’s a great body of work. But struu no lie, being eBhayi just for a few days, I would say gave me an unfiltered understanding of Somandla. This could also be a strong placebo effect. But ag, the latter fits well with me story.
The opening track Molweni is poignant in how it not only welcomes you with a warm greeting to this 59 minute journey, but it’s the only joint on the album without instruments. Dyantyis choses to sing this ditty in acapella, as if offering his true self first, to the listener. The acapella jogged my memory to The Soil, pre-Samthing Soweto-exit.
Dyantyis’s experience in music is ever present on the album, managing to genuinely cater for the hard jazz cat and also for the lover of soul, who enjoys sweet melodies and harmonies. Dyantyis works a lot in theatre, as a composer and arranger for plays and movies while he’s also been a church choir conductor and also played in a band.
The vivacity of the way the instruments are played and arranged on Kuse Kude, it can trip you into thinking the song is a jovial one, but a closer listen to the lyrics, you pick-up the irony. He talks about how far we are from getting it right as human beings, if we still live in a world where youth rapes their elderly and kids are sexually assaulted by adults.
I first came across Dyantyis through the title track of the album, Somandla with the well-shot video a few months ago. Made sense why the album has the said title. Most of the songs have an air of melancholy and are like a long conversation with the Creator, a dialogue which at times is without words.
The song Olwethu is a case in point. You need not get the backstory to feel the song’s sadness. Olwethu is Dyantyis’s late younger brother, whose passing hit the musician hardest. “I had lost some people before, but losing him, I could not deal with it because, for me he was a young life full of potential,” Dyantyis said in his EPK.
Kode Kube Nini is the kinda track I can play for most people-be it a struggling artist, a mother praying for their child to get off drugs or a damsel waiting for marriage- because it carries a universal question, ‘how much longer should I wait till things go right?’ The song talks to one’s patience and endurance.
I appreciated the slight change of mood in the latter stages of the album, with songs like Molo Sisi and Ndimthanda. Dyantyis has a beautiful voice, but the latter stands out as his best singing performance on the album. It allowed him to show off some dexterity and it’s also a dope joint of a fella simply macking on an attractive female. Ndimthanda also celebrates love and the beauty of attraction’s simplicity, even for a couple that’s been together for a long time.
This album has been nominated in the South African Music Awards in the Best Jazz category alongside Sibusiso Mash Mashiloane’s Closer to Home, Exile by Thandi Ntuli, Bokani Dyer Trio’s Neo Native and Tune Recreation Committee’s Afrika Grooves with the Tune Recreation Committee. He stands next to some renowned names in that category, but if Dyantyis doesn’t walk away with it, I advise the judges drive down to Port Elizabeth and listen to Somandla. They’ll get it.
I’d like to think I’m writing this after seeing the best video category from this year’s South African Music Awards nomination’s list.But it was rather going through a friend’s external hard drive and coming across 2PAC’s How Do You Want It with the brothers K-Ci & JoJo.
It was the triple ‘X’ in the title of the video that got my attention. Bar the excitement my body couldn’t hide from seeing erotic scenes, I actually sat there pondering for what seemed like an eternity, on the paucity of X-rated versions of music videos.
I grew up in a time where tracks had two versions of the video, the dirty one and the clean version for prime time television. Artists still make clean versions of their songs for radio and will have the explicit joints on their albums. Dirty doesn’t only pertain to women gyrating their rears in front of the camera; it is what viewers deem offensive. Be it nudity, unpleasant language or the depiction of violence in a music video-and more.
Rapper Jay-Z found himself in some trouble for his 99 Problems video. Shot in Brooklyn, New York the video depicts life for niggers in the hood and the city. In the last scene, a defenceless Jigga is shot at multiple times on a sidewalk. It was viewed as something done in bad taste. So bad, that MTV would only broadcast the video with an introduction from Jay-Z explaining that it was a metaphorical death, not a real one. I know right, my eyes rolled too.
Black Entertainment Television (BET) designated their late hours to these explicit music videos, in a programme called BET Uncut. Uncut aired from 2001 till 2006, playing mostly Hip Hop videos with gross sexual imagery that had many teenagers risk getting an ass-whipping just to watch their favourite artists, next to some of the finest booty you’ll ever see.
A slew of explicit Hip Hop videos aired in those five years but nothing was raunchier than Nelly’s Tip Drill which saw dudes in throwback jerseys, du-rags and Air Forces at a house party that probably had three naked women for each fella in the video. I remember first seeing the video on a friend’s computer while in high school, with a grin on my face marvelling at why we never have such house parties when we decide to bunk school.
BET Uncut came to an end after many complaints about the show being distasteful and constituting soft porn. Rightfully so, it was.
In South Africa, artists play it safe. If they create videos which are polarizing, it’s usually for their “strong” tone on politics or social issues.
Last year a complaint came to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission South Africa (BCCSA) about Kwesta’s Spirit music video. The viewer’s grievance was about the slaughtering of chicken in some of the scenes. The rapper was also accused of trying to score political points by burning the old South African flag in the video.
In 2014 The Zimbabwean government under Robert Mugabe’s rule, turned away South African band Freshly Ground as soon as they landed at the Harare International airport , with no reason as to why. But in 2010, the collective released Chicken to Change, mocking Mugabe’s stubborn grip to power since the country gained independence in 1980. Guess Uncle Bob couldn’t let them get away with what they did four years prior.
South Africa has banned more ads and artwork than it has music videos.
Music and videos that the average viewer might find offence, are not officially banned but ghosted. You wouldn’t find Die Antwoord’s videos on MTVBase, simply because a censored version would usurp the video of its punch.
The internet has given directors and artists the liberty in their video-making, to create without fear of being ostracized by mainstream media for their authenticity.
The creative freedom is refreshing,especially because for so long,men have dictated what images of women are shown. Now women can decide how they want to be seen, Beyoncé is a fine case in point.