Music

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8min3810

LAST week I randomly posted on Facebook that it would’ve been dope to hang out with Busi Mhlongo. I really don’t know where this longing for her presence came from, but I missed the Queen of modern Zulu music.

This is possibly because I’ve become more Pan-African in the last five years and  I’ve grown to appreciate Mhlongo’s work more as a young black man living in a modern world. She was conscious and proud of her Africaness, and wanted to share that with the rest of the world. Like other young black South Africans today, I’m very proud and mindful of who I am and I have an urge to share my story with the rest of the world, in my own words. I feel like that’s why I have this connection to her.

Her adlibs would make any of these modern rappers jealous.

I unfortunately never had the opportunity to meet her nor see her live in performance. Today marks eight years since the passing of this giant.

“The industry will always miss how Busi Mhlongo made traditional Zulu music sound so cool and so global. A traditional, urban, global and true Kasi woman who conquered the world with her twist of Zulu music, appropriately coined ‘Urban Zulu’,” says Native Rhythms boss Sipho Sithole speaking to Tha Bravado.

With a career that spanned over 40 years, Mhlongo was ahead of her time. Her music had elements of Jazz, Funk, Mbaqanga, Maskandi, Marabi and traditional Zulu music and more. Her vocal dexterity was brilliant. You can tell when someone enjoys what they do and you it’s clear that she enjoyed to sing-it was a catharsis for her which healed those who got to hear her belt out a song. Her sincerity and vulnerability was a mainstay in her music. I remember as a young boy, first hearing Yise Wabantwana and just feeling her pain, although I couldn’t comprehend what the song meant at the time. Sithole says what made her special was

“Her stage presence, her artistic expression, her pose on stage, her gaze and how she occupied and owned the stage whilst rendering hair-raising performance unparalleled.”

In 2007 the SABC hosted the Vuka Sizwe Benefit Concert, which was to honour Mhlongo who was battling breast cancer. Sithole was assigned by then SABC head, Adv Dali Mpofu to lead the project. This meant spending some time with the great artist.

“Busi Mhlongo was very special and her ability to make everyone feel so special as well was her greatest strength. There was that sisterly or motherly disposition about her that made everyone around her feel so connected to her. She had an amazing personality. She displayed a strong character even in times when you could see that she was really sick. She never wanted people to see how sick and weak she was.”

Her strength and colourful personality was palpable in her music. Just listen to Yapheli’mali Yami, where she laments that her lover doesn’t respond to her letters. I’ve always found the intro of the song humorous, where she talks over the guitar strings saying that Yokugcina le ncwadi practically giving her lover a last chance to respond.

Her adlibs would make any of these modern rappers jealous. Culoe De Song captured them perfectly in the House remix of We Baba. It is for this reason that Sithole says her name and music will never vanish into the archives because young people connect to her and her music heavily.

“She continues to influence established and emerging artists today. Most artist still list Busi Mhlongo as a major influence in their career, whether one is talking about Thandiswa Mazwai, Xolisa Dlamini, Siphokazi, Simphiwe Dana, Zoë Modiga, Khululiwe Sithole, just to mention a few.”

She passed away at the age of 62 in 2010.

“I had been prepared for her eventual transition to the other world, having seen her battling with cancer. I knew there and then that she was rested and united with her Creator and her ancestors,” says Sithole.

I think there’s a connection to her passing away in South Africa’s Youth month, just a day before the historic holiday. She was young at heart and today’s young people connect to her music because she showed the world that African culture is cool- she never conformed nor displayed an inferiority complex as a black woman. She had so much bravado.

It certainly would’ve been dope to hang out with Busisiwe Victoria Mhlongo.

Image source: Medium

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Today marks eight years since the world lost the Queen of modern Zulu music. Here are five of her best songs selected by Khulisile Nkhushubana.

1. Uganga nge Ngane (Album: UrbanZulu) “uyisonka elinjani…lishela nge mali” roughly translated this means what kind of player are you, if you use your money to get women.  This line has stuck with me from the first time I heard the song because it was the first time I heard a truly, tribally, African women questioning the unprogressive behaviours of man. Questioning patriarchy with calm and the sternest of Table Mountain, with prophetic undertones.

