Lauryn Hill

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16min1440

Nyeleti Ndubane is black, Tsonga and female. This innate power combination has put her in a lifelong tussle for representation and equality in society, which she does unflinchingly with grace. But the untimely demise of her partner Manoko ‘Snooks’ Ramotshela in 2018 gored her with a novel sharp pain of loss.

“Snooks’ death had a profound effect on me. When we started dating, we fell madly in love and started making plans for our future together. I declared to everyone in my life that I had found my husband- I was done! So his accidental drowning knocked the wind out of me because that was not part of the plan!” Ndubane tells me.

The love they shared was mighty palpable, beautiful and rich in uniqueness. Snooks the musician, model and all round creative with Nyeleti the actress, writer and a fireball. It was reminiscent of a young Zam and Khensani Nkosi. Funky, genuine and authentically black.

BLACK LOVE: Nyeleti and Snooks . Photo supplied
BLACK LOVE: Nyeleti and Snooks . Photo supplied

They met at a house party six years ago and hit it off immediately. “To my disappointment, he told me he had a girlfriend. So as attracted as I was to him, I knew that I couldn’t pursue anything with him because I’m a big believer in the girl code so he was off-limits!” After two years the two met again and they were both available this time. “And so began our whirlwind romance filled with incredible highs and heart-breaking lows.”

Snooks drowned on December first in 2018. In her 1969 book titled On Death and Dying, American psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross introduced the five stages of grief, a sequence of emotions that terminally ill patients or someone whose lost a loved one goes through. “…I remember feeling very angry with him for dying because I felt like he left me all alone. I swam in this anger for a long time but luckily, I didn’t drown in it.”

According to Kübler-Ross, Denial comes at you before Anger but it was the other way around for Ndubane, who tried hard to push herself to being better by putting a big smile on her face and pretend as though the loss was a case of shit happens. “But that way of thinking backfired on me because what I went through was a painful trauma that completely shifted my world. It was then that I realized that being healed doesn’t mean that my pain and trauma magically disappeared. Healing for me means that I acknowledge that my pain may always exist, but I won’t let it define or break me.”

STAR GIRL: Nyeleti Ndubane. Photo supplied
STAR GIRL: Nyeleti Ndubane. Photo supplied

And so the real healing began, where she says there was a lot of crying, reading, art and family. “Whenever I would get consumed with the knowledge that I will never see the man I love ever again, a good cry would make me feel a little bit better. Any chance I could get during weekends or days off; I would go straight to my mother’s house for home-cooked meals and hugs,” the Soshanguvan tells me.

Sometimes you just need to hear that everything will be okay and more often than not, those words have more assurance when coming from a parent. “My mother is my best friend and biggest cheerleader, and if it wasn’t for her talking me through it and assuring me that I will heal and be okay- I don’t know where I’d be.

It also helps a great deal listening to people who’ve gone through exactly what you’re in the midst of. It serves the same purpose as group therapy- taking in people’s testimonies as encouragement that things do pass. “I read a lot during my grieving period… there were two books in particular that helped soothe my soul: Elizabeth Taylor’s autobiography, and Jackie Kennedy’s autobiography. Both of these women lost the men they loved, and reading about how they dealt with the pain and made it to the other side gave me hope that I too will be fine.”

Photo of Nyeleti. Photo sipplied
Photo of Nyeleti. Photo sipplied

Going through grief, as it was just three months after Snooks’ passing, Ndubane landed a part on TV series Giyani: Land Of Blood. “Being an actress of Tsonga heritage, I really wanted a role on Giyani- any role in fact! Being a part of the first Tsonga TV series to grace South African screens was a dream job for me. But when I found out exactly which role I landed- a woman who becomes a widow after her husband is murdered at the end of the first episode- I started to get scared…”

Ndubane has been acting professionally for a decade now “but I do consider it[Esther] to be my break-out role because of all the characters I’ve played, this character really connected with audiences. I get stopped by fans of the show all the time and they tell me that they really felt for Esther and what she was going through.”

