THERE’s a number of international artists who will pack venues this South African Summer/Spring. And if Erykah Badu’s recent performance on NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert is anything to go by, South Africans are in for an unforgettable, engaging performance at this year’s Delicious Festival from the Queen of Neo-Soul.
Her career spans more than two decades and in that times she’s released five studio albums, a mixtape, one live album, played a number of sets as a DJ and also released a compilation project. But there are three things which stand out about Badu. If you’re fortunate to have a ticket for the Delicious Festival, look out for these three things when she’s on stage:
Google her and see the images that pop-up. It’s just amazing to see how much her look has transformed through the years. On stage, her style is another presentation on its own accompanying the music. She’s done the all-natural look before the doek became fashionable, mixed it up by rocking an orange hued suit swathed in an indigenous blanked topped with a hat, she has worn dungarees with accessories all over her-but still somehow looks cool!
But whatever change she embraces, those beautiful piercing hazel eyes are a mainstay of her beauty. Her unique style, which is not influenced by a personal stylist, has and continues to inspire men and women to embrace their uniqueness and the comfort of expressing it without feeling awkward about it, but rather appreciating the cathartic experience that comes with the fun process. Her style is a symbol of her personality- she tries, if it works for her it does, if it doesn’t then it is what it is.
Some artists can express themselves as good in person, as they do behind the mic. They have a sense of humour, they articulate their thoughts well and don’t take themselves too serious. In the live performances I’ve seen and heard of Badu, she always throws in some banter and shares her opinion about anything between her performances- similar to a Clarence Carter. She’s a 47 year-old with a young spirit, who manages to have fun with her band on stage, like a new artist would.
At the beginning of her NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert performance, while introducing her band she quipped that drummer Cleon Edwards is her son, Seven, whose father is André 3000, which had the audience in stitches. It’s not surprising that she’s pondering the idea of stand-up comedy. More than just being a funny sista, she’s also in control and in charge. She never switches-off when performing- she’s like that classmate who caused trouble but somehow, got good grades.
She walked butt naked on the street, in the Window Seat video in protest. “…it was shot guerrilla style, no crew, 1 take, no closed set, no warning, 2 min., Downtown Dallas, then ran like hell,” she wrote on her Twitter about the video shoot. It took place at the site of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In the video, she walks on the pavement removing her clothes, until she arrives right where Kennedy was shot, stark naked.
In a television interview on, The Wanda Sykes Show she said “My point was grossly misunderstood all over America. JFK is one of my heroes, one of the nation’s heroes. John F. Kennedy was a revolutionary; he was not afraid to butt heads with America, and I was not afraid to show America my butt-naked truth.”
HER HIGH QUALITY MUSIC
I hope Jill Scott doesn’t read this, but Badu is the Queen of Neo-Soul. There is no other female on the planet, who truly embodies Queen of Neo-Soul as Badu. Record label executive Kedar Massenburg rightly dubbed it Neo-Soul, which is a better representation of our generation. What distinguishes Neo-Soul from other types of music, is that it embraces the other genres. Jazz, Hip Hop, Rock, R&B, Gospel, Soul, and everything else under the sun. Badu’s music captures that very essence, without compromising on the quality and her standards. The older generation appreciate her more because she’s like a conduit of great female vocalists of old such as Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone. While youngins connect with her funk and hop that even a young Janelle Monáe can’t match up to.
She’s a multi-award winning artist who equally receives love from the commercial space and also on the streets. You can’t deny her. She has five studio albums which include the poignant 1997 debut Baduizm and Mama’s Gun which has been changing the game since 2000 and three other albums to her name. The two aforementioned albums have classics which are favourites for a lot of her ardent and new listeners, but what’s pleasantly mind perplexing is how she keeps tweaking them but has maintains their core over the decades.
HUGE DA ORACLE’s debut album is fittingly titled Rusty Soul. The rapper from Rustenburg is putting the final touches to the project which has been long overdue now.
“The album got a wide range of sounds, the people can expect way more than what they heard on June July. I can say the album is 70% done. I just really wanna take my time with it,” says Huge, speaking to Tha Bravado.
