I shit you not, you can Google Mam’Dorothy Masuku and ‘Masuka’ will pop up. Growing up, I’ve asked myself countless times what Mam’Dorothy’s correct surname is.
We live in times where assumptions of how someone’s name is spelt could land you in trouble. Not all Shabalala’s are slept with a ‘T’, in the same way Khoza can also be slept with an ‘S’. So I’ve always been unsure about the legend’s last name until I learnt that she was actually a Masuku.
In the 1950s, when the vocalist with an elegant voice began her career, a record executive misspelt her surname by adding the first letter of the alphabet at the end of her last name. The Caucasian executive butchered her Ndebele surname on one of her first records. Headlines today, carry the weight of the perilous ‘A’ at the rear of her surname. But this is because the young Masuku was told that Masuka will be her stage name. “She said she had kinda accepted it because in the Jewish language, the word Masuka means being happy, happiness or something like that. So she kinda let it slide,” said singer Tribute Birdie Mboweni speaking in an interview on Kaya FM.
Mboweni is one of the very few young singers that celebrated Masuku while she was still alive, by creating her own modern renditions of music originally done by Mam’Dorothy.
Born in 1935, in Bulawayo Zimbabwe but moved to South Africa as a 12 year-old and in less than 10 years in Mzansi, she was already touring the country as a 19 year-old. She passed away on Saturday the age of 83, surrounded by family. She’s expected to be laid to rest this weekend.
PRIOR to jetting out the country last week for the NYC Winter JazzFest, Nduduzo Makhathini likened the festival to umsamu, where the spirits of Jazz greats who’ve inspired him and continue to do so, dwell. And one spirit that continues to inspire him, is that of the late Zim Ngqawana who Makhathini was part of his Zimology Quartet the last time he played at the NYC Winter JazzFest in 2008 at the Knitting Factory.
Sharing knowledge with the audience during his performance at The Blue Note Jazz Club, Makhathini said “Thank you so much…there’s so many things that one could say, but I think what I have in my heart now is just one word, gratitude. I think there’s something special that happens, especially towards redefining what the anthology or cosmology of what an African people is about. And what I find to be very essential, is the idea or gathering, rituals or the coming together. We believe that when we come together, our ancestors are sort of with us and are enticed in that way .”
Makhathini played Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds Project at the iconic Jazz Club last night, alongside a fine ensemble of musicians who complimented him. He had Burniss Travis on Double Bass, Nasheet Waits on the drums, Aaron Burnett on Tenor Sax, Logan Richardson on Alto Sax and New York based South African Trumpeter Lesedi Ntsane. The latter three made up the horn section in the centre of the stage on Monday night in New York.
The ensemble only had their first rehearsal on Sunday, literally a day before taking to stage, but from the videos shared on social media, their chemistry was on par with their musicality. They performed before husband and wife duo, The Baylor Project.
The JazzFest is a weeklong festival which takes place in several locations around New York. Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, the festival attracts some of the finest musicians from around the globe to the Big Apple, all in the love of Jazz. Makhathini is also in New York with members of the Kaya FM team that includes station boss Greg Maloka, hosts Brenda Sisane and Collin Kgari.
The Blue Note Jazz Club is an abode of Jazz because of its rich history. It first opened its doors in 1981, hosting the genre’s masters; The likes of Sarah Vaughan, McCoy Tyner, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles and Lionel Hampton are some prominent names which often frequented the club.
Makhathini’s appearance at the Blue Note Jazz Club received praise from his industry peers, including percussionists Azah and Tumi Mogorosi, writer Natalia Molebatsi, fashion designer Bathini Kowane and his life partner, singer songwriter Omagugu Makhathini.
HAVING Erykah Badu as the headliner to a show you’re booked at, could make most artists feel like they’re just an addition to the line-up. But Jordan Rakei made sure why people had to attend the first day of the DSTV Delicious Festival on Saturday.
The two day food festival took place this past weekend at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit, in Midrand. New-Zealand singer Rakei’s heart-warming performance on Saturday evening, was appreciated by those present.
Wearing comfortable sweatpants and a simple white T-shirt, after his performance Rakei strolled in the crowd without an entourage around him to guard him. “I’m really surprised by people’s reaction here. The performance was great and the people enjoyed it,” said the Tawo singer speaking to Tha Bravado on the night.
“Can we please have a picture with you,” asked random fans walking past us. Rakei gladly obliged. This was his first performance in Gauteng, but was not his first time in the country. “I performed in Cape Town last year at the Jazz Festival,” he said.
