KwaZulu-Natal

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12min5720

In the same way a great image paired with an equally potent caption does for an article, so should an artist’s live performance do for an album. It makes it more endearing and grips the audience with a deep sense of engagement. Both artist and listener have been deprived of this exchange for the most part of the year due to the pandemic, settling for the seemingly arduous virtual concerts.

Zoë Modiga’s sophomore album Inganekwane is a body of work that has left many music lovers craving to experience it live since it was released four months ago.  “I miss people buth’wami, there’s nothing like it,” says Zoë.  “I consider myself to be an empath, I really enjoy to feel people’s energy and having that fuel me, where I’m not fuelling myself because virtual performances feel like I’m fuelling myself but the audience doesn’t understand how much of an importance they actually have in creating the world,” she says.

With only a handful of us at Constitution Hill against the women’s prison, mostly made up of the crew capturing performances which are being streamed to thousands, Zoë gave a consistent performance that should’ve been experienced live by many warm bodies at the Blooming Sounds in Joburg. My eyes closed, taking in the music, the sound of her voice is as pure live as it is on record.

“With the virtual space we’re in right now, I suppose me trying to be consistent is the understanding that I know it’s an awkward place for everyone to be in, I know we all like to doll up when we go watch our favourite musicians so I think that consistency is not taking that for granted ukuthi people are gonna be in PJs, they probably don’t want to watch a show in PJs, but they’re gonna tune in anyway and that means something to me. I suppose another thing, it is the music [and] it is the passion but also the product and I feel like if you want to exist in spaces where people respect the brand as well, you need to be able to do it professionally, regardless of the circumstances that you find yourself in,” Zoë tells me after her performance.

Zoe Modiga performing at Constitution Hill, with Banda Banda behind her. Photo by Sip The Snapper
CONNECTING WITH HER PEOPLE: Zoë Modiga performing at Constitution Hill, with Banda Banda behind her. Photo by Sip The Snapper

As Stogie T gets his turn on the Blooming Sounds stage, between the historic walls of Constitution Hill I find a quiet space to talk to Zoë about her work. Inganekwane, a Nguni word for fairy-tale, is a project that’s preceded by adjectives such as ‘moving’ ‘divine’ and ‘healing’. Poignantly released at a time when black youth is enamoured with being woke and is having conversations about what it means to be black in this world- it’s the perfect soundtrack.

Stogie T at Blooming Sounds in Joburg. Photo by Sip The Snapper
SMOKING THA STAGE: DJ P-Kuttah and Stogie T at Blooming Sounds in Joburg. Photo by Sip The Snapper

“This album is about a lot of conversations that I had been having for three years after Yellow The Novel, my debut album was made and released. There’s a lot of conversations about the state of black people and what’s that like. For the longest time I felt I couldn’t express it in my language, but I began to be affirmed by my audience you know, that’s the power that my audience has and that music lovers have, is that sometimes they can cause you to move into spaces that you would not qualify yourself for. So even with the response of the album, it feels the same way. People are qualifying you. It’s such an affirming thing because for me music is a personal thing, but for me the motive I have is to move people’s souls first and foremost before I formally get recognised formally through awards and those kinds of things,” says Zoë.

Zoe having a vibe on stage at Blooming Sounds in Joburg. Photo by Sip The Snapper
KUMNANDI LA: Zoë having a vibe on stage at Blooming Sounds in Joburg. Photo by Sip The Snapper

Her music moves more than just the soul. Her performance of Intsha had the tiny audience dancing, and probably a lot more streaming viewers’ hips swaying. “It always makes me lose my breath and twerk myself into a disaster,” a panting Zoë says while on stage. “It’s a song dedicated to the youth of 1976 and it’s a song that reminds us that young people are always part of watershed moments, we always make big changes.”

As James Brown’s message on Say It Loud, I’m Black & I’m Proud cannot not be misunderstood, so is Zoë’s Abantu. It’s a candid conversation she has with Bantu people- touching on black on black violence, self-image, and poverty but yet the song is mighty reassuring. “This song is dear to my heart because it’s part of all the conversations we’ve been having. It’s a beautiful love letter because it’s a song that puts us in a place of realising that we commit so much violences [sic] amongst ourselves as black bodies and part of that is calling systems into place that have allowed us to think in this way,” she says during her performance.

Zoë doing her thing at Blooming Sounds. Photo by Sip The Snapper
IYAGIDHA INTOMBI: Zoë’s dance moves display how in-shape the artist is. Photo by Sip The Snapper

With her trademark brush-cut, rocking a leather dress and snakeskin print ankle boots Zoë looked elegant. A glimpse of her Instagram page will let you know, that she’s an aesthetically-conscious one, and is comfortable in her style.

