BEFORE Google was in the palm of our hands, in the form of our smartphones, many a time arguments took place between friends and family about who the real Glen Lewis is.
The irony is that, neither of the two men were born with that name. Lewis Mposteng Tshinaba, the South African radio jock took up the ‘Glen Lewis’ nickname long before most South African were introduced to the Don’t You Forget singer, Glennon Ricketts Jr. who is better known as Glenn Lewis.
It’s humorously intriguing where the DJ derived the ‘Glen’ in his name from and also puzzling what inspired the ‘Lewis’ in the Neo-Soul singer’s stage name. Their music genres are far apart from each other than Julius Malema and Pravin Gordhan, but like two fellas unknown to each other falling for the same girl, the artists connected to the same moniker.
But there’s a difference in the spelling of their names. The club DJ’s name is simply written Glen Lewis, while the Canadian artist has an extra ‘n’ to his first name.
The latter is coming down to Mzansi with other hasbeens; 90s R&B quartet Blackstreet and Melanie Fiona, for the second annual SoulFest which will take place at the Joburg’s Ticketpro Dome, on Women’s Day in August.
The event is hosted by the same company that brought SWV, Dru Hill and TLC last year in their inaugural SoulFest. “Last year was a great success. The idea is to create one magical night of music with young and old singing along to every song,” said Glen Netshipise of Glen21 Entertainment, in a statement.
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.
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.
Miles Davis once said time isn’t the main thing, but the only thing and had it not been for time, the band T.U.G wouldn’t have been unveiled. With a name like Time Unveils God, the significance and respect of time to this ensemble is apparent.
“I feel like time is the thing that connects us. Time connects the people who’ve come before, the future and us. It puts it in a line, and if you understand that line you pretty much understand the godliness about existence,” says Tony Dangler.
Made up of five black men; T.U.G is a Hip Hop collective with two emcees on vocals, Darkie Umnt’Omnyama and Tony Dangler with three masked fellas playing drums, acoustic and bass guitars. The three instrumentalist are unidentified, but elected to take up abbreviations from the band’s name, for the purpose of this interview. T plays the bass, U acoustic and G is the drummer.
“The important thing about time is that, we must work and make music for the people, heal them and carry on working,” bassist T, tells me.
“To me mfwethu, time is everything ya bo. Because everything happens in time. Time is lifetime. God is lifetime, there’s no start and there’s no ending,” adds G.
My photographer and I are welcomed by the scent of impepho, dank blunt and kindred spirits-I couldn’t help but embrace the calmness in T.U.G’s working space in Zondi, Soweto. I interview the band crammed on a couch, like TV-watching siblings. The masks bring a tad bit of awkwardness to the setting, as I struggle to make eye contact with the three players of the band.
“It’s the unveiling part-we’re unveiling what’s not unveiled in a way. In essence regarding music, it shouldn’t be about the guys in the background. With Hip Hop, it’s just the rapper and the beat, so we try to represent that,” says U, who is the co-founder of T.U.G.
“The mystery is kinda interesting as well. It leaves more room for people to think, ‘oh okay, I hear the raps, but what’s going on?’ and you end up not paying attention to us,” the guitarist adds.
Lebohang ‘Page’ More, Sun Xa Experiment’s manager, is the other co-founder. “We thought we should have two guys who aren’t the same, and luckily Tony is from PMB and uDarkie is from Jabulani and it made sense.”
It’s Hip Hop in that these kats rap, but more spiritual in the manner in which they present their art. Their music talks to identity and all round knowledge of self as an African child. According to Page, they had planned to have a beat-maker before assembling the band. “We were pissed [about not having the beat-maker] and ended up going with the band. So it’s an idea that came to all of us differently, maybe I spoke about it, but everyone contributed enough and equally to what it is today.”
T.U.G’s abode is also the Digging Thoughts headquarters and home to Zen Groove Project and the well-known Sun Xa Experiment. I’m uncertain if it was the carpeted floors, the graffiti-laden wall behind me, and the number of joints being passed around or simply the people who gave me a distinct feel of serenity and one that inspires creativity.
Being privy to the band’s rehearsals displayed how they benefit from working here, in this space. “It give us a lot of creative freedom, ya bo. Everyone plays a role in expressing themselves and creating ideas; he [pointing at Darkie] doesn’t necessarily play instruments, but he’ll come to me with a hymn and say to me ‘yo, I hear this melody in my head..’ so the creative process just keeps going,” says U. Darkie Umnt’Omnyama adds “Eintlik die dang e deep. It’s the thing you’re feeling-we can talk about it, but can’t explain it. What brought us together here is what we feel,” he says.
Darkie is more of an enigma than the masks covering the band- his dry humour has everyone in stitches when he answers questions and seems to assume the father-figure role in the group. But he and Tony Dangler complement each other pretty well, despite their unique differences which set them far apart. Like Q.Tip and Phife Dawg. While Tony is the animated rambunctious character with a fine twang, uDarkie Umnt’Omnyama is the reserved rapper who has the grit that can only be found in rappers from the hood-but both delivering rhymes with equal intensity and honesty, remaining in the pocket.
Darkie predominantly spits in vernac, while Tony raps in English but both are able to switch. Tony is known from Hip Hop clique Revivolution, which he’s still a member of. “Ain’t nun change man. A few of them niggers [from Revivo] were like ‘yo, what’s happening’ and some of them were like ‘ayt, it’s cool’. Illy pulls through some time to check out what’s happening and also, I guess it’s just a matter of time dawg. Some niggers have time to come through, some don’t. But everyone’s happy. Even Inferno’s back on his band business…it’s good that, that energy is vibrating out.”
T.U.G has only been together since late last year, but have performed at different places to gauge people’s reaction to their sound. They were at Smoking Dragon last year and will be at the Roving Bantu Kitchen in Brixton this Thursday. “So far yonke into e grand ya bo, I don’t recall us ever boring people; they can hear and understand what we’re about,” Darkie tells me.
They’ve also performed at Beverly Hills High school. “You hear that name and think ‘yoh, Beverly Hills’. It’s a school in the Vaal. We performed in front of those naughty kids, which felt like performing at a prison. But they responded well to our sound.”
“There’s a case where we performed for abantu abadala and e message e yaba thinta. We’ve also performed for drunk people and the message also went through. So the contrast of the audience is there,” Tony says.
Their association to Sun Xa puts them at an advantage, of gracing certain stages they wouldn’t have, had they been some random stand-alone band. They performed at one of Durban’s most sophisticated Jazz bars, The Chairman. But they are now carving out their own audiences, to distinguish themselves from Sun Xa, organically though they say.
Paraphrasing one of their songs, Heal Your Soul, Darkie says he wants people to walk away healed by their songs. “Kufanele aphole, phakathi na nga phandle. Whether someone has a headache or a sore finger, they should find healing and be good. This music doesn’t incite any violence or hatred, it makes the black person feel good.”