But the trepidation that came with the role wasn’t because this was her biggest in term of impact, but the fact that she was going to play the character of Esther, a woman who becomes widowed on the first episode. “I was hoping to play a character that was on a completely different journey to what I was going through so that I could escape the pain and grief that was engulfing me at that point. But lo and behold! Esther ends up being on a closely identical journey to what I was going through. Sure, there were a few differences: Esther was a newly-wed, pregnant humble village woman who works on a banana farm. But our similarities overlapped greatly: we both had to deal with the sudden loss of the man we loved, and we both experienced the gut-wrenching pain of seeing the body of our loved one at the scene of his death.”

IN CHARACTER: Nyeleti on Giyani: Land Of Blood
IN CHARACTER: Nyeleti on Giyani: Land Of Blood. Photo supplied

She played the part so brilliantly, you’d swear she’s a widow who resides ka Malamulele not the feisty damsel who could take on anyone on MTV‘s Lip Sync Battles performing Kendrick Lamar’s For Free. “The shoot was right in the middle of my grieving period, the pain was still raw and I feel like it enhanced my performance because I could relate to Esther’s pain on a genuine level.”

“Lauryn Hill once said: ‘As an artist, you have to live your life so that you have something substantial to share with your audience…’ This quote perfectly encapsulates my experience playing the role of Esther,” says Ndubane who is also a teacher’s assistant at the Joburg Theatre for the Duma Ndlovu Academy (DNA).

‘Language-hierarchy’ in South Africa is realer than the chaos at Eskom. If you don’t speak isiZulu, isiXhosa or Sesotho you’re an alien or less of a human being in this country. That Giyani: Land Of Blood is the first ever Xitsonga TV series is embarrassing, but it’s a start none the less. “…The existence of ‘Giyani: Land of Blood‘ on our screens is huge because it speaks to representation. Growing up, I never saw Xitsonga-speaking actresses on TV speaking our language and representing our culture. Society has always made Xitsonga people feel ostracized and ridiculed for our looks, culture and language. So to be on a show that celebrates the things that we were made to be embarrassed about for so long is simply incredible!”

Having proud, beautiful ambassadors of the all cultures is important to breaking down pillars of ignorance. “Hopefully, South Africans will begin to un-learn the insulting stereotypes and misconceptions about the Xitsonga people because the show will help to put our culture in the mainstream in the same way that Sho Madjozi is doing so beautifully.”

HER AND ART: Nyeleti standing in front of artwork
HER AND ART: Nyeleti standing in front of artwork

Ndubane is currently busy with theatre rehearsals for Alice In Wonderland which will be staged at the Peter Torien Theatre at Monte Casino in March. And also “Writing a feminist theatre piece about the plight of black women. It’s a work in progress, and my working title for the project is: ‘Black girl, you are on your own’, which is a wink to the Steve Biko quote: ‘Black man, you are on your own’.

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5min3280

“I played 0 to 100. Check the lyrics. As they’re telling me to play music without cursing, I’m literally hearing Drake cursing his ass off on the speakers. Was an embarrassing moment”

That’s the awkward moment prominent turntablist Akio Kawahito found himself in, on Saturday evening playing at Lauryn Hill’s after party. The DJ who is popularly known as DJ ID, was playing at Ms. Hill’s private gig, after she and Nas gave eager South African fans performances to remember. But things got a tad uncomfortable for the Kool Out Creative Director when he was asked to change a Drake song he was playing, that had one too many curse words for Ms.Hill’s liking.

“I didn’t really have a set planned, but I had a direction in mind. It was going to be a mix of Hip Hop, Afrobeats, Dancehall, and Reggae. After I got scolded for playing tracks with cursing, I got pretty shook because I was already nervous playing for Lauryn so I switched to Kwaito for a bit because I figured I’ll play some music she won’t understand,” said Kawahito.

