Skwatta Kamp

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WE’RE mortal beings whose existence on this planet has an ending, but through a legacy one can live forever. Ask Bob Marley, Steve Biko or Flabba, who today would’ve celebrated his 41st birthday.

Real name Nkululeko Habedi, born in Soweto but raised in Alex, Flabba passed away three years ago after an altercation with his girlfriend Sindisiwe Manqele, who stabbed him. I remember that Monday morning in March when former Skwatta Kamp member Infa, confirmed that Flabba was no more. The whole Hip Hop community was frozen in shock, that ntja ya Gomora was gone.

Flabba left us with music he recorded with his group Skwatta Kamp, but we were fortunate enough to get one solo project from him which was the 2006’s Nkuli vs Flabba. The album won Best Rap album at the South African Music Awards in 2007.

I write this listening to a track from the album which he did with Lira, Gotta Let You Go. In the short song, he talks about the battling pain of losing his father and brother. This was a rare appearance by Nkululeko on record talking about his emotions, something which Flabba wouldn’t do because he was Nkuli’s Black Label drinking out-of-this-world alter ego.

Like the Kea Go Rata skit on the album where he’s in a club with a girl, tryna mack on her over loud music, but changes his story as soon as the music abruptly goes silent. He gave us himself in the album, the ying and the yang.

It wasn’t a traditional Hip Hop album marinated in lyricism and intricate rhyme schemes, like the stuff Proverb and Zubz were doing at the time. But like a proper comedian, he was far observant of what’s happening in society than people gave him credit. Kats like Lil Dicky are being given tags such as a comical rapper, while Flabba exposed us to such years ago. He was ahead of his time.

Zubz’s Heavy 8 is probably South Africa’s best posse cut, but Flabba’s Is’Bhamu Somdoko remix follows close behind. It pinned down the various Mzansi rap styles in one song, with everyone trying to channel their twisted sexual side which Flabba did so seamlessly. On the track Nkuli Habedi, he says he’s not your average rapper, but your favourite porn star. Flabba could rap, but was wise enough to avoid sounding like everyone around him who was chasing that US flow and style. He carved his own lane.

Gifted individuals live with an unfathomable and sometimes careless realness as if they know that their time on this earth won’t match any country’s life expectancy number.  His clique, Skwatta Kamp was often juxtaposed to the US’s Wu Tang Clan because of their influence in the culture and also because both groups were bigger than the average Hip Hop collective.

Writing this, I can’t help but think of Flabba as SK’s Ol’Dirty Bastard. Both are deceased, they were both comical, abrasive, genuine and intelligent. Thank goodness he wasn’t part of Club 27, otherwise we wouldn’t have received what he gave us in his last 10 years on earth.

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Being the last day of the historic youth month, throngs of young people gathered at the Constitutional Hill to enjoy some of the country’s finest artists, express themselves at the three day festival which kicked-off on Thurday.

Saturday was the much anticipated music concert that featured what you could say are different eras of  South African youth. From the likes of Skwatta Kamp, Samthing Soweto,BCUC, Sho Madjozi the BLK JKS, Moonchild and Muzi.

The latter was playing his last gig in the country, before heading out to Europe for his month long tour. While he was playing Basha for the first time, Muzi gave the buoyant crowd reason to dance on Saturday night with a set that included a remix of Margret Singana’s We Are Growing (Shaka Zulu theme song) to Ye’s All Mine and some.

“It’s dope…getting people that really vibe with the music.  But that’s the thing about umculo dawg, the shit is universal. You can connect with everyone if you do it proper,” said Muzi. The producer from Empangeni was irritated though, by someone who he says interfered with his set. “There’s a guy that kept tapping my shoulder, telling me about time and that I have to finish up. Which I really didn’t like,” said the producer.

“I like enjoying my music. So I’m not the stay behind decks, and look cool typa guy. Sometimes I leave it, I just press play because I’ve mixed it proper, and vibe with the crowd.” He did that by grabbing the mic in the first half of his act, to perform one of his songs.

His European tour will see him play at Northstar in Scotland, Beatherder Festival in England and Base in Milan, Italy among others throughout July and returns just in time for Oppikoppi in August.

