See Pava said I should tackle Vike, I left your homie with scars, now Kriss said I should give you the strike, they gon find this body on Mars, cos RC said for the good of the sport I should put Demon’s head on a spike, bra I think the PSL started a trend, cos so far it feels like every league is trying to relegate all you freestate stars
That’s the scheme that won No Peace Bar of the year at the Hip Hop 411 Battle Rap Awards, but nice as it was, he cherishes the Battle Rapper of the Year award more. “…It means I was consistent and it means people can actually see the hard work I try put into every battle. Bar of the year is prestigious don’t get me wrong, but that is just 30 seconds out of the year,” says the North god, No Peace.
The awards are a first for Africa, the only other Battle Rap awards to have taken place in the globe were the 2014 Battlerap.com awards. “Initially when the idea to recognize and reward battle rappers who had done well throughout 2019,we had planned on giving away cash prizes, trophies and other prizes to the winners yes. Financial circumstances related to other activities we are working on that needed a urgent heavy financial injection compelled us to scrap the idea of a ceremony, prizes, trophies and redirect the finances to other activities,” says Hip Hop 411’s Kriss. The winners were modestly announced in a series of Facebook posts throughout last week by Hip Hop 411.
The awards were adjudicated by 50% fan votes and 50% by a select group of judges. They selected adjudicators “with a high battle rap I.Q and they possess an extensive knowledge of the battle rap culture not only locally but globally as well.” Time Xone, Mdu Sibanyoni, Boy Wonder and Denis Bops were the individuals bestowed with judging responsibilities. A vote from a Hip Hop 411 TV staff member would be roped in if one category was tied, but that never occurred.
Other categories included Performance of the Year which went to Linda Strat, Verse of the Year was awarded to Verbalist while Don V and Fahrenheit’s battle was the Highest Viewed Battle as well as the Battle of The Year. “Real talk, it wouldn’t have lived up to expectation if it wasn’t [Battle of the Year]. I already knew Don was gonna bring it and if I did my bit, it was an instant classic,” retorts Height.
It’s still debatable who walked away the winner in that tussle. Both emcees came proper, not short of confidence. “We put up a dope battle, very personal as far as material goes and with that look at where it took us regarding YouTube analytics, 10 000 views,” says the 1632 emcee Don. One gets the feeling that had the awards been in existence a few years ago, Don would’ve probably gotten the same awards for his battle with Kris. His battles seem to be crowd favourites that rake up big viewer numbers.
True to the nature of calling it like it is in battle rap, there was a Moemish of the Year. That award went to Cape Town spitter Rogan, who was supposed to battle Fahrenheit in the Mother City, but failed to pitch to the battle claiming a rival gang wanted to kill him. All this after his dilly-dally of demanding a bigger cash prize, which Hip Hop 411 obliged to. “The rap battle community has welcomed this new development with open arms and excitement. Even people who are usually negative towards our work because they are aligned to rival battle leagues have been positive about it. In the same breath the will always be people who feel disgruntled and unhappy because their favourite rappers were not nominated or did not win or they feel that their friends who organise battle rap events should be the ones doing the awards,” Kriss tells me.
But these awards can do a lot in raising the standard of battle rap, should they have consistent growth and find ways of rewarding kats with actual prizes and awards. Imagine a No Peace waking up every day to see his Battle Rapper of the Year gong on his TV stand. “…it will make it more competitive and will push kats to work because we all want to our work to be acknowledged, so it will definitely improve the quality of battle rap,” No Peace says. “Battle rap is already a dope close knit family as is, but knowing there’s competition at every corner makes it even better,” says Height.
Nyeleti Ndubane is black, Tsonga and female. This innate power combination has put her in a lifelong tussle for representation and equality in society, which she does unflinchingly with grace. But the untimely demise of her partner Manoko ‘Snooks’ Ramotshela in 2018 gored her with a novel sharp pain of loss.
“Snooks’ death had a profound effect on me. When we started dating, we fell madly in love and started making plans for our future together. I declared to everyone in my life that I had found my husband- I was done! So his accidental drowning knocked the wind out of me because that was not part of the plan!” Ndubane tells me.
The love they shared was mighty palpable, beautiful and rich in uniqueness. Snooks the musician, model and all round creative with Nyeleti the actress, writer and a fireball. It was reminiscent of a young Zam and Khensani Nkosi. Funky, genuine and authentically black.
They met at a house party six years ago and hit it off immediately. “To my disappointment, he told me he had a girlfriend. So as attracted as I was to him, I knew that I couldn’t pursue anything with him because I’m a big believer in the girl code so he was off-limits!” After two years the two met again and they were both available this time. “And so began our whirlwind romance filled with incredible highs and heart-breaking lows.”