2. Yehlisani’umoya Ma-Afrika (Album: UrbanZulu) “kodwa kade madoda…si bulalana sodwa…wa phele laphi unembeza…sibulalana sodwa”  I do not believe the construct of Pan-Africanism will be operationalized in my life time. Should it ever happen, Africans will have to stop killing Africans, plain and simple. In this joint you can hear the pain in Mam’ Busi’s voice, as she begs us to lower our anger and stop the ridiculousness of black on black violence.

3. Sonke Siyamangala (Album: Freedom) – for me, there are very few things in this world which are more beautiful than the sincere proclamation of love through an African voice. Growing up in an environment where public displays of affection are taboo, it blew my mind to hear Mam’ Busi expressing her love for a man in Zulu, which is a culture were the objectification of women occurs far more often than the objectification of man. This joint clearly made me understand that desire is bidirectional in the dichotomy of heterosexual romantic relations.

Listen to Sonke Siyamangale

4. Yapheli’mali Yami  (Album: UrbanZulu) – I smile when hear this joint, the fact women have been crying about men not returning there massages from day one is just funny to me. Before Whatsapp, Mixit, cell phones and telephones, there was hand written letters which had to be sent via the post office for a price.  Mam’ Busi is scolding her lover in this joint, shouting at him that she has finished her money writing to him why does he not answer. The more things change the more they stay the same.

Listen to Yapheli’mali Yami

5. Tingi Tingi (Album: Babhemu) – Women generally value security above most things, Mam’Busi was no different.  In this joint she makes it clear that her fellow workers must leave her money alone and keep it for her when she is not around to collect it. This is another humorous joint because as fans we often idolize our favourite artist thinking that they have transcended their humanity.  Mam’ Busi always made it clear that she was just human from day one, always honestly sharing her vulnerabilities in her music. Which makes most of people feel like they knew her personally even if they didn’t.

What are some of your favourite songs by Busi Mhlongo?

Image source: Medium

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There isn’t much listening pleasure in underground music. The production is usually dingy, sounding as though it was recorded in a lavatory and seemingly targeted at only friends and family.

Certain Dillussions is not near, around or across the street from underground music. While ImproPoe might not have the popularity of an AKA, but makes the quality of music that wouldn’t be out of place on a radio station’s playlist.

This project is a follow up to last year’s Body Of Proof which was also a good Hip Hop album, but Certain Dillussions displays ImproPoe’s growth in music making and he is more poignant in telling his story.

“He is one of the finest eloquent rappers I’ve heard behind the mic- you never struggle to hear what he’s saying.”

If you’re familiar with his work you wouldn’t have been shocked by his striking metaphors, seamless change of flows and ear-luring rhyme schemes. His storytelling is simple, without being simplistic. The beat on Drifting Away complements his narration about the once perfect couple that lost its purpose due to relationship strains, which led to unfaithfulness and irreversible mistakes. It has the same texture to it as a Pete Rock & CL Smooth joint.

In the song Mollo, ImproPoe’s delivery is at its most abrasive. His discernment of where to merge his English bars with his vernacular bars is impressive to say the least, because predominately English spitting rappers sound pretentious rapping in their mother tongue, sounding as though they are trying too hard. He is one of the finest eloquent rappers I’ve heard behind the mic- you never struggle to hear what he’s saying.

The Hymphatic Tapz-like Special Delivery flow slows the movement of the album down after I had just listened to Mollo and Aweh. Perhaps due to this new trend of short songs, but I am still unsure if the album is too long for my liking because I enjoy most songs on it but I also have an unshakable feeling that it would’ve been more potent with just 10 tracks. If you’re not clued up on video games, anime and manga like myself, you’ll probably get lost in some of these bars because he uses them a lot as reference.

The album title track paints a picture of a dejected, confused, misunderstood and self-reclused ImproPoe. I felt like a parent who lost his child in bombings, but later, I felt like my team had just won the Euefa, not Europa the Champions League I’m panicking G..

The song highlights how young people today are vulnerable to mental illness.

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5min1911

If a Black Thought verse on a feature is us eavesdropping, then Streams Of Thought Volume 1 is a sit down alone with the man to hear him speak his truth, albeit brief.

The best thing about hearing the Philadelphia rapper outside of his crew The Root, is that he’s not tied to a particular theme or subject and always raps with the ferocity of a Rottweiler unleashed from a cage to a dog fight. This is what you get in this five track EP. He rides these 9th Wonder and The Soul Council beats perfectly staying in pocket, raping with so much authority.