The moving imagery from Inganekwane, that takes us back to her childhood.
QUEEN IN THA KRAAL: The moving imagery from Inganekwane, that takes us back to her childhood.

It was her vision that inspired the album cover art, helped by an amazing team of creatives in its execution. “I’m blessed to have people who believe in my visions,” she says.  The idea for her cover stems from a visit to her paternal grandmother as a 5 year-old KwaMpisi, in rural KwaZulu-Natal.  “I’d always have this moment of looking into cows for a long period of time, and she’d [grandmother] always look at me like I was crazy. That’s the power of this record that it’s allowed me to really look back into childhood, look back at what’s made me who I am, right now.”

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10min3040

It was record executive Dino Woodward who bestowed the nickname Black Moses on Isaac Hayes. Woodward believed Hayes’ music had the same effect on people as the leadership of the Biblical figure, Moses.

A then devoted Christian, Hayes found the juxtaposition sacrilegious at first, but later titled his album with the same name, seeing it as a symbol of black pride. “Black men could finally stand up and be men because here’s Black Moses; he’s the epitome of black masculinity. Chains that once represented bondage and slavery now can be a sign of power and strength and sexuality and virility,” Hayes said in an interview.

Isaac Hayes Black Moses Vinyl LP Cover.
Isaac Hayes Black Moses Vinyl LP Cover.

Over 40 years later, a queer young man from rural KwaZulu-Natal in Ndwedwe has resurrected the Black Moses moniker and taken its ownership. “Though I grew up hearing his music around the house, I never really paid special attention to him,” admits Thoba Ndlovu, who recently dropped his debut project Black Moses.

“It was only in 2014 while reading an old Rolling Stone Magazine that I came across his story about having desires to liberate the black people out of the ghetto. This reminded me of our own leaders in post-colonial Africa who like Isaac Hayes have promised the black masses liberation by postulating themselves as saviours yet similarly became disillusioned by money and power. This prompted me to write the song Black Moses which later became the favoured title for the EP.”

Thoba Ndlovu, the modern Black Moses. Photo by Amun Sun
Thoba Ndlovu, the modern Black Moses. Photo by Amun Sun

It’s not so much of postulating himself as the saviour and leader to the promise land, but the Ndewdwe-native understands the importance of representation. “Growing up in an environment that was not very accepting of not only my sexual orientation but as well as my gender, performance means that visibility is very important to me. Not seeing images of people that look like you can be very detrimental for children. It is thus my mission that I tell my story as loud as I can be it through visuals or vocals. So being from e Ndwedwe has allowed me to appreciate representation so much more because I was starved of it as a queer child growing up,” Thoba says.

The six track EP is produced by Juice, Dave Audinary as well as Lance Romeo and the production heads served their purpose. Thoba has solid vocals and compelling lyrics, but had he recorded on lethargic beats which are more on the Afro-pop side, the album would have limited reach. “I have been getting a lot of positive feedback, people really seem to be vibing with it. What is more exciting is the varied audience as people have different favourite song. It’s made me very happy with the direction we decided to take in terms of sound as this means that it responds to various music tastes.”

The beats on the project are the stuff that could be ridden by Hip Hop group Las Days Fam or Neo-soul singer Bilal. The songs Ungowami and Buyela are gems that should be fixed on radio station playlists across the country.  The project’s songs were written over a period of time, with some tracks being jotted down over five years ago. “The recording was a much quicker process though. Recording with Lance Romeo was one of my best experiences in studio. I was so comfortable and felt like he actually listened to me while pushing me to do more with my voice.”

Thoba is currently based in Joburg, having moved from his beloved KZN last year for a gig as a Grade R teacher. “Since it was a year of firsts (first time in JHB, first time teaching Grade R as well as finally working on a project). I really needed to make sure I settled in to all of these roles. It is only this year that I am beginning to venture out by putting my music out there and looking for opportunities to perform. It’s been a whirlwind of emotions being away from home and everything familiar, but also knowing that you need to get your act together ’cause you are far away from home. So there has been a lot of growth.”

THE Grade R Teacher: Thoba Ndlovu. Photo by Amun Sun
THE Grade R Teacher: Thoba Ndlovu. Photo by Amun Sun

He studied Psychology, then went on to do his honours in Industrial Psychology at UNISA before returning to University of Kwa Zulu-Natal to do his Post graduate certificate in education.

The independent artist is using this EP as a vehicle for inspiring other queer boys and girls who might not have enough bravado to be themselves. “The album is of course the goal however it is one of the goals, alongside exploration of other avenues that can lead to the hypervisibility of a queer body in order to combat false narratives (like us being unAfrican) by living our truths. This is my more immediate focus right now. I therefore cannot say when an album will be available but it’s in the plans.”