Snooks drowned on December first in 2018. In her 1969 book titled On Death and Dying, American psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross introduced the five stages of grief, a sequence of emotions that terminally ill patients or someone whose lost a loved one goes through. “…I remember feeling very angry with him for dying because I felt like he left me all alone. I swam in this anger for a long time but luckily, I didn’t drown in it.”
According to Kübler-Ross, Denial comes at you before Anger but it was the other way around for Ndubane, who tried hard to push herself to being better by putting a big smile on her face and pretend as though the loss was a case of shit happens. “But that way of thinking backfired on me because what I went through was a painful trauma that completely shifted my world. It was then that I realized that being healed doesn’t mean that my pain and trauma magically disappeared. Healing for me means that I acknowledge that my pain may always exist, but I won’t let it define or break me.”
And so the real healing began, where she says there was a lot of crying, reading, art and family. “Whenever I would get consumed with the knowledge that I will never see the man I love ever again, a good cry would make me feel a little bit better. Any chance I could get during weekends or days off; I would go straight to my mother’s house for home-cooked meals and hugs,” the Soshanguvan tells me.
Sometimes you just need to hear that everything will be okay and more often than not, those words have more assurance when coming from a parent. “My mother is my best friend and biggest cheerleader, and if it wasn’t for her talking me through it and assuring me that I will heal and be okay- I don’t know where I’d be.
It also helps a great deal listening to people who’ve gone through exactly what you’re in the midst of. It serves the same purpose as group therapy- taking in people’s testimonies as encouragement that things do pass. “I read a lot during my grieving period… there were two books in particular that helped soothe my soul: Elizabeth Taylor’s autobiography, and Jackie Kennedy’s autobiography. Both of these women lost the men they loved, and reading about how they dealt with the pain and made it to the other side gave me hope that I too will be fine.”
Going through grief, as it was just three months after Snooks’ passing, Ndubane landed a part on TV series Giyani: Land Of Blood. “Being an actress of Tsonga heritage, I really wanted a role on Giyani- any role in fact! Being a part of the first Tsonga TV series to grace South African screens was a dream job for me. But when I found out exactly which role I landed- a woman who becomes a widow after her husband is murdered at the end of the first episode- I started to get scared…”
Ndubane has been acting professionally for a decade now “but I do consider it[Esther] to be my break-out role because of all the characters I’ve played, this character really connected with audiences. I get stopped by fans of the show all the time and they tell me that they really felt for Esther and what she was going through.”
But the trepidation that came with the role wasn’t because this was her biggest in term of impact, but the fact that she was going to play the character of Esther, a woman who becomes widowed on the first episode. “I was hoping to play a character that was on a completely different journey to what I was going through so that I could escape the pain and grief that was engulfing me at that point. But lo and behold! Esther ends up being on a closely identical journey to what I was going through. Sure, there were a few differences: Esther was a newly-wed, pregnant humble village woman who works on a banana farm. But our similarities overlapped greatly: we both had to deal with the sudden loss of the man we loved, and we both experienced the gut-wrenching pain of seeing the body of our loved one at the scene of his death.”
She played the part so brilliantly, you’d swear she’s a widow who resides ka Malamulele not the feisty damsel who could take on anyone on MTV‘s Lip Sync Battles performing Kendrick Lamar’s For Free. “The shoot was right in the middle of my grieving period, the pain was still raw and I feel like it enhanced my performance because I could relate to Esther’s pain on a genuine level.”
“Lauryn Hill once said: ‘As an artist, you have to live your life so that you have something substantial to share with your audience…’ This quote perfectly encapsulates my experience playing the role of Esther,” says Ndubane who is also a teacher’s assistant at the Joburg Theatre for the Duma Ndlovu Academy (DNA).
‘Language-hierarchy’ in South Africa is realer than the chaos at Eskom. If you don’t speak isiZulu, isiXhosa or Sesotho you’re an alien or less of a human being in this country. That Giyani: Land Of Blood is the first ever Xitsonga TV series is embarrassing, but it’s a start none the less. “…The existence of ‘Giyani: Land of Blood‘ on our screens is huge because it speaks to representation. Growing up, I never saw Xitsonga-speaking actresses on TV speaking our language and representing our culture. Society has always made Xitsonga people feel ostracized and ridiculed for our looks, culture and language. So to be on a show that celebrates the things that we were made to be embarrassed about for so long is simply incredible!”
Having proud, beautiful ambassadors of the all cultures is important to breaking down pillars of ignorance. “Hopefully, South Africans will begin to un-learn the insulting stereotypes and misconceptions about the Xitsonga people because the show will help to put our culture in the mainstream in the same way that Sho Madjozi is doing so beautifully.”
