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9min8703

Koketso Rakobela is a chef, but a look at her Instagram account would have you thinking she’s a foodie influencer. She has a mouth-watering sense of style, a good taste in art and comes off authentic as a plate of pap and inyama ye ntloko. But in the culinary streets, she’s christened herself with a moniker which gives more insight into who she is-The Brown Chef.

“Brown Chef came about when I realized just how much I love the colour and tone of my skin. I wanted to make it known somehow that I love being brown, and I’m a chef. So, that’s how Brown Chef came about,” Rakobela tells me.

Koketso Rakobela. Photo by Dimpho Mmotlana
Koketso Rakobela. Photo by Dimpho Mmotlana

While the Dorah Sitholes, Gordon Ramsays and Nigella Lawsons utilized traditional media to grow their brands through TV shows and print publications, today’s cooks use social media to promote their work-which gives them more authority in the curation of their content- and are seemingly more mindful about being brands.

“I’ve always been a creative person, but I think I wasn’t quite sure as to where I was headed with the creativity. I don’t want to limit myself to just being in the kitchen. I want to see myself do everything that I’m passionate about i.e. photography, modelling and a whole lot of other things which I won’t reveal just as yet,” says the ambitious chef. “If I’m not in the kitchen, I’m in front of the camera shooting pictures of myself that have a conceptual meaning of some sort to them- depending on how I’m feeling.”

KOS FOR SUNDAY: A Sunday lunch by The Brown Chef. Photo by Kokee
KOS FOR SUNDAY: A Sunday lunch by The Brown Chef. Photo by Kokee

Rakobela’s appreciation for art is palpable in her dishes and her photography. “I love colour and vibrance [sic], so yes, art does have a huge influence on my craft. Art is everywhere, and almost everything is art its own form. As much as an artist can show emotion in a song/painting, a chef can evoke the same feeling or tell a certain story on a plate. My most favourite part of cooking is plating-and that’s the best way to showcase food/cooking as an art form”

THE CHEF IN HER SEAT: Koketso being interviewed about her culinary skills. Photo by Rearabetswe Ntuli.
THE CHEF IN HER SEAT: Koketso being interviewed about her culinary skills. Photo by Rearabetswe Ntuli.

Italian cuisine holds a special place in her heart-any type of pasta with a lot of cheese go down very well with her. But her palate isn’t colonized by “sophisticated” foods. True to her rich melanin, she enjoys bogobe ka mašotša le morogo or simple beef stew with pap, morogo and some atchar on the side. Her cooking skills are varied as her taste.

TAKE ME HOME: A dish prepared by the Brown Chef. Photo by Kokee
TAKE ME HOME: A dish prepared by the Brown Chef. Photo by Kokee

“I’m an all-rounder in the kitchen! In culinary school, I studied both Food Prep [hot kitchen] and Patisserie. Both of them have different moods they give, but because I love the rush and work well under pressure, I’d say I’m a hot kitchen chef.”

After completing her studies in 2018 at Capsicum Culinary Studio, she was fortunate to bag an internship in the US. “I left my home country on pure intent of just going to cook and learn about everything that has to do with just cooking,” she says. While there she lived in Boston and then later went to Phoenix. “But, it turned somewhat into a personal adventure. I got to meet kind people; got to learn and experience other cultures; and I somehow got to ‘find myself.'”

HER SERVING: Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Photo by Kokee
HER SERVING: Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication here. Photo by Kokee

As beautiful as it’s been to see people cooking up a storm in their homes during the lockdown, it hasn’t been so nice for actual chefs who do this for a living. Like most industries, the culinary space has also been dealt a hard blow. “It’s a tough and competitive industry in itself, so to see businesses close due to the lockdown is just putting more strain on the industry. Taking into consideration, also, the fact that South Africa is still growing in the culinary industry, the lockdown has just suppressed the growth,” says Rakobela.

Bleak as these times are, The Brown Chef still has dreams of owning a boutique hotel someday. “Being able to groom and teach young and upcoming chefs the principles and lessons that I would have learned in my years of being in the industry, in my own kitchen, would be the pinnacle of my career.”

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10min14260

OF ALL the periods in Hip Hop’s few decades of existence, there still hasn’t been an era that heads sentimentally connect and long for, like the ’90s era.