Fuck bein’ on some chill shit

We go 0 to 100 nigga, real quick

They be on that rap to pay the bill shit

And I don’t feel that shit, not even a little bit

Oh Lord, know yourself, know your worth, nigga

My actions been louder than my words, nigga

How you so high, but still so down to Earth, nigga

Niggas wanna do it, we can do it on they turf, nigga

Oh Lord, I’m the rookie and the vet

Shoutout to the bitches out here holdin’ down the set ….are some of Drake’s lyrics from 0 to 100.

Hill was in the country this past weekend as part of her Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill 20th Anniversary tour that has seen her perform in various parts of the world, celebrating her 1998 classic album. But from the day it was announced last year, that she would come to Mzansi, a lot of people were skeptical of her punctuality, or lack of. She also been marred by reports of cancelling and postponing some of her Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill Anniversary legs, but delivered on Saturday night.

“I think as much as people love seeing a come up, they also love watching a star fall. There was definitely a lot of negativity and uncertainty on social media. I won’t lie, even I questioned it and I was in direct contact with her team. In the other hand she handled it like a true professional. Production ran more or less on schedule and she absolutely smashed it,” says Kawahito.

Despite being scolded during his mix, Akio left the venue having impressed the superstar who praised him. “All I wanted to do was to impress her so I was hella nervous. My sole role was to play music that she could vibe to so while the people were important, they were secondary to me trying to please her.”

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5min6931

UNLIKE the rest of social media, I wasn’t particularly excited by the news this morning, of Lauryn Hill and Nas coming to the country next year, looking back at their last performances in the country.

Ms.Hill will perform in Johannesburg on February 2 at the Ticketpro Dome and will feature Queens rapper Nas as her special guest. The dates were added to her world tour and announced this morning.

In 2014 Nas was on tour celebrating the 20 year anniversary of his timeless Illmatic album. He came and performed at a freezing Centurion, at SuperSport Park where he got on stage after Wiz Khalifa gave the audience one the best live performances I’ve ever witnessed.

Nas, performing some of the best Hip Hop songs of all time, was mundane to say the least. Because of his great material, he didn’t need to do much on stage because he was mostly stationed in one area, staring into a sea of Hip Hop fans who were spitting each song simultaneously with him, verbatim.

I remember a part of me dying inside though, standing adjacent the stage when I saw his lyrics on a teleptompter. I was like WTF Nas, how could you forget your lyrics. It was like I had just walked into the lavatory after the beautiful Jessica Nkosi had walked out, to discover that she too, drops bombs when doing the number two.

I just expect too much from these greats. But I’m curious to see how the set will go, especially after the subpar Nasir album which came out earlier this year. But hopefully the murmurs about him releasing another project later this year, are true and it drops before he lands in SA-which we hope will be doper than Nasir.

With Ms Hill on the other hand, let’s just hope she makes it to the event, on time and doesn’t change the sound set up. She’s a phenomenal performer and all-round artist who is more self-sabotaging than Thamsanqa Ghabuza.

Ms. Hill was last in South Africa in 2012, for the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, she disappointed with her performance, due to her insistence on wanting to change how the sound was set-up by the organisers. Before her performance on the Kippies stage, Hugh Masekela had killed it in his tribute to Miriam Makeba which featured ThandiswaMazwai, VusiMahlasela and Freshly Ground frontwoman ZolaniMahola.

Hill was not audible enough and resigned to walking off stage, not completing her performance.But she salvaged her time in the country, with an impromptu performance in Gugulethu at the launch of Cape Town rapper Kanyi Mavi’s album launch on the same night, together with Mavi.

The Hill and Nas announcement left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, like when I heard Kendrick Lamar is coming out with another album in the next few days. With some things in life, you feel like they shouldn’t happened now, but when they do eventually happen you’ll give it chance, because it’s all for the culture, ain’t it.

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10min1441

What was a simple interview at a local radio station for Robert Glasper, has made headlines on publications all over the world because of Lauryn Hill’s response. But rightfully so, these are two black giants of modern music.

