Kelly Khumalo

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He isn’t the first and sadly not the last, but eMtee’s fall off stage this past weekend highlights the toxic relationship artists have with drugs and alcohol.

Emtee was performing in front of hundreds of fans at the fifth annual Lephalale Black And White festival in Limpopo. Throughout the performance, the Roll Up hit maker is seen struggling perform, let alone stand, as he staggered on stage looking drunk and basically out of sorts.

It’s really sad seeing another talented South African artist battling drugs, in front of  our eyes for us to see. The likes of Brenda Fassie, Hugh Masekela and Kabelo Mabalane are some renowned musicians that have had their addiction battles in the public eye. Mabalane is fortunate to have seeked help before it got too late. Now a pastor, he once admitted to spending a million rand on drugs. The likes of Kelly Khumalo, Riky Rick and Trevor Gumbi have also admitted to their addictions.

The prevalence and ubiquity of drugs in the industry is scary. Some people come into the industry not having tried any drugs in their life, then fold to the pressure of being around those who are steeped in that life. Some get into drugs because they’re trying to fight off depression and anxieties that stem from industry pressures or simply, life.

In an interview on Metro FM with DJ Fresh on his breakfast show last year, comedian John Vlismas spoke about this epidemic problem in the media and creative space. “We have been hardwired to think that we are working hard in media, we don’t really. Going down a mine is working hard. Being a domestic, and working for people who are ungrateful is very hard. We think we work hard, therefore we should play hard and we have been raised in a society where this is permissive.” Vlismas himself, had issues with drug addiction before changing his lifestyle because of near-death experiences.

Unusually seen as a passageway to godly avant garde creative juices, drugs have destroyed so many talented souls. That Fassie died at 39 years of age is a scary fact which should serve as a lesson to those who come after her; to treasure and respect their gift and careers. The most common drugs are heroin, cocaine, alcohol, codeine (lean) and marijuana.

In a tweet last night as the eMtee video was trending, rapper Cassper Nyovest, gave advice to Emtee and fellow artists in the industry.  “Sometimes we are hated for trying to show niggas the light. God gave us a chance to make something of ourselves. We got families to feed niggas. Let’s not play with the gifts. Let’s not laugh at each other as well. Let’s help each other. That cool shit is done. Drop the drugs!!!” the tweet read.

I really hope eMtee’s record company, Ambitious Records will help the young artist before it’s too late. It’s one thing to embarrass yourself in front of everyone, but something else letting your child grow up without a parent.

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Being the last day of the historic youth month, throngs of young people gathered at the Constitutional Hill to enjoy some of the country’s finest artists, express themselves at the three day festival which kicked-off on Thurday.

Saturday was the much anticipated music concert that featured what you could say are different eras of  South African youth. From the likes of Skwatta Kamp, Samthing Soweto,BCUC, Sho Madjozi the BLK JKS, Moonchild and Muzi.

The latter was playing his last gig in the country, before heading out to Europe for his month long tour. While he was playing Basha for the first time, Muzi gave the buoyant crowd reason to dance on Saturday night with a set that included a remix of Margret Singana’s We Are Growing (Shaka Zulu theme song) to Ye’s All Mine and some.

“It’s dope…getting people that really vibe with the music.  But that’s the thing about umculo dawg, the shit is universal. You can connect with everyone if you do it proper,” said Muzi. The producer from Empangeni was irritated though, by someone who he says interfered with his set. “There’s a guy that kept tapping my shoulder, telling me about time and that I have to finish up. Which I really didn’t like,” said the producer.

“I like enjoying my music. So I’m not the stay behind decks, and look cool typa guy. Sometimes I leave it, I just press play because I’ve mixed it proper, and vibe with the crowd.” He did that by grabbing the mic in the first half of his act, to perform one of his songs.

His European tour will see him play at Northstar in Scotland, Beatherder Festival in England and Base in Milan, Italy among others throughout July and returns just in time for Oppikoppi in August.

He doesn’t prepare different for an overseas audience, juxtaposed to the audience here at home. “…Even us as black people, we’re still kinda indoctrinated so we still have to relearn our culture. When I play a song uZenzile for instance, which I couldn’t play here, I get the same reaction from everyone. Nathi as abantu abamnyama, we’ve sort of assimilated to whiteness and that’s what we think success is. It has to be honest music…it can’t be sugar coated to suit a certain crowd.”

Madjozi’s performance which was just before Muzi’s was enjoyable, whilst Skwatta Kamp’s energy on stage was impressive for men who no longer perform week in week out. Bar the fact that singer Relo, looked a tad uncomfortable throughout their performance. A young looking Pro (Kid) performed some of his new songs, but the crowd were eating off the palm of his and when he played classics such as Wozobona.

The BLK JKS’ performance was also a big crowd puller. They had the crowd singing ‘aweyawo’ when they performed Molalatladi while everyone was charged up by Mzabalazo. The festival lived up to its theme, Join the Movement, which each performer did in their respective style. A scantily dressed Moonchild gave a great performance, as though channelling her inner Brenda Fassie. Black Motion’s stage presence and showmanship is right up there with some of the country’s best.

It was embarrassing though, when the night’s MC butchered DJ Akio’s name before his set began- the crowd kept screaming the DJ’s actual name to correct the blunder. It’s always a good sight seeing an artist who isn’t on the line-up, attending an event just to have fun. I spotted Kelly Khumalo, Petite Noir and Lunga Shabalala among others in the crowd, having jump at the festival.

I was impressed by the security presence at the event, not only that but how they never imposed themselves on the patrons. I never saw one being manhandled for rolling a joint unless, they were staring trouble. I was a victim of pick-pocketing on the night, after my cell phone was mysteriously stolen, but was fortunately able to recover it with the help of a security guard and crowd members who were ironically victims of the dude with a number of phones in his pocket. He was taken-in by the security.


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