This nostalgic feeling is driven by the reverence in lyricism, the holy sampling, the endearing Boom Bap sound and the purity of the genre right before the immorality of the new millennium. It’s for this reason that even in this current Trap era, there are still emcees who uphold the above-mentioned 90s era “principles”. Simphiwe ‘Sim’ Mabuya is such emcee.

This is by no means a suggestion that his 12 track album Perceptions should be relegate to the 90s. Nah. The project is refreshing, particularly because it came out just this year.

IN THA STREETS: Simphiwe 'Sim' Mabuya. Photo supplied
IN THA STREETS: Simphiwe ‘Sim’ Mabuya. Photo supplied

The 90s Hip Hop head enthusiast inside me listened to the album in one sitting and appreciated it. Mabuya’s music is like something you’ve heard before, but always wanted to hear again. His storytelling is amplified by lived experiences, his vulnerability and the wisdom that comes with those lived experiences. He makes grown-ass black man music.

The emcee from kwaZakhele, eVuku in Port Elizabeth has a Drama background having studied at the University of Cape Town. “My drama/theatre background has always played a huge role in influencing my music. The stylistic writing, the vivid storytelling, the bringing of emotion / mood to the music and of course the poetry.”

“The project took me about 8 years or so to put together. Meaning the writing of the songs, a few songs I’ve had to rewrite, followed by a fun but long process of beat selection. Its authenticity mostly stems from real experiences, direct and indirect, reflections of my (and my society) daily experience plus stories living and growing up ekasi under difficult and horrific circumstances.”

In just 3:44 he managed to package some of these horrific circumstances, like being stabbed in the eye, to the rays of sunshine in his life, the birth of his daughter for example, in the beautifully laid Ngasekhaya. “I intentionally chose a variety of producers for the project to be diverse without losing that Jazzy, Boom Bap Hip Hop feel,” says Mabuya.

The album’s producers include Adon Geel, Bulelala Ngodwane, Xolani Duai Skosana, Planet Earth and Christian Monashe.

“Pain, joy, loss, daily struggles, achievements, conversations with self, traveling, reading …and a longing for a meaningful and empowering piece of music,” Mabuya tells me of what inspired this body of work.

A REBEL WITH A PURPOSE: Simphiwe Sim Mabuya. Photo supplied
A REBEL WITH A CAUSE WITHOUT A PAUSE: Simphiwe Sim Mabuya. Photo supplied

Unlike a Costa Titch album, Perceptions isn’t bombarded with features of other emcees-there’s no confusion about whose album this is, his voice is rightfully consistently present on this work. Mabuya only had one emcee on this project, with a few vocalists negotiating some of the choruses and hooks.

“I felt I needed to show my pen capabilities, above all …share a chunk of who I am, thus the album title Perceptions. Also I find it challenging to work with energies that aren’t on the same musical / spiritual plane as I am: pen game is critical, authenticity/ originality are key and a positive working energy,” says Mabuya. His first offering was 2007 Social Poetics, which he says was discontinued due to poor production quality.

On the song Tata he openly talks about the hurt brought by his Popps’ absence in his life. The joint is so real, he shares with listeners that the only thing his dad ever bought him was a belt. It’s one of those essential songs in the crevices of the album which will never be bumped on radio and probably won’t be a fan favourite nor a music video shot for it. The song highlights father-son daddy issues on a similar level that HHP’s Danger on the uRata Mang album did for teenage pregnancy.

Perceptions was released in August this year and Mabuya’s work has been received well by listeners. “Frankly, the project has been doing great, gradually gaining meaningful traction within a space of just three months of its release. I’ve been receiving great comments or feedback from everyone that has taken time to listen to the project and am truly thankful and humbled by the response so far.”

THA STORYTELLER: Simphiwe Sim Mabuya. Photo supplied
THA STORYTELLER: Simphiwe Sim Mabuya. Photo supplied

So well that his music has been used on popular television drama series Gomora. “I had sent the music to a friend, she loved it and thought the album would be great for Gomora. She requested I forward five songs I felt would be proper for the show and I did so. A number of days later I was requested to send the entire album, I guess the show’s producers loved the project. I was blown away by the response I must admit, it proved that we, Home Grown Concept, had done a stellar job. So…yeah, it’s quite exciting and dreamy that the music will be heard from the award winning TV show,” a thrilled Mabuya tells me.

The album can streamed here on Spotify and here on Apple Music. You can also stream it on YouTube.