Real name Thapelo Khupari, the 27 year-old just released the first video of the album June July which features KidX. Directed by Kuda Jemba, the video is shot in the Johannesburg CBD at a barber shop and a scrapyard garage, it’s apt visuals that go with the Kwaito-infused beat with satisfactory bars on it. “It was just inspired by the mood of the song- dark grimy
and rebellious. The locations capture that sense,” Huge says.
Those in the Hip Hop scene knew Huge as far back as nearly 10 years ago in the underground scene, when he was in duo, Huge Impakt with rapper Impakt. But last year, while on the second season of reality television show The Hustle, he introduced himself to the rest of South Africa and the continent. Although he never won the competition, his brand became more familiar with the masses and he too, became a better artist having come third at the end of it.
Since then, he’s worked with Motswako’s gods, Kaygizm and Towdee Mac from Morafe as well as producer, Gobi Beats to which they released a video for his single 5IVE DIGIT$ with multi award-winning cinematographer, Ofentse Mwase.
He hasn’t given an exact date of when Rusty Soul drops, but he and his team are looking at releasing it before 2018 raps up. “My biggest inspiration while working on Rusty Soul was that I knew that people are finally waiting for the album. The demand is finally there.”
“That made me reach places I never thought I could reach musically and creatively. It was also wonderful to finally come up with a new sound that fully defines Huge as a brand and artist,” he says.
We’re in no militant warfare, but people are going through the most. But it’s our individual and yet common struggles, which foster these infinite bonds. Like British journalist Max Hastings once said, the only redemptive feature of war is the brotherhood which it forges.
Meet MK, Musa Mashiane and Bongani Xego. Three brothers connected by their shared fondness of Pan Africanism, art, music and entrepreneurship. But their connection comes to actuality through the Action Painting in Music events. Mashiane the musician, MK the artist and Xego the man behind organic skin care product, RA-ABA.
“For me, what we’re doing now is rather a feeling because we felt each other. For some reason, I feel like MK is me in another body, because all of his dreams and everything else is the same thing as mine. Even with King Musa, it’s the same thing. There’s a brotherhood es’nga yazi nathi, it’s very deep,” says Xego.
“It’s because we have a common bond and not only that, but we have the ability to enhance each other’s characters uyang’thola. Because a one man army, is no movement,” MK says.
They are a trio of light spoken characters, but the spliff going around the four of us, eases us into conversation. We’re at 4ROOM, busking in the sun-basically a bunch of bearded hippies deep in off kilter discussions emva kwendlu ye four room. But the place will be unrecognizable this coming Sunday, because of the Action Painting in Music event. Which will feature Adelle Nqeto, Touchline, Mo’Soul and others. The event includes a kid’s creative station, art exhibition and a tour of Tembisa.
4ROOM has been in existence for about eight years now, situated in Ethafeni section in Tembisa, 4ROOM Creatives Village is the umbrella company to which includes the house itself as a gallery, a magazine, art education and events (Art Lifestyle) among other things. MK runs and operates the place by himself with a small team. “We haven’t marketed ourselves as a traditional gallery to the world, because we know ukuthi our traditional standards are not the standards of what a traditional (Western) gallery looks like.”
“We started last year around May or June, with (artist) Nkateko Balyoi. We had a private show on June 16, but I think we had two or three shows before that. After that show, Nkateko moved out of the group to do other things,” says MK , detailing the history of Action Painting. After Baloyi’s departure, the two went on a few months’ hiatus from the project, until later in the year. “We started pushing again late last year, that’s when Thandazani Ndlovu became part of it.”
Mashiane, a seasoned musician, only started coming to 4ROOM last year, but rapidly grew a connection to the place and to MK. Mashiane suggested to MK the concept of “merging the music and the visual art together. Something which, we could invite people to come and watch. Not just an exhibition, but a space where they can experience an artist painting. Starting on a blank canvass and complete in front of the audience.”
They’ve organised four instalments of Action Painting in Music this year, this coming Sunday will be their fifth. Because of the rareness of such a presentation of visual art and music, their product has been demanded and received with warmth in the various places which they’ve graced. Earlier this year they were in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga.