BELTING IT OUT: Thoba enjoying his time on stage. Photo by Amun Sun
BELTING IT OUT: Thoba enjoying his time on stage. Photo by Amun Sun
Lucas Ledwaba07/19/2019
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11min32880

Johnny Clegg just wanted to play music. But South Africa’s white people never understood why he wanted to spend time with black people writes Styles Lucas Ledwaba

He tells a good story just as well as he makes music. He’s an interviewer’s dream. You ask one question and he tells one great story after another.

It’s perhaps a wonderful thing that he’s writing a book on the band Juluka, which took him and his friend Sipho Mchunu from the obscurity of playing music in the migrant hostels of Johannesburg to international fame back in the late 70s and early 80s.

In September 2013 he’s hoping to take his life story, through a musical titled The Johnny Clegg Story, to the stage.

Hopefully this story will portray incidents like the one that happened while he was walking down Rissik street in central Johannesburg back in the early 1970s, strumming his guitar, singing maskanda music, an almost unthinkable sight in a South Africa in which the apartheid laws forbade any sort of inter-racial or cultural flirtation.

“Vuilgoed!” a white firefighter, seemingly disgusted by the sight of a young white man flirting with black culture and language screamed from the top of a building.

“Voetsek!” came Clegg’s defiant response.

Before he knew it, the fireman and an accomplice were chasing him down the street. But when he reached Walmer hostel, where he was well known among the Zulu migrant community, his pursuers backed off and resorted instead to insults.

It was incidents like these, which happened often, that saw him earn the isiZulu praise names, bamzonda eKillarney\bamzonda eHillbrow\ abafuni umlungu odla uphuthu nabantu!

Loosely translated, it means “they hate him in Killarney, they hate him in Hillbrow, they despise a white man who eats uphuthu with black people.”

But he was popularly known in Zulu street music circles as Madlebe, big ears, for reasons best understood by looking at his ears.

“That was my life. I grew up in the hostels,” says Clegg just hours before he is set to receive the Order of  Ikhamanga from president Jacob Zuma on Freedom Day.

Clegg was awarded the Order of Ikhamanga for his excellent contribution to and achievement in the field of bridging African traditional music with other music forms, promoting racial understanding among racially divided groups in South Africa under difficult apartheid conditions, working for a non-racial society and being an outstanding spokesperson for the release of political prisoners.

“Hee, mfowethu! People don’t know what we went through,” he says of his constant conflict with the apartheid laws.

His forays into the hostels and befriending Zulu migrant who also doubled up as street musicians, often led to his arrest and police harassment.

As a white man, he had to apply for permission from the authorities to be allowed into in a hostel. But such an application would most probably be turned down or take many months before it was granted. And even then permission would be granted for just a few hours.

“I just wanted to play music. That’s all I wanted to do. But the white people could never understand why I wanted to spend time with black people. To them it was always something criminal, they thought it was about dagga, they never thought these were just normal people. But I went anyway, I wanted to play,” says Clegg.

And he paid a heavy price.

He was often arrested for trespassing, for being in a black area without a permit; at school he was ostracized by some of his peers and on the family front, some relatives accused him of bringing disgrace to the family name, all because he dared to defy apartheid’s racial segregation laws and reached out to the other side.

“I always asked them why they were criminalising my behaviour because I was doing nothing illegal? Even then I was aware that there’s something as an unjust law. I never even thought of giving up,” he says.

And from the hostels he learnt more than strumming the guitar and dancing. Instead he learnt important aspects of Zulu life and culture, isiZulu, stick fighting, traditional dance, ukuphalaza, the use of intelezi and the sacred ways of healing. But what intrigued him the most were the stories of the men, proud warriors in their villages and regions, but reduced to sweeping the streets for a pittance in the city, yet remaining upbeat and continuing to embrace life with a wicked sense of humour.

It was these stories, he says, which influenced his strong lyric writing which produced such hits as Woza Friday, ScattIerlings of Africa, African Sky Blue, The Mainstay Cup Final Song, Zodwa and many others.

His proficiency in isiZulu and his adept dance moves earned him the monicker The White Zulu. But Clegg thinks otherwise.

“I’m more than a Zulu. I’m a South African. The Zulu experience helped me develop an African identity,” he says.

Clegg points to his childhood in Zimbabwe and Zambia as the strong foundation to his non-racial outlook on life.

He went to five different primary schools in five years in three different countries, in Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa. But it was in Zambia where he went to a multi racial school, that the idea of multi-racialism was entrenched.

When he began touring overseas with Juluka, Clegg used the opportunity to campaign for change in South Africa.  Many of his songs were banned by the SA Broadcasting Corporation but this never stopped him from scaling great heights in the international charts. He’s been honoured widely overseas and here at home, but fame, it seems, has not gone to his head.