Ndubane is currently busy with theatre rehearsals for Alice In Wonderland which will be staged at the Peter Torien Theatre at Monte Casino in March. And also “Writing a feminist theatre piece about the plight of black women. It’s a work in progress, and my working title for the project is: ‘Black girl, you are on your own’, which is a wink to the Steve Biko quote: ‘Black man, you are on your own’.
My typing cannot keep-up with the pace at which this rain is coming down. For some people, this here downpour could symbolize their growth, rebirth or sum like that. While for someone squatting in a shack somewhere, it’s simply a pain in the butt.
In the same way some still believe that any talk of miscarriages or child loss is taboo or a no-go-area. So much that a term like ‘fetal demise’ is preferred over ‘death’ or ‘passing away’ when talking about this kind of bereavement. But there are rebels out there, with a cause and without a pause, fighting against this stereotype. Palesa Makua is one of them.
Through her movement, Her Skin Speaks, which is dedicated at celebrating women’s ever-changing bodies, Makua put together a photo exhibition titled What Do We Call Women Who Have Lost Children? as a way of healing herself and other women who’ve lost babies.
“I was miserable and almost losing my mind, I then decided to quit my job to fully focus on myself and those like me,” she says. The Mamelodi-native lost her son through stillbirth in 2017 and has experienced two other losses after that. The idea to do this project came to her in January this year.
“This project has been what therapy is for most who find it useful for them. It has not only given me the chance to openly deal with what has happened to me but also gave an amazing sisterhood with women who are strangers yet relate to my story wholeheartedly. This project has been a healing space for me and it continues to serve that to those I have not yet met.”
Since this was also a therapeutic experience for her, Makua found herself reliving what she had gone through. “I also struggled with holding back my tears when we were documenting real conversations with the women who have lived these stories (which is totally understandable because we don’t necessarily get over the loss but with time we learn to coexist with the pain).
The exhibition was launched in August. “Showcasing at Vavasati International Women’s Festival hosted at The State Theatre was absolutely a dream come true, having to step on that much of a big entity’s stage and bare my soul was absolutely amazing. The platform has added enormous weight to Her Skin Speaks ExHERbition as a brand.”
The exhibition has also made its way to the Kingdom. “Lesotho has become my second home and show casing there was absolutely needed as I have featured two ladies based in Barea and Morija (Lesotho) It was an honour seeing the subjects there with their loved ones to witness their contribution to such a movement and even heavier topic,” she says.
A photographer herself, Makua took photos of the four women who were part of this project. “The initial women whom the exhibition was about did not feel comfortable with being shot nude so I had to make a call out for women who are able and would like to embody their stories and it wasn’t really hard for them to agree to this idea as some of them knew why I needed to do this shoot because they are familiar with my story.”
The vulnerability that comes with nudity is no child’s play, especially in a society that sexualises the female body. It makes sense why some women would pull out of such a project- we live in a world where people even shun being naked by themselves. But not Palesa Makua, she has a liking for the bod. She embraces the beauty of her body without shame. “The reason I am fascinated by telling stories through human nudity is because for a very long time women’s bodies have been a battlefield and unfortunately they continue to be.
I honestly couldn’t think of any other way to portray this “Battlefield” in its truest, most beautiful and sincere form as we know it and call it what exactly it is.”
“All these unfortunate events are taking place emizimbeni yethu or it is the foundation of the amount of damage that happens emuntwini, I couldn’t have chosen any other way to document our stories.”
“What I hope that people take from this is that no one has to suffer in silence and in the words of Zewande ‘The soul of a miscarried child never leaves the womb’ also hope that more women finds comfort that we are here holding space for them and that they should never go through this loss alone. I hope this inspires more women to open up to other women about such events (I know I wish oh I had someone walking me through this).”
Makua will today showcase her work at Black Labone in Pretoria (381 Helen Joseph Street African Beer Emporium)
“It’s a beautiful thing man, music is a beautiful thing,” Mac Miller jokingly said on his NPR Tiny Desk performance. But nothing could be closer to the truth. Listening to music and singing together has been shown to impact neuro-chemicals in the brain, many of which play a role in closeness and connections.
The music-events industry is built on this fact. But not all events harness the beauty of umculo. Cue the Beast, People Series that takes place tomorrow at 4ROOM Creative Village in Tembisa. It’s a sequence of gigs around Gauteng, which was founded by DJs and producers from various parts of the province.