“I just want to check out the people and a bit of the festival, we leave tomorrow [Sunday] morning,” he said. He was talking while Acid Jazz band D’Influence were performing on the main stage, with a throngs of people enjoying the performance sitting on their camp chairs and appreciating a relaxed time on the lawn.
Kaya FM’s Bridget Masinga was the mc on the main stage on the night. Some of the day’s performances included Simphiwe Dana, Amanda Black and Lira. While German collective Jazzanova, closed off the night.
While things were relaxed and nonchalant on the main stage, Louie Vega had House fans eating from the palm of his hand on the dance stage. An estimate of about a thousand people were in front of the dance platform, dancing and enjoying soulful House sounds from the Grammy award winning artist-even other DJs on the line-up were going crazy, behind Vega on stage.
The festival ended Sunday with a spirited and moving performance by Erykah Badu which everyone was looking forward to.
Every living human being has a soul. In each of us, there’s a something viewed as immortal and defining of our character and who we are. Now what I’m curious about, is whether we as society still think white people do not have soul?
All my life, I’ve observed the rhetoric that white people are lacking when it comes to soul. In the arts and even in sport. I grew up understanding that a white soccer player could not have the same rhythm and be pleasing to watch on the field as Doctor Khumalo or Steve Lekoelea. Yes, they played the beautiful game with more than just there’s limbs but also with soul.
The idea of black people being the gatekeepers of soulfulness stems from the 1950s in the US. Because of artists such Aretha Franklin, who recently demised, James Brown and Sam Cook whose music was highly emotive and equally spiritual. Soulful artists have the conviction of Gospel and the suave and agony of Rhythm and Blues. Most of their voices were moulded at a church somewhere. Incorporated with soul-food, you get a vivid idea that soul and black culture go hand-in-hand. Abo darkie are the archetypal of soul. But in the last few years we’ve seen a growing number Caucasians who have soul.
Tom Misch, JFK, Jamie Isaac, Mac Miller and Jordan Rakei- who will be performing at this year’s DSTV Delicious Festival- are talented artists changing the status quo. J.Cole touched on this in his track Fire Squad.
History repeats itself and thats just how it goes
Same way that these rappers always bite each others flows
Same thing that my nigga Elvis did with Rock n Roll
Justin Timberlake, Eminem, and then Macklemore
While silly niggas argue over who gone snatch the crown
Look around my nigga white people have snatched the sound
This year I’ll prolly go to the awards dappered down
Watch Iggy win a Grammy as I try to crack a smile
I’m just playin’, but all good jokes contain true shit
These are heavy lyrics by Cole which were misunderstood by the public when the song came out. But it leads one to the question, are white people truly snatching black culture? I believe as black people we don’t mind, when other races immerse themselves in our various and interesting cultures-we’re too sharing to be that petty.
What irks us most, is someone who does not give credit to those who created the culture which they love because it has given them so much. Black people want and need to be acknowledged for the great that they are.
It’s no secret that Elvis Presley was the counterfeit King of Rock ’n’ Roll while the original King was Chuck Berry and that Eminem is a great rapper but his whiteness has been a huge contributor to his success. It’s no problem when someone of Em’s stature gets love and recognition, but it was disappointing when someone who makes gibberish as Macklemore won a Hip Hop Grammy award instead of Kendrick Lamar.
But it was inevitable that things would be like this, since the world is getting smaller and is free of segregation, apartheid and other wack laws which made it difficult for people all over the world to exchange cultures. Should we as black people take offense that other races immerse themselves in black culture? Not at all, we should take pride in it. A case in point is South African music legend Johnny Clegg who made great Mbaqanga music, but could never be compared to one of the gods of the genre Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens. The latter were a collective of a black king and queens who made music for everyone but never, not for one second, lost touch with their blackness. They owned it…and were still cool with Mr Clegg enjoying some of it too.
The likes of RJ Benjamin and Kid Fonque are known for their inclination to music with soul, which people of their own race don’t often appreciate as darkies do. RJ Benjamin has proved time and time again with his albums, production and the people he’s worked with that he’s a soulful kat whose name you wouldn’t find on a line-up, next to Kurt Darren and Steve Hofmeyr. While Kid Fonque’s show alone, on 5FM would sit well on afropolitan radio station Kaya FM because it’s not limited to the generic electro sound that’s synonymous with white fellas and girls. But his House music is soul satisfying, not just focused on burning my calories on the dance floor.
I know black people who’ll say white people can have all the soul they want, including our dance moves, if they give us all their wealth. Fortunately things aren’t that simple. We cannot and should not sell ourselves, instead we should own our culture, share it with the rest of the world whilst finding ways to preserve it so that it doesn’t get gentrified and become something we can barely recognise.