But Hill’s response to Glasper does little to address longstanding perceptions about her.

Ever since 1998 when New Ark, the group of musicians who helped Lauryn Hill put together Miseducation, sued her for not properly crediting them for the work they did on the classic album, there’s been a cloud of suspicion hanging over Hill and that album.

“The Miseducation was the first time I worked with musicians outside of the Fugees who’s report and working relationship was clear. In an effort to create the same level of comfort, I may not have established the necessary boundaries and may have been more inviting than I should have been. In hindsight, I would have handled it differently for the removal of any confusion. And I have handled it differently since, I’m clear and I make clear before someone walks in the door what I am and am not looking for. I may have been inclusive, but these are my songs,” Hill writes in her letter.

The lawsuit was settled out of court in February 2001, for a reported $5 million

Hill’s weakness in punctuality and prima donna antics are well reported. In 2012, when she was in the country for the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, she disappointed with her performance, not because she’s wack a performer but it was down to her insistence on wanting to change how the sound was set-up by the organisers who know the venue very well and are experienced at catering for each artist on the line-up. Before her performance on the Kippies stage, Hugh Masekela had killed it in his tribute to Miriam Makeba which featured Thandiswa Mazwai, Vusi Mahlasela and Freshly Ground frontwoman Zolani Mahola. Hill was not audible enough and resigned to walking off stage. While just last month in Toronto, while in Canada for the 20 year anniversary of Miseducation tour, she arrived an hour late for her performance.

Hence I was baffled when she made an excuse for her late coming in the letter. “Me being late to shows isn’t because I don’t respect my fans or their time, but the contrary, It can be argued that I care too much, and insist on things being right. I like to switch my show up regularly, change arrangements, add new songs, etc. This often leads to long sound checks, which leads to doors opening late, which leads to the show getting a late start. This element of perfectionism is about wanting the audience to experience the very best and most authentic musical experience they can from what I do.”

It’s one thing to be a perfectionist and it’s just plain ill-mannered not to honour ardent fans and disrespect qualified sound technicians.

If anything, this comes-off as being unprepared. I mean people buy tickets, using their hard-earned cash to see you at a specific time-by virtue of being on the line-up for that particular performance, means an artist agrees with all the prerequisites.

I don’t remember anyone questioning her undeniable talent and palpable influence she’s had in the industry. Ever. So she’s very much correct to say “I was also a member of the Fugees, another ground-breaking, multi-platinum selling group, who bridged social and cultural gaps, and were ambassadors of hip-hop all around this planet. We laid important groundwork upon which an entire generation of artists and musicians still stand. We broke through conventions and challenged limited world views every time we played.”

To add to that, she was an integral part of the Fugees, I personally think the fellas would’ve been another bar-spitting average clique, had she not been part of the group. She’s an impeccable emcee with beautiful vocals. The original rap singer.  But it’s her attitude that’s always been questioned- even by former group members, Pras and Wyclef Jean.

What I found particularly interesting in the letter, was not really her responding to Glasper’s statement, but addressing a bigger issue: misogyny and patriarchy in the industry when she said “And yes, Ms. Hill was absolutely a requirement. I was young, Black and female. Not everyone can work for and give the appropriate respect to a person in that package and in charge. It was important, especially then, for that to be revealed early. I adore Stevie, and honor [sic] Herbie and Quincy, who are our forebears, but they’re not women. Men often can say ‘I want it done like this’ and not be challenged. The same rules don’t always apply for women who may be met with resistance. When this happens you replace that player with someone who respects you and the office you hold.”

If we wake up tomorrow and someone like Priddy Ugly says, he wants be called King Priddy from now on, reluctant as society might be at first, they’ll eventually heed that call. And it would totally be a different story if a Gigi Lamayne, associated herself with royalty. Her artistry would be questioned.

It was like reading useless Facebook posts about people who brag about being older, to those born in the new millennium, when Hill wrote “Most people are probably just hearing your name for the first time because you dropped MINE in an interview, controversially. Taking nothing away from your talent, but this is a fact.”