It includes founder DJ BlaQt from Vosloorus, Soweto’s DJ Medicine, DJ Killa Kane and Backdraft of Mambisa. “The gig started in Vosloorus as Beats, People & Vosloorus. This is the second installment in Tembisa, we’re headed to Soweto with the next gig,” Backdraft tells me. “What connected us and still connects us to this day is our love for the music and I believe it is the reason our name starts with Beats,” Backdraft, who is the musician in the clique says.
“The purpose of the show is to grow audience, have people appreciate what we do because we’ve realised that ja, the vibes that we bring are not necessarily mainstream and is not what people get all the time. They actually want to get it. We are bringing it to them and taking it to different hoods,” says Protea Glen’s DJ Medicine.
Much as this is about music and how it brings people together, the guys understand the potential ecosystem such a movement presents for stakeholders themselves as well as entrepreneurs e lokxion. “…because the whole thing is for us to do our shit you know, benefit from our shit and grow our shit with the people that like what we’re doing, without compromising the vibe. But also including the people that are in that hood we’re going to, and making it grow in that hood,” Medicine says.
There’s already merchandise like T-shirts and hoodies sold at their gigs. The merch is simply laden with the aesthetically pleasing name of the movement which is also their logo. “Well the name was simply to do with what my vision was; the music and all people in and around the hood or townships,” BlaQt explaining the origin of the name. “Tembisa will be our second edition of the Beast, People Series…we had great success in my hood. We’re preparing for the next gig as we’re talking.”
Vosloo was a success that set a high bar for the succeeding hosts, but Backdraft is convinced his Tembisa has a unique proposition. “Our geographic position, we are where Ekurhuleni starts or ends, depending on how one views this. We attract people as far as Pretoria, Centurion, Midrand, Alexandra, Daveyton, Kempton Park and even Joburg. We are a melting pot for different cultures and offerings. We have our very own celebrities, artists and DJs who hardly ship their skill beyond hood boarders, therefore providing an experience that one will only experience in our hood,” he says.
The gig at 4ROOM has eight DJs on the line-up with Backdraft himself and the Musa Mashiane Trio as the night’s only live performers.
IT was Mahatma Gandhi who once said we ought to be the change we wish to see in the world. Words of the low-key racist Indian reverberate in the story of how NGO Umzekelo Community Development Organisation was found.
UCDO’s founder and chairperson Fortune Shabangu grew up as the bad-influence kid your parents didn’t want you playing with. “I’m a school drop-out myself and I grew up doing petty crime with friends just to fit in and that always put me as a black sheep of the family, my community and at school. My friends’ parents didn’t want me near their kids as I was a trouble child and all that. I believe I was longing for my separated parents because I was raised by my grandmother and uncle,” says Shabangu. His mother passed away in 2011, a few months after Shabangu rekindled his relationship with her.
Seeing the need to make a turnaround in her life, Shabangu joined Siyanqoba Theatre Project as a hip hop dancer which later went into drama, poetry and music. “…we were doing prison tours showcasing talents I never thought I would, and seeing young brothers in jail opened my eyes that’s when I realised one day I want to establish an organisation that will educate young kids about social ills, crime and where the smallest things we ignore”
So in 2017 Umzekelo was born from his previous pains. “Umzekelo Community Development Organisation was established to be the voice and change of young people in all educational institutions. In schools we are seeing a lot of bullying, crime, teenage pregnancy, moral degeneration, drug abuse, school drop outs and all these things are increasing the volume of poverty in our black communities. Coming with programmes that will enhance the kids to try keep them off the streets is our main own collective objective,” Shabangu tells Tha Bravado.
Two years later, Shabangu has built a team around Umzekelo which has helped kids going through unimaginable traumas. The organization is currently on a clothing drive, for less fortunate youth which has been well received. “The reception so far has been overwhelming, with a high number of people on social media and different communities across Gauteng showing interest and endless support,” says Umzekelo’s Deputy Chairperson, Derah Manyelo. Other team members include Treasurer Reggie Majola, PR and marketing head Kenny Sekhoela as well as graphic designer Kamohelo Morobe.
“The clothes are going to be donated individually to financially disadvantaged kids, with more of the clothes going to orphanages around Tembisa mostly. Community members can also identify a kid they believe deserves the clothes and we will gladly assist with some of the donations we have,” adds Manyelo.
Umzekelo has in the past, went on a pad drive as well. “The clothing drive isn’t the first initiative under UCDO, before the clothing drive we were pushing the Sanitary Pad Drive which is an initiative aimed at collecting and donating sanitary pads to underprivileged school girls who cannot consistently afford to buy sanitary pads for themselves.”
“We do not have a cut-off date because these are ongoing problems and we are willing to tackle them till the end,” says Manyelo of both the Pad Drive and the clothing drive.
Get in touch with Umzekelo Community Development Organisation at: