Miriam Makeba

IMG_3668-1-1280x853.jpg
9min17520

“The conqueror writes history. They came, they conquered and they wrote,” an elegant Miriam Makeba once said in an interview on TV in the 1960s. She was talking about how colonizers justified their invasion on the African continent, by writing history from their own perspective.

THE UNKNOWN FACE: Work by Selloane
THE UNKNOWN FACE: Work by Selloane

At the core of Makeba’s poignant words, is the importance of keeping record of your story. There’s a mighty child-like sincerity, you get from a tale relayed by someone or a people who have lived that experience. Curious Caucasian could immerse themselves in the various pockets of Black culture, for as long as one could, but they still wouldn’t truly know what it is to be Black. Such funk can’t be faked.

In art, like in most things, women’s voices have been stifled and not championed as the men’s. Females have been a muse for a long time, but a glaring gap of work inspired by women, made by ladies remains-although that space is being rapidly filled in modern times. Multi-award winning fine artist, painter and performer Selloane Moeti is one of the womenfolk occupying that space with the deliberateness and consistency of Apartheid architects.

Work by elloane titled BAYEZA.
Work by Selloane titled BAYEZA.

“For me art influences society by changing opinions, documenting history, to teach and heal the next generation,” says Moeti. She is fully mindful of her contribution and the impact it can have. “Our stories are best told by ourselves, so to get to contribute and be part of an African woman narrative that will be documented and archived for decades. That alone means the world to be, an honour. I think it was Tracey Rose who said ‘When you make an artwork you’re not just doing something at that moment, you’re contributing to an entire history of artmaking,'” shares Moeti.

The sophistication of her work is in its simplicity. With a style that’s free-hand, one might mistakenly look at Moeti’s oil paintings as rudimentary. But the work is compelling. Beyond the eye-pulling aesthetics, you inevitably connect to the souls of the depicted black women. You feel the paintings. In one of her works in progress titled Amabutho, she painted black bodies adjacent to each other, looking ahead or marching forth. Their faces don’t include any facial features but are covered in red clay, yet you feel as though you’re gazing into eyes of fierce warriors. “I think people who interact with my work are able to walk away with the type of energy I convey on my work. It’s intentional that my style of painting is more rustic and free hand and that my characters or figures have clay masks as faces.”

AMABUTHO: Selloane's work which is an ode to those who've passed on during this pandemic.
AMABUTHO: Selloane’s work which is an ode to those who’ve passed on during this pandemic. Photo by Selloane Moeti

Clay plays a significant role in a number of African tribes, for various reasons. Red clay, which is a symbol for protection and purification has an equally important role in Moeti’s body of work. “My work speak loudly about cleansing, healing, dislocation, and relocation. Even though my work is an attempt to trace and understand my lineage it still talks about my spiritual journey.”

“I dream like everyone else and chose to incorporate the characters, the compositions and certain components of my dreams in my work,” she says. You could say she acts on her premonitions. She has the proactive and determined spirit of the faceless women she paints. In 2017 when she longed for a space where she could exchange ideas with likeminded creatives in Durban and couldn’t find one, she established SketchIN-which is a figure drawing and conceptual development movement held every three months.

SketchIN society. Photo from Selloane Moeti Instagram
SketchIN society. Photo from Selloane Moeti Instagram

Due to lockdown restrictions throughout 2020, for two days late last year she turned her home studio into a makeshift gallery where people could come view her work. “Imagine creating work the entire year and having to just post it on an online exhibition or on IG (for me that was an anti-climax and depressing really). I’m a believer that art belongs to the public, but because of safety reasons I could only limit to a number of people and stretch it into a two-day open studio,” says Moeti.

“I’m definitely planning on having at least two open studios yearly.”

LADY LADY: Selloane's painting titled BAVUMILE.
LADY LADY: Selloane’s painting titled BAVUMILE.
Clement Gama03/31/2020
nipsey-hussle-impact-bb25-2019-billboard-fea-1500-768x433.jpg
4min1760

Bob Marley, Nelson Mandela, Miriam Makeba and Michael Jackson are all deceased; well of course this is a position held by those who dare not frolic in the arena of conspiracy theories. But yes, their bodies were left lifeless soon as the Grim Reaper came for collections. God knows what happens on the “other side”… but what we do know is that when some people die, their demise amplifies their legacy. Nipsey Hussle was one of those.

The rapper was shot multiple times in the parking lot of his store in South Los Angeles a year ago today. I recall coming back from a Sunday event after midnight, and learning of Nipsey’s passing through social media thinking that someone’s playing a sick April fool’s joke. But I woke up that Monday morning and realised it was for real, for real.

The subsequent days, weeks and months saw an outpour of deep condolences and tributes to Nipsey from different parts of the world I hadn’t even imagined listened to him. Even our very own DJ Sbu, the self-appointed representer of the African Hip Hop community, was in Crenshaw to pay his respects. There was an obvious knee-jerk reaction to Nipsey’s passing.

According to Business Insider, Nipsey’s music sold like amagwinya and a hot cup of coffee in the wee hours midwinter. Over 2,000 copies of his CDs were bought the day he died, followed by 9K copies on the Monday and 4,000 on the Tuesday. By Wednesday, his album Victory Lap was sitting comfortably at number one on iTunes with his 2011 mixtape, Crenshaw in fifth spot. He became a two-time Grammy Award winner in January this year, in the 62nd edition of the ceremony.

Nipsey was always deliberate about his passion for making his hood, LA a safer and all-round better place for everyone who lives there. Since his passing, some of the rival cliques in the hood have had peace talks, while there are young men who’ve formed a book club, The Marathon Book Club, which shares and discusses manuscripts which the rapper endorsed.

The alleged killer, Eric Holder Jr. is behind bars awaiting trial. Superstar filmmaker Ava DuVernay is said to be in discussions with Netflix to produce a doccie on the life of Nispey.

There are similarities between 2PAC and Nipsey, but the most startling is that they were both shot and that they had an incessant drive to fight for the betterment of the lives of black people, in black communities…which keeps their memories alive, long after pushing daises.

Thato Mahlangu09/25/2019
20cf37d8-a07c-4fef-b8d0-84a81daf95a8_1510617600.png
8min3140

Who would have thought that something so good as South African jazz would be born from the dark days of apartheid?

Well the likes of ntate Hugh Masekela, ntate Abdullah Ibrahim, and mama Dolly Rathebe, and mama Miriam Makeba, didn’t let what the apartheid government and its oppressing laws silent their voices.

One can’t begin to tell the story of Jazz icons or its history without going back to the past, a place which most of us are comfortable with it being erased from our minds.

Jazz music in South Africa came at a time when the then government was really making life difficult for many black, coloured, and Indian citizens. It was a nightmare for artists to freely express their minds and talk about how things were in South Africa. There were oppressive laws that made it hard for omama Dorothy Masuka and obaba Jonas Gwangwa to paint pictures of what was happening in the townships.

Miriam Makeba. Archive photo
Miriam Makeba. Archive photo

I had the privilege to meet ntate Sipho ‘Hotsix’ Mabuse where he spoke at the Democracy Works Foundation discussion that was held at the Constitution Hill about the impact Jazz music had in people’s lives.

Many musicians during those years sang songs that portrayed apartheid in bad light, which seek to highlight black people’s hard and traumatic experiences under that government, something which the then regime didn’t want to happen.

Some of these artists like mama Makeba spoke out against the evil acts that were done against people of colour, especially black South Africans, including police brutality, racial segregation and unfair policies that kept many black people under oppression.

“Musicians, visual, performing, spoken word artists used their talents to weaken and topple the apartheid government in South Africa but the government wouldn’t back down easily,” Mabuse said.

Sipho Hotstix Mabuse. Archive
Sipho Hotstix Mabuse. Archive

Harsh punishment like banning of their work would be made possible by the officials, who would later banish some of these artists who were not willing to keep their mouths shut.