I felt misled by the title when I first heard 9th Wonder vs. Thought. But after a careful listen, what became clear was the studio being a ring, 9th fighting from his MPC and Thought with the pen, with only one mission; to give us a good art fight. And it was.

Dostoyevsky with Rapsody is just the perfect Hip Hop song. Much like the rest of the album, the production is on par with the raps drenched in gritty, dirty drums and kicks. The sample chopping was neatly done leaving room for the melodies. In a verse on Dostoyevsky he raps…

Cash rules everything, I just wanted a taste of it
Fast food hurrying, saving time, not wasting it
Self-saboteur, speaking it to my paramour
Torch rappers like I’m igniting the aerosol
Maintaining the wherewithal that’ll embarrass y’all…

Rapsody is no passenger on this either. In her verse she spits…

I swam with crocs, fished with sharks
I never popped charts, but I know I’m popular
I was built to run the game, I came up playing guard
With young niggas between 5’5″ and 6 foot 4…

Slick as Styles P’s verse was on Making a Murderer, I think a Talib kweli or Pharoahe Monch would’ve complemented the beat and Thought on this track.

These albums are getting shorter than an episode of Atlanta and listening to this project I believe the trend is ideal for lyrical beasts as Black Thought. The raps are just enough, leaving you with desire for more- and rather that than having a kat trying to outrap himself throughout the album. But short as it is, there’s cohesion and much purposefulness to it.

Thank You is probably the closest thing to The Roots thanks to the Quesloveesque drums from D’Angelo’s It Ain’t Easy which was sampled here.

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6min2640

Kiernan Forbes is a little bitch. His side chick, who stole him from his baby momma, to become his main thing, was smashing other ninjas while they were in a relationship, and now he is surprised.  Now he is reading us a passage from his feelings-diary over a dope beat, throwing shade, shit and shame around like a PMS’ing teenage girl. Pathetic!

It has become clear that the oppressive patriarchal gender stereotypes of the twentieth century will not hold in the twenty first century. Generally, the natural and harmful reaction by a man to relatively drastic changes is anger and confusion. We do not know how to deal with women owning their sexuality by behaving in the same manner we have been behaving since time immemorial. Which is evident in AKA’s new single Beyoncé.

To all my black brothers out there, learn from Kiernan’s bitch assary.

He nostalgically takes a trip down memory lane, lyrically painting pictures of bliss between him and Bonang, globe-trotting and living the high life as a young black power couple. You can feel his confusion as he has an imaginary conversation with Bonang asking “how you think you gon be my fiancé…acting like Rihanna. Thinking you Beyoncé…holidays with the small planes…all I wanted was the small things”

Then all of a sudden he starts throwing shade and shit on the second verse. Claiming “all I can do is go get my bread up…I can’t just compete with all your DM’s and airbrush…I can tell you…super quick with the real…waited two years just to see you with your weave off…tell me what that say about your character…we was fucking while I was paying damages…baby momma stressed out” That is some bullshit, this man is acting as if he had  nothing to do with Zinhle’s pain when Bonang threw the brick, and this business about the weave and airbrush is just petty. This man is just mad that he could not tame one of South Africa’s original bad ass.

To all my black brothers out there, learn from Kiernan’s bitch assary. Do not go into a situation with a bad bitch hoping that you can tame her because the truth of the matter is you will lose either direction. If you succeed in locking her down there is a good chance that you will end up resenting her because her wildness was one of the major things that attracted you to her. If you fail you’ll end up resenting her anyway for turning you into her little bitch. Love should be free of social expectation and the limitations of time. If it isn’t, it becomes a source of pain, shame and hate, as Kiernan Forbes has undignifiedly showed us.

With that said, the joint is dope as fuck. The wobbling synth and his add lips are the stars of the record. What truly impresses me about AKA over the past seven years is his ear for beat selection. They are urban and modern, without being completely imitative of American popular trends. Which is what you get from a Nasty C or a Frank Casino, they are dope, no doubt about it but their sonic preferences come across as unbearably imitative to me, which is not the case with AKA. While people complain about AKA’s consistent use of automation on his vocals to cover up the fact that he can’t sing. I feel it is necessary considering the personal nature of his music. Nobody can deliver those bars with his interestingly unique swag and presence. It seems to me he got a hit with this Beyoncé joint.

AKA photo courtesy of cnnct.co.za


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