He doesn’t prepare different for an overseas audience, juxtaposed to the audience here at home. “…Even us as black people, we’re still kinda indoctrinated so we still have to relearn our culture. When I play a song uZenzile for instance, which I couldn’t play here, I get the same reaction from everyone. Nathi as abantu abamnyama, we’ve sort of assimilated to whiteness and that’s what we think success is. It has to be honest music…it can’t be sugar coated to suit a certain crowd.”

Madjozi’s performance which was just before Muzi’s was enjoyable, whilst Skwatta Kamp’s energy on stage was impressive for men who no longer perform week in week out. Bar the fact that singer Relo, looked a tad uncomfortable throughout their performance. A young looking Pro (Kid) performed some of his new songs, but the crowd were eating off the palm of his and when he played classics such as Wozobona.

The BLK JKS’ performance was also a big crowd puller. They had the crowd singing ‘aweyawo’ when they performed Molalatladi while everyone was charged up by Mzabalazo. The festival lived up to its theme, Join the Movement, which each performer did in their respective style. A scantily dressed Moonchild gave a great performance, as though channelling her inner Brenda Fassie. Black Motion’s stage presence and showmanship is right up there with some of the country’s best.

It was embarrassing though, when the night’s MC butchered DJ Akio’s name before his set began- the crowd kept screaming the DJ’s actual name to correct the blunder. It’s always a good sight seeing an artist who isn’t on the line-up, attending an event just to have fun. I spotted Kelly Khumalo, Petite Noir and Lunga Shabalala among others in the crowd, having jump at the festival.

I was impressed by the security presence at the event, not only that but how they never imposed themselves on the patrons. I never saw one being manhandled for rolling a joint unless, they were staring trouble. I was a victim of pick-pocketing on the night, after my cell phone was mysteriously stolen, but was fortunately able to recover it with the help of a security guard and crowd members who were ironically victims of the dude with a number of phones in his pocket. He was taken-in by the security.

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As the country’s youth month comes to a close, Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg, will host young people as they celebrate their freedom of expression at three day festival, Basha Uhuru.

In its fifth year running, the festival is guided by the theme, Join the Movement. This is symbolic of what the youth, not only in Soweto but different parts of the country, did in June 1976 through protests against the enforcement of Afrikaans, alongside English, as a compulsory medium of instruction for key subjects in all black schools through the Bantu Education Act of 1953.

Last year’s theme was We the People. These themes, says Exhibition and Events coordinator Gaisang Sathekge, are decided on by a committee that shares ideas on these. “As a constitutional precinct, we have to ensure that these brainstorming sessions are inspired by the objectives that we stand for which are constitutionalism, human rights and democracy.”

The word ‘Basha’ means youth and ‘Uhuru’ translates to freedom. “So the festival is about providing young people with the freedom of artistic expression,” says Sathekge.

Basha Uhuru kicks off on Thursday and runs until Saturday, but Sathekge tells me planning takes place a year in advance. “…to engage stakeholders, forming partnerships and fundraising. The content curation of the festival is the most important element – ensuring that each year we offer an exciting and unique line-up of activities.”

For a second year running, DJ Kenhero will be the Artistic Director of the festival.

True to their style, this year’s line-up is made up of both established and emerging eccentric artists blazing trails in their respective art forms-from poetry, visual art and music. “South Africa has immense artistic talent; most of it is yet to be explored. We believe in developing local talent and contributing the creative economy of South Africa,” Sathekge says. The festival also celebrates food, film as well as design and fashion.

Music generally has the biggest pull at the festival with its two stages. The main one located on Constitutional Square with the nation’s highest court as the backdrop, with the second at the historical Old Fort Parade Ground. Sounds of Freedom, which has in the past drawn over 8 000 youth, will sure do the same this year with a line-up that includes PRO (Kid), Samthing Soweto, spiritual ensemble Sun Xa Experience, Empangeni singer and producer Muzi as well as Skwatta Kamp just to mention a few.

But Sathekge says their team stays informed about what’s happening in the creative scene, so as to provide the best experience of the festival in its entirety through all represented art forms. “Remaining relevant in our programming ensures that we provide meaningful content and that is what draws young people – topical issues and relevance,” she says.


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