They also went to Grahamstown, for the National Arts Festival. “It was like a learning experience. People received us well, professionally even, because we based ourselves in a space where there were a lot of people and we were delivering. People were appreciative-they had never seen it before, getting both experiences as one.”
They say the difference between Nelspruit and the Arts Festival, is that the former was more of a gig because they were expected. “I would say Grahamstown was more of a pop up. They had the Standard Bank showcase stage, of which we did that and everyone was like, shit!” Mashiane says.
Xego says later on that evening, they took a walk to a couple of pubs and restaurants and at one of them, they asked the manager if they could play at the spot. The place is called Major Fraser’s. “That guy gave us a platform and we did about four nights. It became our resident space,” says Mashiane.
They have similar life goals as Pinky and the Bain. “The end goal is very far, but it’s to take the village international. So this is just a rehearsal for that. But maybe in the next five years we can say we have an end goal,” says Xego.
“What I know is that s’phusha e black excellence. It’s a legacy for our children’s, children’s children,” says Mashiane. While MK has a more somber, and life enriching end goal. “It is something huge and we don’t know what it looks like. It’s to make sure the black man grows bigger than themselves and their fears and learn about their abilities.”
They are planning a final rehearsal of their world takeover, in December, the last Action Painting in Music of the year, at a secret location. “It’ll include some of the people from our previous events. It’s something to look forward to.”
As comfortable as Michael Knight is with and in his ride Kitt, so is artist Ludomo Maqabuka with his jalopy. His Nissan 1400 embodies his personality and character; a laid back modest individual that’s been through his fair share, but like the 1400, maintains his authenticity and suave in everything he does. We’re travelling from Joburg in his classic van, headed to Tembisa. Maqabuka and I, are part of an exodus of labourers from the city, which pile the highway
Maqabuka is a deliberate visual artist, who is intensely inspired by the artistry of music, through thoughtful musicians. Like Bob Marley said, when it hits you, you feel no pain. The music inspires the work he creates. He tells me of a time while working, listening to HHP’s intro of his album O Rata Mang. Titled O mang? the song aptly made him question who he is. “I was like shit, who am I…and I did a self-portrait after that. It just clicked. I also listen to a lot of jazz when I paint, because jazz is very abstract, there are no sing-alongs or someone’s verse to come…it’s just abstract music that swallows you up. ”
In his studio at August House where we were before hitting the road, he has a piece of Dr Philip Tabane with guitar in hand, stationed on stage as a vessel of the spiritual music. “That piece is so special. I don’t want it being owned by someone who doesn’t even know him [Tabane].”
Having said that, he doesn’t get too artsy farty about his work to a point where he will hoard it to himself, because he thinks no one is special enough to own it. “Bab’Philp Tabane is a father to a lot of musicians, especially in Pretoria. I made that piece dedicating it to him…whoever will buy it, must be someone who’s gonna cherish that piece. I don’t care if they hang it up their wall. Hoarding it to myself would be some childish shit. You know I make work to be enjoyed by people,” says Maqabuka.
His work has the feel and boldness of graffiti largely because of the stencils he uses , but says he never did any graff in his past. “I was too chicken to spray walls, but my work is influenced by graffiti. I’m a Hip Hop head…growing up in the 90s, that’s all I wanted to do, but I never made it to the walls- I would just do a quick small tag on a school desk or bathroom wall,” he says.
A talented artist who doesn’t know who she or he is, is less effective as one who does. A pro-black artist who doesn’t make noise about it but lives it, Maqabuka understands the impact his work has and can have. “One thing about white people [at universities] is that, they don’t share knowledge with us. Our forefathers were not taught art. Only those who were fortunate, like musicians. During my course [of Fine Arts] I was reluctant to learn about white people and art- everything is European, there’s a bit of Egyptian. So from my first year until third year I was taught white art.” He studied Fine Arts at the Tshwane University of Technology and graduated in 2007.