They didn’t fear persecution and prosecution, even if it meant having their homes petrol-bombed or being killed.

Mabuse said throughout his music life, all he wanted was to change people’s lives through music, which he and the old school school generation managed to do so well.

PASSING ON THE BATON

Ntate Masekela, who was affectionately known as Bra Hugh, collaborated with many young South African musicians, including a track with Thandiswa Mazwai, which speaks about violence perpetrated on non-South Africans by locals, a topic that is currently grabbing news headlines in the country.

Bra Hugh believed in mentoring young people and we can see young musicians like Bokani Dyer, Mandla Mlangeni, the late Lulu Dikana, Nomfundo Xaluva following in the footsteps of those who came before them. The baton has surely been passed on as we are seeing more and more young musicians like Zoë Modiga, Langa Mavuso, Ami Faku and Kesivan Naidoo contributing to new school Jazz that IS sometimes referred to as Afro soul or Afro-Jazz.

Thandi Ntuli at The Orbit. Photo by Siphiwe Mhlambi
Thandi Ntuli at The Orbit. Photo by Siphiwe Mhlambi

Even though we are fighting new battles as a country, old ones like racism and crime are still making us turn against each instead of being unified as tata Mandela wanted.

JAZZ LIVES ON

Through initiatives like the annual Standard Bank Joy of Jazz, which starts tomorrow, Jazz artists and producers have been supported for the past 21 years, many of them are gaining international recognition just by performing at the stage.

New notable voices in the jazz scene are given a platform to showcase their talents at the Showcase Stage.

The Showcase stage has been unearthing new and raw talent for the past few years, while the On the Road to the official Joy of Jazz Festival also looks at shinning the spotlight on new jazz artists like the Karabo Mohlala Quartet, Thabang Tabane Quartet, Zano, aus’ Tebza, Sobantwana and Nelisiwe.

Mandisi Dyantyis performing at the Sophiatown The Mix. Photo by Lindo Mbhele
Mandisi Dyantyis performing at the Sophiatown The Mix. Photo by Lindo Mbhele

Some of these artists have been in the music scene for years now, but it would be the first time for them to perform at the festival. This would introduce them to new audiences, who would be traveling from countries overseas to attend the event.

Introducing-Hedzoleh-Soundz.jpg
4min4350

IT was Hugh Masekela’s time with Fela Kuti that this album came to be. The latter wasn’t part of Introducing Hedzoleh Soundz, but was the one who introduced Masekela to Ghanaian ensemble Hedzoleh Soundz.

Spending a number of years in America and parts of Europe, Masekela missed home but couldn’t come back to South Africa because he’d be arrested by the apartheid government for his politically-charged music and his work as an activist. But before coming down south in Botswana where he was just a border away from Mzansi, he spent some time in West and Central Africa. Like Miriam Makeba, he was warmly received in a number of African states one of those being Nigeria, where he spent a lot of time with King Fela whose career and nights at the iconic Afrika Shrine were at its peak.

Along the stupendous strands of marijuana the two shared at Kalakuta Republic, Masekela and Fela shared anecdotes, experiences and music-which resulted in Masekela working with the indigenous band from Accra. “I found a certain vitality in Afrobeat. Playing with Hedzoleh Soundz was like being on a big fat cloud. You couldn’t fall of,” said Masekela.

The eight track album was released in 1973 and it was largely written by the Hedzoleh Soundz, bar Languta. This album stands as one of my favourite works of all time. It is unequivocally traditional thanks to the organic African drums, merged with the melodies of the Akan and Ewe people. Yet very jazzy with a punch of funk. It was universal music, too sick to be categorized by a mere genre.

The track Rekpete will have you feeling like you’re in the Congo doing a Kwassa Kwassa. On Adade, Masekela’s trumpet is like a jet-ski, gliding at open sea which is the combination of indigenous instruments, harmonies and melodies.  I don’t know why African filmmakers haven’t used Patience in any of our African stories. It’s a song that would accommodate some of the best scenes.

