SJAVA

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6min5740

A YEAR ago when Anatii and AKA came together for a collaborative album, one of the things which stood out for many was the latter’s rapping in isiXhosa in the song Don’t Forget To Pray.

Anatii’s latest project Iyeza is the Don’t Forget To Pray verse in the form of an album. The sound on the 10 track album is authentic, current yet there’s novelty to it. I remember over a decade ago when rap clique Jozi created the Motherland Crunk sound through Bongani Fassie’s sampling of Vusi Ximba’s rich African sound. Iyeza took me back to those days, difference is that Anatii manipulated the current trap sound and fused it with authentic African sonics.

It’s difficult to say this is a Hip Hop album, but rather a manifestation of different sounds coming together to be the backdrop to Anatii’s story. I loathe the Afro pop sound and I was welcomed by it on the tracks Wena and U Sangthanda Na? These love ditties are steeped in that sound, I swear I thought Robbie Malinga or Sjava was gonna belt a note on one of the songs.  Anatii gave life to the lethargic sound by modernizing it and giving it his twist.

Another Afro pop-influenced song is Ehlatini, whose guitar riffs are Mbaqangaesque. But Ehlatini is a dope, easy listen about the hard life of the hustle and the bustle of Johannesburg.

Kids in the burbs know Anatii’s work fairly enough to formulate an opinion about his music, but I don’t see them having this joint on repeat. Anatii hasn’t etched his sound and music on the minds and hearts of ghetto and rural kids across Mzansi and Wena, is the joint which lubricates that awkward relationship the artist has with some black audiences.  In fact the whole album will have mothers in the Township know who Anatii is and get coons in the suburbs feel more in touch with their Africaness, if marketed properly.

The song Ngozi has a dreamy psychedelic feel to it. It was like hearing the sound of spring water dripping in the spring of the Drakensburg. He sings about people’s relationship with money, which is tainted by bad decision making of most individuals.

The album is dense and concise, with a running time of just above 30 minutes. But the Naija-influenced Zion Interlude ruined the flow and feel of the album; he really could’ve done without it there. The song Ntloni is one of the freshest joints I’ve heard in South Africa in a while. It’s such a fun song; I feel bad listening to it as I type this in my working space. Songs like this should be listened to at a pool party somewhere, dancing with beautiful damsels from Ebayi who are infatuated with going to Dubai.

Thixo Onofefe has been the album’s single and it makes sense why. It’s a jam. It’s an authentic South African song which isn’t limited in our own sounds, but borrows from other parts of the world. I can hear it on a Black Panther movie as T’Challa kicks some arrogant butt.

Iyeza is a Xhosa word for medicine and Anatii has found a remedy for most South Africans sleeping on his sound. It’s like his reintroduction to the South African market which his sound was previously never able to stick on. Welcome home Anatii, welcome home.

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8min1880

THE face of relief I had, standing in front of the urinal turned into bewilderment while in the lavatory of a pub this past weekend.

Thanks to aggressive marketing, which has advertisements in our faces even when we’re having a moment with our bodies. What had me confused was the flyer of the Tembisa Jazz festival.

From the artists on the line-up, it would’ve been better to name it an Afro-soul festival. Sjava, Zahara and Selaelo Selota are the main acts on the bill. Only the latter is a jazz artist. Sjava and Zahara are as far from being jazz artists as Joburg is to Abuja, by foot.

Understand this, this isn’t about the artists but event organisers who come up with these shows which disguise themselves as festivals. This isn’t a unique problem to the Ekurhuleni Township; there was a similar and more cringing case in Soweto during the youth month at the splendid Soweto Theatre.

Dubbed the Soweto Jazz International Festival, their line-up included the likes of rapper Nasty C, Sho Madjozi, Deborah Cox, Lady Zamar and Mi Casa.

Let that sink in.

Is this a case of the suits calling all the shots, instead of having knowledgeable individuals in these crucial positions? What puzzles me is why there’s this incessant obsession with jazz, when what you’re presenting to attendees ain’t jazz. It’s blatant misleading of patrons who actually appreciate jazz, but more than that it’s an unfathomable mind fuck on black people in the township who walk out of those events really believing that Loliwe is a jazz joint. Like how many people still think Kenny G is a jazz artist.

But in the defence of these kasi events, I also blame the inevitable growth of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival. What started out strictly as a jazz festival in 2000 under the name North Sea Jazz Festival- for five years, the festival was known by that name as part of the contract between the Netherlands festival and local events management company espAfrika.

From 2005 onwards, not only did the name change to what we know today as Cape Town International Jazz Festival, so too have the artists we saw on the bill. Artists who aren’t jazz kats, but whose music has elements of jazz that satisfy the genre’s aficionados like a 340ml, crept into the line-up.

As the festival grew, it was clear that it was morphing into a music festival for pure songs lovers- the BLK JKS, HHP, Zola, Louie Vega and many more other random artists have performed at the Cape Town event, even Lauryn Hill. But with their growth, the festival somehow manages to keep ardent jazz listeners satisfied each year, with a line-up that prioritizes jazz.