Only on his third year was Maqabuka introduced to African art. “That shit interested me…I connected with it. I believe art was the first communication tool, because the Khoisan would draw a cow or whatever on rocks and that would be a reminder when they go hunt that this is our meat for the month- how do they know how to sketch?”
He says that’s where his love for graffiti comes from. “That’s the root of graffiti, it’s expression. Like the youth in America were expressing themselves because they were like ‘no one is was listening to us’ that’s why the colours were bright and bold and the letters were very cartoonish.”
He continues. “I’m telling my reality, with the influence of Hip Hop. The elements of graffiti come from Hip Hop…and I’m also a DJ. Sometime when you make an art work, you don’t really see how deep it is, your choices on images. I’ve painted a lot of musicians that I love. I can’t do anything without music”
Stage name Dub-L-Tot, derived from his nickname Toto, he’s been using the moniker for some years as his alter ego as a DJ. “The nice thing about DJing is that a set is about an hour, so it doesn’t take up much of my time. A couple of years ago, I had a lot of time on my hands because I didn’t have a lot of projects so I would prepare my sets and spend a lot of time practicing…I would play at the Love Rebel in Maboneng on Thursday and Sundays, sometimes on Saturdays.”
A lot has changed for the artist from Vosloorus since teaming up with Cape Town based agency, Spier Arts Trust. He came across the agency while studying a graphic designing course in Sandton at Rosebank College in 2011. “I use to walk past their building, which had nice artwork outside and I always asked myself what happens in there, until I decided to go in and ask one day.”
The agency buys and sells art work and they have Nandos as their biggest client. Maqabuka sent his portfolio after his curiosity led him into that building. “They give you six blocks, you make an artwork and they buy it back from you.”
He has a group exhibition later this month in Cape Town at the AVA Gallery. “The theme of the show is rituals and I chose street rituals, for instance protest as a sub theme,” he says. The exhibition is titled Nandos Creative Exchange powered by the Spier Arts Trust.
“We as black people as’bekelani. I remember I use to go to Bag Factory and I wasn’t getting love. Let’s just call it art politics.” He’s a naturally reserved person, but opens up when feeling a sense of kinship with whoever he’s talking with. He says there are cabals in the Joburg art scene, which make it hard for one to crack it if they aren’t known there. “There’s a mafia typa thing…maw’ngaziwa, wubani ozok’fatela? Ama lecture wase Wits and UJ are running competitions…they are influential because they are teaching the future product. Ku rough dawg,” he says in laughter.
The adversity of not being able to fully utilize his university qualification saw him attempt a number of ventures, to make ends meet. In 2010, with a group of friends they tried their luck at running an internet café in Soweto and at some point he tried out at a call centre, which only lasted for three months. “I’m not really much of a talker. I worked in sales…imagine me trying to convince someone to buy a Cell C contract.”
It was while living in the South Western Township that his aunt told him to come back home. “Ma O’lady said I should come back home and try study some course. That’s when I went to Rosebank College to do the graphic designing course.”
Maqabuka lost his mother at a young age and his aunt has practically been his mother ever since. “She’s so dope man. Very supportive”
Amid his struggles for an income, he start a clothing label with a friend, called Intsizwa Z’phelele. “I’m no longer part of it, but I help them with graphics.”
Talking about his difficult period in life he says “You go through depression, because of pressure from society. As a guy who studied in Pretoria, guys you went to school with are driving nice cars, they’re working and wena you’re broke and still hustling. Those times made me strong. I had to go through that phase.”
“I would advise one to start out as a graphic designer…or get a course that’ll give you a job and then study art afterwards because it’s not for the fainthearted-it’s art. I studied in Pretoria and came to Joburg and it was kinda hard because no one knew me, but if I went to Wits or UJ, I would have things different.”
Clearly he knows people and some important people know of him now, as he is a resident artist at August House and he is part of their current exhibition. Artists from the renowned studio will be part of a group collection which opens today in Sandton, titled the August House Group Exhibition In collaboration with Teresa Lizamore Mentorship Programme. It will include Zamani Xaba, Bukhosi Nyathi and Kealeboga Tlaleng among others.
With the US being dominated by Caucasians in numbers, it’s no wonder black Americans feel safe and at home when they’re on the African continent.