He still visits the hostels and his friend Mchunu in Kranskop, KwaZulu Natal and has his feet firmly on the ground.

And while many artists from his generation struggle to grapple with our fast changing society, Clegg believes the ground is fertile for a new revolution, which is transformation.

“During apartheid we were always against something. But when apartheid ended we had to be for something, which is what I think many people have struggled to deal with. But these are exciting times, transformation is the new agenda,” he says.

Thanks for the music, Madlebe! – This article first appeared in the City Press in 2012

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9min2240

IT is like the excitement of a child on Christmas morning. No, it’s similar to what that Idabala track did to people over the festive season. Actually, it’s a combination of the aforementioned plus the eagerness of an avid drinker at the site of an open bar. That’s what an election year does to politicians- it brings out their silly side.

We’ve only 10 days in the year but we’ve already seen and heard some ridiculous things spewing from candidates’ mouths. This article is not about the sound decisions you should make when you get to the ballot box come vote day. No. It’s to help you see through the bullshit that will be dished out, in the lead up to the country’s sixth democratic elections. The IEC hasn’t announced the date for this year’s voting, but it’s expected to be in May.

BELOW ARE FIVE RIDICULOUS THINGS YOU’LL SEE POLITICIANS DO TO GET YOUR VOTE:

THE EMERGENCE OF NEW POLITICAL PARTIES

Hludi Motsoeneng has big dreams of becoming president of this country one day. The discredited former SABC boss launched his party, the African Content Movement party last month. “The new animal, ACM, is [an] African first. Anything that we produce in South Africa will be 90% South African because it is very important to empower people of South Africa. We need to start here at home,” said Motsoeneng at the launch of ACM.
He has an interesting affinity with 90%. This is the same percentage he insisted on a couple of years ago while at the SABC, when he pushed for a quota for state radio stations to play substantial local music. There’s a common thread between these newly found political homes, besides the fact that they die out a year or so after an election, their party names usually sound like incomplete slogans or sentences.
Gupta-associate Mzwandile Manyi hinted at launching a political party too this year. But yesterday he announced that he’ll be joining the ATM-African Transformation Movement, a party formed by displeased Jacob Zuma supporters.

Mamphela Ramphele campaigning in Tembisa for her party AGANG. Photo by Alon Skuy;TimesLive

THE SHOW OF SUPERFICIAL AFFECTION TO THE PEOPLE

Yes, it’s that season where the lips of presidential candidates get busier than that of teen girls pouting for selfies. The kissing of babies while on a campaign trail is a US tradition which political contenders from around the world have adopted. Here in South Africa kissing babies isn’t the only way to show warmth and kindness to hopeful voters.
Smooching senior citizens and going to the homes of the impoverished is also a card that politicians play. As a way of being ‘in touch with the people’ some politicians will actually go out of their way and butcher people’s languages while addressing them. You should hear a Mmusi Maimane promising a better life for rural people in the KwaZulu-Natal, in the most uncomfortable isiZulu you’ll hear.

Jacob Zuma Kissing an old lady during ANC’s door-to-door campaign. Photo by Oupa Mokoena, IOL.

STUPENDOUS HAND OUTS OF POLITICAL REGALIA
Maybe it’s that track by Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson, or that line from Kanye’s Good Life… but whatever it is, people sure do believe that the best things in life are free. Politicians take advantage of people because of that very fact. Citizens are always ready to get on a free bus ride to a stadium, where they’ll be handed free T-shirts just so the arena looks like it’s filled up by active members of that party. Caps and lanyards are also handed out at these mass gatherings.

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES ANNOYINGLY TRYING TO BE COOL

I cringed at the site of seeing former President Zuma rocking a straight cap dabbing with fellow comrades his age at a rally, campaigning for the 2016 Municipal elections all in a bid to lure young voters. Another trick they’ll pull, is of a celebrity’s endorsement. Photos of EFF Chief Julius Malema and rapper AKA at an event circulated social over the festive season. That was no coincidence.
The likes of AKA, Kwesta and Nasty C have millions of followers who some will be voting for the first or at least second time this year and politicians are very much aware of that. Just like any brand, political parties will lure artists with big cheques so that they encourage their fans to vote for a particular organization.

ANC leaders dabbing at a rally in 2016. Twitter

THE BIG PROMISES THEY MAKE AT MANIFESTOS

You know that friend who’ll randomly call you and suggest y’all go out. You get there and after the bill arrives, that person decides to tell you that they actually don’t have the money to pay because of personal issue. That’s how these political fellas will make you feel post-election.
It’s sad, the promises they make to desperate, destitute and gullible civilians who’ve religiously given their vote to them but have received nothing significant in return for their trust. It’s the major reason for young people’s disenchantment with the elections because history has taught them to never trust politicians’ hogwash.


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