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10min12781

The first time I heard songs from William Ello’s debut mixtape, fittingly titled Kasi Norms, I heard the hood calling out to me in an unfamiliar voice of sophistication and subtlety.  The Kasi is a loud space where there are no traditional modes of behavior due to its relative infancy.

Johannesburg is a petulant teenager when it is measured against its middle aged counterparts. Cities like Cairo, Berlin, London, New York or Hong Kong, have been around for centuries. They have endured through plagues, war and famine, developing unique personalities as generations of Homo sapiens are born and buried within their ever expanding artificial boundaries.  Johannesburg is only a 120 years old, thus its ghettos are dusty neglected toddlers, whose nappies are full of shit because their mother is out hustling in the streets looking for a blesser with a weave she bought with her SASSA card. Consequentially Mzansi ghettos do not know how to act, they do not know how to behave. Mzansi ghettos do not possess a fully formed culture.

Culture is pragmatically defined as the way societies and communities do things. The manner in which they approach daily living that best expresses their sense of a collective identity. Culture, amongst other things, can be broken down into traditions. Traditions can be broken down into customs. Customs are broken down into norms. Norms are how emerging communities are identified and Kasi norms are a thing to be hold.

Given the fact that South Africa is one of the most economically unequal societies in the world, scrappiness is an essential quality for those who are disadvantaged in the fast paced rat race that is modern day urban living. William Ello explores this idea in his opening track of the project, titled Gereza. In between war like drums and luscious chords infused with a churchy vibe, he inspires his congregation towards self-sufficiency and independence.

…As’lali lana siphilile(we don’t sleep here, we are alive), Busy…Ubsuku bonke(the whole night), busy…Sek’puma ilanga(the sun is coming up), umutu uyagereza eh(a person hustles)…

In the hook he makes it clear that he sees nothing but a bright future for the kasi even though he is surrounded by depravation and despair.

We gon’ rise…Homie my heart full of hustle…Stay on the grind…We gon’ shine…Bright like the light from God’s candle…Tell no lie!…We gon’ ride…All the way to the top they ain’t gon’ stop us..These are the vibes…We alive…All my people gon make it I know…

HOOD ADVENTURE: William standing adjacent the kasi's popular mode of transport. Photo supplied
HOOD ADVENTURE: William standing adjacent the kasi’s popular mode of transport. Photo supplied

This is pathetically naïve in my not so humble and objective opinion. But I get the cocky pessimism smacked out of mouth, every time I blaze this joint. It slaps like your mama after she’s been nagging your lazy ass to do the dishes for four hours straight and then she catches you glued to the TV screen, watching re-runs of Generations on a rainy Saturday morning. Ello is not a great singer by any stretch of the imagination. His vocal range is very limited and the level of his vocals gets a bit too low sometimes because I think he is conscious of his constricted vocal dexterity. The interest of his music resides in the novelty of his sonic demeanor. The Kasi perspective is often expressed through a lens of vulgarity and crassness. In contrast, Ello’s music is mild mannered and thoughtful. Every element in his beats exist for a particular purpose, which critical considering his minimalistic approach in this project.

William Ello. Photo supplied
RIDE WITH ME:William Ello. Photo supplied

The opening bassline on Never Setis is a prime example of his curious attention to detail. It vividly arouses images of 90’s South Africa when kwaito was at the peak of its popularity and the only place the urban Bantu could turn-up was in smoke filled taverns which only used beer crates as chairs. In Asi vaye the drums take on mid-tempo hypnotic sequence punctuated by a percussive bass sound which always puts me in a frenzied state of head nodding. As I lovingly embrace my dusty inner hood rat and tell him it’s ok and that there is nothing wrong with where he comes from and who he is.

Kasi Norms sounds like nothing I have ever heard before and I like it, for the most part. The one major problem I have with the project is its length. I feel thirteen songs is too long considering how experimental and chilled the songs are. I am of the firm belief that projects that sonically push boundaries should not demand so much time from their listeners. This is the primary reason that, while I love Kendrick Lamar’s To pimp a Butterfly, I hardly ever go back to it as a project because it is so taxing to my psyche. Experimental albums should be short and sweet, this is to ease the listener into new sonic terrain so that they are not exhausted by the experience but rather are left feeling excited and satisfied.