“In America, especially now with Trump, there are certain spaces that are very uncomfortable to be in as a black man. One, you never know how certain people feel and then two, because you know now how certain people feel. Before you’d assume it was racism…”says US rapper Javier Starks.
Starks spoke to Tha Bravado while in the country for the O.R Tambo music project titled Voices On OR. It is a collaborative double-disc album between South African and USA artists and some politicians, paying homage to the life of the late former ANC president.
Starks was in the country for a week, together with talented musician Miles Mosley who is also part of the project. They have been in studio throughout the week, but a bit sad for first time visitor Starks, because he hasn’t had the opportunity to experience South Africa and all its multifaceted beauty.
“There’s a pain in my heart, it’s like ahhhhh….it would’ve been nice to see Soweto, would’ve been nice to see other things. But I am very grateful just to be here-not a single moment in the studio has felt like ‘oh man, we still here’ every minute has been real. From the moment that I landed here, I felt very welcomed you know,” he says.
Unlike stable mate Mosley, who is on three tracks on the album, Starks is featured once on Voices On OR. “The lyrics I wrote for the song I wrote back home. While I was writing I did a lot of research on Tambo and God, this dude is a champion.” The track is titled Promise Land.
The double album is musically directed by renowned singer Gloria Bosman while seasoned saxophonist McCoy Mrubata is tasked with the role of producing. Among others, the project will include Jonathan Butler, Tsepo Tshola, Mandisa Dlanga, Jabu Magubane, Herbie Tsoaeli and Steve Dyer. Performances in the recording will be characterized by interpretations of musical themes based on events around Tambo’s life. It’s due for release in October this year.
A fairly new artist in the industry, but has been fortunate to be surrounded by great musician such as Mosely and Robert Glasper. “More than anything else, being around people like Miles and all these kats who are really talented, I really get to learn a lot. It really broadens my perspective in how I approach music, in how I see music because these guys aren’t just masters of their genre, which emcees and rappers tend to be you know,” says Starks.
Starks met Glasper in 2012, just a year after the latter released his critically acclaimed Black Radio album. The two met at an event, DC Loves Dilla, which celebrates the work of late virtuoso producer J.Dilla. Unzipping his hoodie, Starks shows me his t-shit with a Dilla illustration on it, he tells me that performed three songs from Dilla’s countless produced joints at the event, which Glasper was also billed to perform at.
“I did Busta Rhymes’s Woo-hah because Dill did a remix of it, I did Common’s Payback is a Grandmother and Common’s The Light. After I was done with my set, I hear this guy playing the piano and I was like ‘damn, this guy’s really good’ and I went up to him after his set and told him he was really dope…we sat there and watched the Slum Village set from backstage together, and went out to dinner with those guys [Glasper and his band].”
The two have built a solid relationship since and whenever Glasper is in town the two link up. In 2015 during Grammy weekend, Glasper invited Stark to a meet and greet that he was attending. “I flew myself to Cali, I didn’t have a place to stay and told myself I’m gonna sleep in the car-I’m gonna make it work and I’ll be there regardless. I got there, and found out it was a concert. I’m standing outside the line, I’m like this ain’t no meet and greet. I got inside and I was in the front row and 20-30 into his set, he’s [Glasper] like ‘eyo Javier, come kick some rhymes’. I had his number and we would chat and he knew I was there, but we never talked about me rhyming. It was so spur of the moment. When he said come kick some rhymes, that’s when I learnt I’m about to rap,” says Stark.
True to their bond, Glasper offered Starks his hotel room, since he’s was leaving town for another gig.
He is s socially conscious emcee who is very economical with the words because he doesn’t curse on any of his records. “I can perform at your local club, I can perform at a school library, I can perform at a church and I can perform anywhere you know. That’s the beauty of being curse free and keeping your music uplifting and real –people can relate to that. You think about the stuff that most people rap about, it has its time and place- but most people can’t relate to shooting people or doing drugs, driving fancy cars and spending dollars. My goal is to show people that it works, not just because I say so, but look at my Instagram I’m everywhere because it works.”