Nye Tamo Ame reminds me of migrate workers, African soccer players or young men at initiation school. It’s the harmony and spirited voices of men singing together. It’s inspiringly beautiful.

It’s said in isiZulu that Uk’hamba Uk’bona and Masekela’s travels to the West of the continent opened his eye to gems in Ghana, which has opened our eyes to Africa’s vast richness.

IMG-20181109-WA0005-1280x1024.jpg
8min2671

“ONE thing about music when it hits you, you feel no pain,” sang the immortal Bob Marley. To perhaps add to that, if an artist’s live performance doesn’t hit you, you may find yourself eternally scared by that experience.

I’ve not been fortunate enough to witness folk singer Adelle Nqeto live, but I’ve already been hit by her recorded compositions. God willingly in just a few hours from now, she’ll break that ice. Her music is so calming, that the imagery of her breaking anything is absurd.

The singer from Pretoria performs in Tembisa’s 4ROOM Creative Village this evening, as part of her national tour which has seen her travel more than three provinces. In each province, she consciously plays at small, intimate spaces which accommodate her music leaving onlookers with that fuzzy feeling inside. “This will be our second time playing in Tembisa, and we’re looking forward to it. Our bass player couldn’t join us last time around, so it’ll be great to play again as a trio. We had such as warm reception last time- we knew we wanted to come back,” Nqeto tells me.

In September she returned to the country after playing Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany. It wasn’t her first time gigging in Europe, “but it was my first time with my band though,” she says.

“…we’ve had great responses most places we play. I suppose there’s something novel about us when we play in Europe, being from the African continent, and we’ve had especially great responses over there.”

Some of the things she dabbles in while travelling, is try out different foods. “I also like to know the history of the place, as well as the art, so I do read up about that too, or check out museums and galleries.”

Apropos the band she keeps mentioning? It’s two fellas, drummer James Robb and Dylan du Toit who plays bass. She’s an ardent soloist who understands that being alone, is as valuable to her art as collaborating. “I’d like to be as versatile as possible, depending on the show. I still do play solo, but I especially love to have James and Dylan around, so the three of us have become the core for now,” Nqeto puts it to me.

Adelle Nqeto(center) with her band, James Robb (L) and Dylan du Toit (R). Photo by Susan van Tonder from Tiger & Lilly Production

Her vocal control is unassuming; it has an innocent fierceness to it. She’s the fine epitome that big things do come in small packages. But she’s had no formal voice training at any institutions, but with simplicity says she’s just been singing all her life and “learned a lot along the way. I’ve had few vocal lessons-to hone in on technique, but mostly, I’ve learnt a lot through experience.”

First time I heard her voice, I thought Soundcloud had made a mistake with her name, I expected the vocalist singing on her debut album Lights, to be a Caucasian female. I’m just another statistic, as other people too were gobsmacked by her race. “There are some interesting assumptions about my race, which are always great conversation starters,” she says.

 

There aren’t any songs sang in vernac in her album, but says she can and does write in isiXhosa. “I have reworked a song I wrote in French into isiXhosa that I’ve played for a French project I join every now and then, and have written some songs in isiXhosa that haven’t yet seen the light of day.”

She has a cocktail of musical influences, from Miriam Makeba, Ella Fitzgerald, Mango Groove, Ray Charles-all of whom she grew up listening to, added with the alternative music of Radiohead, Bon Iver and Sufjan Stevens.

Last year she released her heart-warming and soul reviving album, Lights.  The ditties in there have a sense of one who has overcome demons and realised the light inside themselves and those around them.  A bit like those sisters that have just taken up Yoga, using Namaste as their only pleasantry.

“The songs on Lights were written over a few years, with some difficult periods of course. I wasn’t going through a difficult time when I wrote Lights [the song], specifically, I was looking back at the bitter-sweet end of a relationship.”

They are headed to studio for a follow up to that album, which could be expected early next year she says.


About us

We’ll Not Change The World Ourselves. But We’ll Spark The Minds That Do.
Read More

CONTACT US




Newsletter





    I'm not a robot
    View our Privacy Policy