The Joy of Jazz still maintains its status as purely jazz festival, but over the years they have bent the rules, in a slick manner. Vocalist Bilal is one of their headline acts for this weekend’s instalment of the festival- but Bilal’s vocal dexterity just doesn’t permit you to box him anywhere, which allows the festival to get away with having him on the line-up. I was in the audience with former President Thabo Mbeki, enjoying music by Gregory Porter in 2014- he too, Porter not Mbeki, is one you can’t box. But in the same year, they had Billie Ocean on the line-up, which is the equivalent of having R. Kelly at a jazz festival.

As a millennial I know very well that the world is no longer as black and white as many people thought. There isn’t a person who is interested in the same thing, all the time. Human beings’ personalities have become more nuanced with time, largely due to the advancement of technology which exposes people to more than what is in their little village.

So the same person from Seshego in Polokwane who enjoys listening to Phuzekhemisi, also happens to be a fan of Mcoy Mrubata and knows Pharoahe Monch’s lyrics back-to-back. Having said that, organisers shouldn’t be thoughtless when naming festivals, in the name of pulling in a certain LSM- this is derived from the stigma around jazz which suggests that, the only people who enjoy the genre are the wealthy and sophisticated. There are many people in the swankiest places in our country who are ardent listeners of Zahara and Lady Zamar.

If your event doesn’t have a slew of jazz artists, don’t name it a jazz festival because it’s not, otherwise you’ll have us peeing on ourselves thanks to the shocking line-ups you have at these gigs.

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4min2740

“I’M from Pretoria, Shoshanguve to be exact. Tsonga speaking through and through. You can even hear the traditional Tsonga guitar or vocals in the music I produce. It’s my culture and I would also like to carry it with me in my Hip Hop journey,” says rapper Joint Pusher.

Often as black people, we shun at our own culture, until it’s embraced and sometimes misinterpret by Caucasians, in Eurocentric spaces. This was evident at the release of the movie, Black Panther. The euphoria and the passionate African pride that the movie brought was embarrassingly funny-that for black people, being a proud African was also just a phase that came with the movie and now is gone.

You see this every September in South Africa, during the heritage month. The veteran rapper, Joint Pusher is preserving our indigenous sounds, through sampling that music and making it Hip Hop. “We been sampling international musicians for days. It’s time we chop up our legends so they can relive in the music we put out,” he says.

His project, the Heritage Tape truly explores this. On one of the tracks, Afrika, he features emcees Quest Yahkeem with poignant spiritual ensemble, BCUC providing the vocals. The kick of the beat gels well with the native sounds from BCUC.

Joint Pusher has a couple of features on the whole project, including SCF clique member Shynin Armour. Bar-dropping emcee, Mothipa is on a track titled Never Give Up. While New York band Thunderlions from New York did the African Mist song with him.

Released independently, the project was produced by Joint Pusher himself, with Tuxman and KG from the colony group of producers. He says it’s been challenging getting the project marketed, since it’s not the usual Trap sound nor is it strictly Boom-Bap.  “I hope to get heads aware that we can also use our African instruments and sounds to flourish worldwide. You don’t want to get to a point where you’re featured by an act from overseas, and all your beats have the same samples he rejected at home or heard elsewhere.”

But having an artist such as Sjava in the mainstream, who celebrates his culture even in his music, shows the diversity in the local Hip Hop scene. “I believe we have just started to scratch the surface. We got to identify and carve the South African Hip Hop sound and it’s up to the yougins to take it forth just like Naija music, the way it’s taking over the world and its authentically African, you don’t have to look for it.”

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3min4701

Sjava became the first South African musician to win the BET Viewer’s Choice Award last night at the international awards ceremony hosted at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles California, US.

 

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In 2016 South African DJ and producer Black Coffee won the Best International Act, which last night was won by Nigeria’s Davido. A number of South African artists have been nominated in the Viewer’s Choice Award category in the past, but failed to get enough fan votes.

The difference between the two categories is that Sjava’s award was voted for by fans using a designated hashtag for each artist on BET.com, Tiwitter and Instagram. With his #IPICSJAVA18 hashtag, the artist from KZN trumped, among others, UK singing sensation Iamddb, France’s Prince Waly and Sik-K from South Korea.

Felicitations have been pouring in for Sjava from fans all over. Maps Maponyane tweeted “Siyak’bongela Sjava.”  While Cassper Nyovest who lost to Davido, tweeted “Congratulations to King Sjava for the win. SA Hip Hop doing big shit.”

Unlike Best International Act category which was handed out to Davido during the main event, Sjava was presented with his gong in a ceremony held just before the main one.

Draped in isiZulu attire; Sjava wore Umqele on his head, Amambatha covering his shoulders and ibheshu, icansi in hand and to top it off he walked in bare foot. The look was authentic and flamboyant enough for him to be on the main stage with the rest of the acts. He did the country and the rest of Africa proud in taking the award and in the manner in which he did.


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