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.”
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.
I met MoAfrika Mokgathi around 2005 or ’06 at Stanza Bopape Community Hall, where she hosted poetry sessions, Azanian Seeds-one of a few people hosting sessions in Mamelodi. That’s when I was exposed to her work, a huge part of me hoped that she writes a book but now that I know better, she couldn’t have given us My Tongue is a Rainbow at a better time.
Born in my beloved Mamelodi, MoAfrika’s voice is a familiar one. It took me a week to finish this book and I loved how much of an easy read it is. MoAfrika touches on feminism and family orientated issues.
My Tongue is a Rainbow is MoAfrika’s first offering and this is also my debut book review- so this is a big deal for me because we’re both infants at this. The title gives away what the poems could be about. Initially when I saw the book’s cover circulating on social media, I had an idea that the book focuses on events taking place in post-Apartheid South Africa. She has a poem tilted Marikana, about the 2012 massacre that saw the police gun down protesting miners in the North West and the piece also talks about how women are violated in South Africa.
When you’ve known someone’s work for as long as I’ve known MoAfrika’s, one prays that one of their all-time favourite poem is included in the book. When I received it, the first thing I looked for was an opening line to a poem I love…They were found fire dancing in the palm of God’s hand…I really love that poem ninani, I was actually sad for a sec [hahhaha].
MoAfrika also pays homage to Her Skin Speaks, a movement I dedicated to telling women’s stories in a poem called Monyamane. It was heartfelt of her to recognize real life events, female trauma and acknowledge the work put into trying to heal the female body holistically.
She has a poem in the book titled Rakgadi that I relate to. The piece highlights the importance of an aunt, specifically from one’s paternal side of the family. Her role in the family is important as it is stated in the poem that…
My paternal aunt has stopped ululating
She has stopped reciting the family clan names during family gatherings gutted that Mokgadi doesn’t greet her with jubilation. Mokgadi is getting married and Rakgadi is taciturn
In our culture Rakgadi is the overseer of everything; she gets the most gifts, and she is one of the people ‘ba layang ngwana’ in this case would Mokgadi.
I truly enjoyed reading this offering and I’m stoked to see what she writes about next. It’s been such an honour to share my two cents
The book is available for purchase. To get a copy you can email MoAfrika here firstname.lastname@example.org
The brainchild of founder Zain Nyabvure’s dream to be a masseur with his own parlour, Hands of Zain is tucked away in the leafy suburb of Parkhurst. A former ambulance technician, Zain quit his job and moved to Johannesburg in 2014, in search of an internationally accredited massage institute. He explains “It was not easy to leave my paying job and sell all I had for some cash to start a life. But with the help of well-wishers I managed to graduate in 2017, while studying part-time and working crazy hours.”
Now a licensed massage therapist with a degree from the International Therapist Examination Council, Zain admits with a chuckle “I am expensive to hire! Most spas can’t afford me.” A glass ceiling hovers over his dream however, negative stereotypes and cultural norms have created a definite bias towards female masseuses. “It gave me motivation to open my own practise because I was not much on request (sic) since I was a male therapist.” Hands of Zain started out as a mobile parlour, and in May this year Zain took the leap and found a permanent home for his massage parlour. The result is an unusual spa with a homey feel and eclectic touch. My favourite feature was the outdoor patio and lounge pool, which includes an outdoor massage table for soaking in the sun during summer.
As we chat over a glass of wine, African artworks like djembe drums and masks jostle for the gaze alongside colourful modern artworks. One in particular catches my eye; a large moody abstract painting reminiscent of Robert Hodgins’ abstracts, and Zain reveals he painted it. The décor in his home is a testament to his travels with quirky details like African snail shells in flowerpots hinting at his childhood memories. He’s bright, animated and clearly passionate about massage therapy.
His idea of an excellent masseur? “People got to massage [therapy] to get relief from their daily stress (sic) and frustrations. So a good therapist needs to be able to create a nurturing and healing experience, not just a massage. Empathy is one of the most important qualities of a massage therapist.”
When hunting for a massage parlour he had some simple tips. “Know what your goals. Each of us are all looking for a something different from a massage…Are you looking for pain relief in a particular region of your body…treatment for a medical condition or are you just looking for stress relief or just want to enjoy the simple yumminess of getting a massage?”
“Figure out what your preferences are. Where do you want the treatment to be? Close to your home at a [massage parlour] or at your home as a house call? Once you know your preferences, don’t forget to look for these details on their website or you can just call or email them to ask. You will get to know a little bit more about the therapist simply by asking those questions. Focusing on how eager they are to accommodate you, will let you know if your experience with them will be a positive one.”
While Zain’s career highlights have included massaging high-profile celebrities in the Saxon Hotel Villas and Spa, the journey has not been without its mishaps. “[LOL] one day I received a text message from an unknown number saying ‘Can you come up here to Westcliff and give me a massage with a happy ending. I texted them back and the text reads ‘No, but here’s the phone number of someone who can help you with that. 071 675 6072’. … they texted back and said they were looking for someone hot like me. I texted them saying call and find out. Few hours later I got a text from the same number saying that, the number I had sent them was for Parkview Police station. I love to always have good responses in my back pocket like this one.”
Qualified to deliver classic European massages like the Swedish massage, Zain’s passion however lies in unusual African massage therapies such as the Rungu massage. His go-to massage oil remains the simple coconut oil and he is current working on his own massage techniques manual which will include the African styles and tips he has mastered thus far. His final tip to an aspiring masseur? A simple quote and heads up about the journey. Maya Angelou’s “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” and an admonition to always do your research.
To experience Hands of Zain, contact Zain at +27 81 413 8786 or email email@example.com.
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.