AUTHENTICALLY HOOD: William Ello. Photo supplied
AUTHENTICALLY HOOD: William Ello. Photo supplied

William Ello is definitely a talent to watch out for in the future and with the proper support, hard work and a shit load of luck. He is defiantly going to pop. Maybe?

Stream the mixtape here

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12min209617

Creativity, check. Technical astuteness and the ability to communicate ideas through design, check. Great visual awareness, check. There isn’t a prerequisite box that set-designers need to tick that Noluthando Lobese hasn’t. Being a hip black female and with a uniquely dope moniker like Hashtag Texture, she’s an off-kilter set-designer that tells stories authentically.

Lobese is currently the Art Director on the hit drama series, Vula Vala. The show is directed by Mandla N with Tiyane Nyembe as the DP (Director of Photography).

“Having an artistic leader as Mandla N, everyday was a wonderful challenge that my team and myself had to overcome. I think we really did well from transforming spaces to fit within our world to serve the story,” Lobese says.

As art director, Lobese created the world that the audience has been immersed in on the drama series. “From creating our own mealiemeal branding, newspaper branding and logo designs for the  soccer team ( Scorpions team) that includes banners, soccer balls and flags. It was all in the detail that can sometimes be overlooked by the viewer.”

Detail is imperative in this type of work, hence her nickname. “It definitely has to do with my work, telling stories through texture plays a great deal in my work. Texture is everything. It is authentic, through landscapes of texture stories can be told in an authentic visual aesthetic,” Lobese says of her nickname given to her by film director and friend King Shaft.

ALL SMILES: Noluthando Lobese. Photo by Zac Modirapela
ALL SMILES: Noluthando Lobese. Photo by Zac Modirapela

An award-winning designer, Lobese has been in the industry for over a decade now. She was introduced into the world of theatre by renowned set-designer Nadya Cohen.  “I studied fashion, however I’ve been lucky to have met Regina Sebright in 2008 at The Market theatre who introduced me to my mentor Nadya Cohen and James Ngcobo.”

“I design stage and costumes in theatre, production designer in commercials, TV and an art installation artist. I use my hands to create and mould materials that take a different form or shape. I call this work Mutation by using found materials, thread, and wool, plastic and other objects. Theatre and television is more collaborative, bringing a script to life through sets, locations, lighting and costumes. To be inspired and cautious of your surroundings plays a huge role in my work,” Lobese tells me.

Under the guidance of Cohen as set-designer and Ngcobo as director, Lobese made her debut as a costume-designer in 2009 in the production Thirst which was rewritten for a South African context and drew from Nguni mythology, which resonated with the past and the future.

Along with Cohen, Lobese credits Ngcobo for having given her opportunities to learn and immerse herself in the theatre world. “The Market theatre has been my school of design knowledge through the connections and collaborations I’ve made whilst there. Not so many directors are willing to give young designers / talents a chance like James Ngcobo.”

In 2008 Lobese studied in Stockholm Stadsteatern, Sweden as a design apprentice under the mentorship of Charlie Koroly. Four years later she was a designer in Salzburg at the Young Directors Festival as a production designer. She was accepted in New York, at the MacDowell Colony (NH) as an installation artist for work she developed while there, titled What It Is and it continued as an installation piece at Studio X, Johannesburg (GSAPP Columbia University).

OUT AT WORK: Hashtag Texture. Photo by Que Ntuli
OUT AT WORK: Hashtag Texture. Photo by Que Ntuli

She was an observer at the Glimmerglass Opera Festival (Cooperstown) New York. Lobese also worked on the Floating Stage (Bregenz Festspielehaus, Austria, 2013) as a design intern. She was part of the group of artists from ‘JHB Massive’ that went to showcase at The annual street festival in Accra, Ghana 2015.

Lobese is a consummate professional who has earned her stripes through her extensive travels, but even so, she says she still comes across people who don’t give her, her due respect as a working creative. “Being undermined especially the first time people work with you. It’s a constant struggle of convincing and proving yourself. Sometimes it’s because you’re laid back and do not feel the need to be dancing and sell yourself in the most basic way that the industry is expecting. I prefer the work to speak for itself and be given the freedom to create.”

She has a range of work and finds it difficult to say which stands out because the work is all unique, but said “Trapped that I costume designed in 2012, Salzburg Festspiele. It was directed by Zinzi Princess Mhlongo; It was also my first set design which was aired on SABC 1(Life is a stage) we had a crew of film makers (Born free media) documenting the behind the scenes process. A recent one is Rhinoceros which played last year at The Market Theatre.”