A cheap shot, really. Glasper is a multi-award winning genius artist that has paid his dues, she knows very well that he’s a pianist that only came to the fore in the popular music scene just over a decade ago.

But fortunately there was no malicious speech between the two artists, it was honest criticism and a simple difference in opinion, which both creatives respected.Or so it seems.

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8min1550

Given that they are on the microphone and talking directly to the audience, soloists will be the ones hogging the attention. While the bassist, who has the thankless job of carrying the music, is relegated to the background.

History has placed Oliver Tambo’s crucial role in the struggle in that precarious position, while an individual is upheld as the messiah of a movement.

In a year swamped with centenary celebrations for the late Nelson Mandela, South African and USA artists plus their politicians will pay homage to the life of Tambo through a double disc album titled Voices On OR- a musical tribute to Tambo.

“To me, movements are always about more than just the person who is sort of the leader or spearhead of it,” says L.A bassist Miles Mosely.

“That person is very important, we know for the freedom fighters, that the work [Nelson] Mandela did is something that the entire world celebrates. But for me, as a bass player who is often times behind the soloist, to me studying the story of Tambo allowed me to understand that he was this foundational character. Somebody who was the kind of earth of the movement and had to explain complicated ideas to the rest of the world- I really connected with that idea. Oliver Tambo was the bass player of the freedom fighters, you know,” says Mosely, laughing.

The Upright bassists talks to Tha Bravado about his his involvement in the project. The vocalist, producer, composer and arranger was asked to be part of Voices On OR after his performance at the Cape Town Jazz Festival last year.

Mosely is an accomplished musician that has worked with Mos Def, India Arie, Lauryn Hill, Terrence Howard and also played on three tracks on Kendrick’s To Pimp A Butterfly.

He also worked on three songs on Voices On OR, one of the songs I got a chance to listen to at the Downtown Studios where the recording takes place, was Roving Ambassador, which has an unmistakable African sound that captures continent’s warmth and enthusiasm.

Miles Mosley_Photo cred Aaron Woolf Haxton

“Unfortunately my lineage was thrown in the ocean. So I don’t know what specific cultures, tribes and traditions I come from. So I try to celebrate as many as I can and I try to understand as many as I can. Some of them ring in my heart and come out on my bass or the piano, a bit truer. That feeling and that sound for that song, is something that resonates deeply with me in my heart.”

He credits this to his time at UCLA, where he studied Ethnomusicology, learning music of the world. “All music, as far as I’m concerned, starts and stops in Africa and African traditions. Everybody says that and keeps it moving. But I really wanted to make sure that it was an inescapable part of it, not something that’s to be modernised or changed.”

The double album is musically directed by renowned singer Gloria Bosman while seasoned saxophonist McCoy Mrubata is tasked with the role of producing. Among others, the project will include Jonathan Butler, Tsepo Tshola, Mandisa Dlanga, Jabu Magubane, Herbie Tsoaeli and Steve Dyer. Performances in the recording will be characterized by interpretations of musical themes based on events around OR’s life. Included will be a composition titled Tambo’s Dance – a song inspired by an event in 1963 where Tambo got so excited by the contents of a document for Operation Mayibuye, that he leapt out of his chair and did a jubilant dance.

Crossing the Limpopo with Father Tambo – blends poetry by Mongane “Wally” Serote, narration by former President Thabo Mbeki and singing by Ladysmith Black Mambazo with music accompaniment from  the Beda Hall Double Quartet Band. The band is named after Tambo’s band at Fort Hare, to which Tambo was vocalist.

Forming part of today’s Quartet is Paul Hanmer, Ayanda Sikade, Khaya Ceza, Shane Cooper, Tlale Makhene and Feya Faku.

The US is represented by R&B singer Eric Bennet, rapper Javier Starks and former US president Barack Obama who will be narrating some of Tambo’s life. The project is funded by the National Lotteries Commission and should be out in October.


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