Kasi

Clement Gama07/26/2019
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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.

BONGO MAFFIN

BOOM SHAKA

MAIKIZOLO

B.O.P

TROMPIES

 

 

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Mesut Ӧzil is a great player, very few can deliver a pass like the German. But he’s only an asset to the team going forward- trust me, I’m an Arsenal supporter who knows how painfully true that is.  The World Cup winner doesn’t toil with the rest of the boys when they need to win the ball back, rendering his services a luxury, at the expense of the Gunners.

This is similar to twanging that one would come across, when in the company of those who former President Jacob Zuma would label “smart blacks.” Hey, I’m not necessarily biased against people who have a nasally manner of articulation, because I have a bit of that too owing to where I went to school and even the Hip Hop culture I grew-up engrossed in. I just get annoyed when we as society begin to equate fluency in English, to intelligence.

I often find myself in spaces where conversations about a plethora of things are abound; from spirituality, sexual orientation, artistry, socio-economics and so forth. With these exchanges, various ideas and opinions come to the fore, which is all well and fine with me. But it’s the gang from multiracial schools who’d often show-off their well-spoken English, but essentially adding naught to the conversation. What makes the whole picture worse, is that more often than not, the other blacks would be so gobsmacked by the speaker’s eloquence, they’d be too intimidated to even rebuff what they just heard.

Go to any Higher Education institution around Gauteng, where you would find students who hail from Township schools and rural parts of the country being ostracised for not being as articulate in the English language. But these are the same students who are passing their courses-while the “good speakers” are stuck repeating classes.

This isn’t to suggest multiracial or Model C schools never produce top students, and that rural and kasi schools don’t flunk in university- but there’s a sense that we as young black people are polarized by how we speak this English.

But this isn’t unique to young black people. The older generation has been institutionalized to be intimidated by Caucasians, hence most black parents would take their kids to larney schools with a rightful hope for a better future for their kids, but these folks also do it to make sure their kids won’t be seen as inadequate for not being able to speak fluent English.  I remember my family’s expectation for me to speak isilungu, in my first years at Primary. I didn’t understand that. The same way I don’t comprehend the jubilation of a pre-school kid’s parents, at the sound of a five year old twanging.

It’s not wrong for the child to learn a new language, but it is, to give your child ideas that their comfortability with the English language makes them better black people. I’m pretty sure that most black parents wouldn’t show off their kids’ ease with Tsonga, if their bundle of joy was able to speak the Bantu language.

It is this sort of thinking that creates a sense of Afrophobia among black people- irrational fear towards black people or anything that is of African descent. Afrophobia infiltrates everything around us, be it music, business and even media. Remember the bridge that collapsed on the M1 highway/Grayston drive which led to the deaths of two people in 2015? I bet that had that construction site been overseen by an African company, more heads would’ve rolled, rapidly. But because Murray and Roberts Holdings is white-owned, the inquiry to what happened is only taking place now, three years later.

No one dare questions white supremacy, or simply anything white. Look at what happened with the Steinhoff saga.

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KASI lama kasi can never be a hood’s nickname. Everyone rightfully punts their neighbourhood as the coolest black area. But each township in South Africa has a nickname, approved by its people, which sometimes ties to the history of the place.

I was chilling with a fella this past weekend who told me he was from Vutha. You know when you’ve heard something before, but don’t know exactly know what it is. I went blank and asked where that is. “It’s Daveyton,” he said.

“Because it was the first township in Gauteng to get electricity,” he said. I thought he was bullshitting me, really. I’ve met many people who’ll talk-up their hoods, to a point of which they get frustratingly economical with the truth. But after doing some research, I found that, what he said is true.

Established in 1952, after about 151,656 people were moved from Benoni, to what we know today as Vutha or Etwatwa. It was indeed, the first black area to access ugesi.

The president of the Greater Alexandra Chamber of Commerce (Galxcoc), Mpho Motsumi last year bemoaned to the media, while taking them around the construction site of the R500-million Alex Mall in Tsutsumani Village. What got the business man cranky, was that people still call Alex, Gomorrah- ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ a biblical reference of place linked to hell because of the prevalence of debauchery in the area.  Rappers like Flabba popularised the name in recent times, but it’s been a name associated with the township for decades now. There was a time when Alex had a high crime rate, a coupled with the lawless gangsterism that was in the area-despite political movements happening there.

Some nicknames aren’t linked to the township’s past, but are just tweaked so to make the place a tad bit cooler. I’m not certain whether it was a collective agreement but, shortening hood names seems to be the winning formula in most parts of Pretoria. For Mamelodi there’s Mams, Soshanguve which is situated on the north is commonly known as Sosha, even to us who don’t call it home. While the ‘Ga’ in Ga-Rankuwa seems a waste of two precious seconds, so Rankuwa is the more efficient one for residents.

Sowetans have also opted for something similar. Calling the south western townships Sotra. While the number of townships within that area, have nicknames of their own. Guguletu in Cape Town also just switched the swag and just called it, Gugs.

In KwaZulu-Natal, KwaMashu is nicknamed Es’nqawunqawini while Clermont is known as Es’komplazi. Ekurhuleni Township Tsakane, which is a Tsonga word for happiness and joy, is nicknamed Mashona.

If Tembisa was a gang, those thugs would tattoo 1632 on their bodies. What is it? Tembisa’s postal code my friend. Insipid as a postal code is, the youth in Tembisa, particularly those in the Hip Hop community, popularised it in the mid-90s. Tembisa’s older generation and also those who aren’t in the Hip Hop community,still prefer to call it Mambisa. Other hoods that have gone with the number are Kagiso with 1754, Thokoza 1421 or Vosloorus’s 1425. I’ve found that this is a trend, also adopted by Hip Hop heads in other hoods. A random person doesn’t say they are from 1563, they simply say they are from KwaThema, or just Thema.

The common thread in all these townships, sadly is that they were formed after black people were forcefully removed from some areas, to be crammed in one place right near their modern day fields of slavery. But black people have taken what was meant to trap and prison them, and found the beauty in it.


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