“I’ve designed most productions directed by James Ngcobo and have collaborated with various directors and other designers who are the best in the game. This involves working with friends and international collaborators”

Lobese spent her early stages of childhood in the Eastern Cape and then moved to Yeoville where she grew up. Being raised in a cosmopolitan space like Yeotown can nudge one into eccentricity and Lobese wears her oddness well.

She finds Yoga and shooting hoops as some of the best ways of unwinding. “I believe that I’m an inspiration to most people out there, I have not met most of them but they exist. I need a clear mind to keep moving forward and reach my highest, if I don’t do it I will never know how far I can bend my mind and remain fluid,” she says.

THA WOMAN BEHIND THA THA BRAND: Thando rocking one of her U Ts. Photo by Norman Maake
ROCKIN’ MY SHIII: Thando modeling her Unongayindoda Ts. Photo by Norman Maake

Unongayindoda, a term shoved at a girl who is said to be a boy-lookalike, has become Lobese personal task.

Unongayindoda is what I was called by the village community growing up in the Eastern Cape. Most Xhosa girls can relate to the term.  So Unongayindoda is a personal project and for the ones that can relate, I’m embracing the term. It is time we embrace shameful words that have been given to us through hate. The same way we have learned to love Soweto even though it was not by choice to vacate Sophiatown,”she says.

Clement Gama10/29/2020
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6min23728

WITHOUT a doubt the unknown musician has always had the open mic night at some odd pub, live events which are lenient on requests for abrupt performances and also radio stations which still take music from unheard-of talent.

But there’s definitely never been a better time for the gifted and undiscovered than the one we’re in right now. I bet my worn out tyres that at least five in seven people reading this, have in the last five years discovered artists they’ve never heard of on YouTube via any of these channels; COLORS, NPR Music Tiny Desk Concerts and Sofar Sounds. Combined, the aforementioned trio has over 10 million subscribers on YouTube.

South Africa is progressively growing in this space with a number of live platforms coming through the net. Sunday’s Unplugged Sessions is one of them. “We wanted to give a different perspective to how people listen to music. In an unplugged set and an unplugged location. We saw it as a platform to also showcase undiscovered talent,” Music Director, Khanyisile Dlamini tells Tha Bravado.

Totally Unplugged. Photo by Township Boy Movement
Totally Unplugged. Photo by Township Boy Movement

Founded in August, Sunday’s Unplugged Sessions has already hosted four performances. They unplug an unknown kat and share their music with world on their YouTube channel, Township Boy Movement. “The concept of sessions is to create [an] artistic hub for musicians. We have a resident band that seeks to accommodate different artists on different episodes. Each episode focuses on a specific artist, so we get to experience the artist rationale of their crafts. We select our artist based on the level of artistic abilities that will blend with the expectations of the show,” adds Xolani Nkosi, who is the Executive Director.

The band with Backdraft on the second episode of the sessions. Photo by Township Boy Movement
The band with Backdraft on the second episode of the sessions. Photo by Township Boy Movement

The band is led by the seasoned Thulani Twala, with Mfundo playing keys, Tshepo on strings and Siya on drums.

Their second episode featured rap singer Bakdraft, seemingly in someone’s yard on a lazy Sunday afternoon as the sun was setting. “We use different locations for different artist. Depending on the style and personality of the artists. We will be exploring a lot of locations,” says Dlamini, who’s affectionately known as the first lady. She is also a songstress, who performed on the first episode.

Last month on Heritage day they opted on having a session on the street corner. “Our set up is not determined by the factors that are surrounding [on] the day that we shoot. Shooting on the streets was not determined by what day we were shooting in, but maybe our heritage stems from the streets and using the street on Heritage day will reinforce where we come from as artists. We are for the streets,” says Nkosi, who is a photographer and videographer that has been working for a number of years under his Township Boy Movement company.

Sunday’s Unplugged Sessions is a brainchild of these young Tembisans, but they have ambitions of seeing these sessions miles away from the Ekurhuleni Township. “Our plan is to unplug all the cities of Mzansi. Working with talent and undiscovered talent across the country. Hopefully incorporate brands as well to part take in this great initiative,” Nkosi says.


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