“We never die, we multiply,” Riky Rick once said and there seems no better way to honour the man and his words, by the announcement that over 130 artists have committed themselves to performing at this year’s Cotton Fest.
Organisers of the festival announced through a statement the confirmed line-up yesterday for this year’s Cotton Fest which was postponed to April 23&24 following the untimely death of musician Rikhado ‘Riky Rick’ Makhado in February.
Taking place in central Johannesburg on one weekend, the festival will merge both well-known and young emerging South African artists over three stages. Some of the name on the line-up include 031 Choppa, Shane Esgle, 2Shoes, Priddy Ugly, 25K, A- Reece, Benny Chill, Stogie T, Big Zulu and Blxckie among the long list. The festival is set to be a very emotional and spirited one, with most artists most likely seeing this as their farewell to Riky.
It will also be a celebration of Riky’s life and his ideals. He was loved by the OGs in the game while new kids on the block were also fond of him because he showed his support and appreciation to new artists with their novel sounds.
“The high energy, entertainment-filled weekend will include various other lifestyle elements to keep all cotton eaters entertained,” read the statement. Some of the cool things cotton eaters can enjoy on site will be, a games area, a food court, a live skating competition, Cotton Fest X Puma customization station, a retail fashion “tuckshop” featuring Cotton Fest merch and other limited edition clothing items will be available for sale. Also there will be a half-court and live art to engage with on site.
In some way, Riky’s passing has accelerated Cotton Fest to being the number one Hip Hop festival in the land. We’re coming from more than a decade of Back to The City Hip Hop festival which takes place annually on April 27, Freedom day at Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown, Johannesburg. It’s still unknown whether there will be a BTTC this year, but should it happen you can imagine Hip Hop fans scratching their heads as to which of these gigs to attend. But a confirmed line-up of more than 130 acts makes the decision a pretty easy one.
In the same way a great image paired with an equally potent caption does for an article, so should an artist’s live performance do for an album. It makes it more endearing and grips the audience with a deep sense of engagement. Both artist and listener have been deprived of this exchange for the most part of the year due to the pandemic, settling for the seemingly arduous virtual concerts.
Zoë Modiga’s sophomore album Inganekwane is a body of work that has left many music lovers craving to experience it live since it was released four months ago. “I miss people buth’wami, there’s nothing like it,” says Zoë. “I consider myself to be an empath, I really enjoy to feel people’s energy and having that fuel me, where I’m not fuelling myself because virtual performances feel like I’m fuelling myself but the audience doesn’t understand how much of an importance they actually have in creating the world,” she says.
With only a handful of us at Constitution Hill against the women’s prison, mostly made up of the crew capturing performances which are being streamed to thousands, Zoë gave a consistent performance that should’ve been experienced live by many warm bodies at the Blooming Sounds in Joburg. My eyes closed, taking in the music, the sound of her voice is as pure live as it is on record.
“With the virtual space we’re in right now, I suppose me trying to be consistent is the understanding that I know it’s an awkward place for everyone to be in, I know we all like to doll up when we go watch our favourite musicians so I think that consistency is not taking that for granted ukuthi people are gonna be in PJs, they probably don’t want to watch a show in PJs, but they’re gonna tune in anyway and that means something to me. I suppose another thing, it is the music [and] it is the passion but also the product and I feel like if you want to exist in spaces where people respect the brand as well, you need to be able to do it professionally, regardless of the circumstances that you find yourself in,” Zoë tells me after her performance.
As Stogie T gets his turn on the Blooming Sounds stage, between the historic walls of Constitution Hill I find a quiet space to talk to Zoë about her work. Inganekwane, a Nguni word for fairy-tale, is a project that’s preceded by adjectives such as ‘moving’ ‘divine’ and ‘healing’. Poignantly released at a time when black youth is enamoured with being woke and is having conversations about what it means to be black in this world- it’s the perfect soundtrack.
“This album is about a lot of conversations that I had been having for three years after Yellow The Novel, my debut album was made and released. There’s a lot of conversations about the state of black people and what’s that like. For the longest time I felt I couldn’t express it in my language, but I began to be affirmed by my audience you know, that’s the power that my audience has and that music lovers have, is that sometimes they can cause you to move into spaces that you would not qualify yourself for. So even with the response of the album, it feels the same way. People are qualifying you. It’s such an affirming thing because for me music is a personal thing, but for me the motive I have is to move people’s souls first and foremost before I formally get recognised formally through awards and those kinds of things,” says Zoë.
Her music moves more than just the soul. Her performance of Intsha had the tiny audience dancing, and probably a lot more streaming viewers’ hips swaying. “It always makes me lose my breath and twerk myself into a disaster,” a panting Zoë says while on stage. “It’s a song dedicated to the youth of 1976 and it’s a song that reminds us that young people are always part of watershed moments, we always make big changes.”
As James Brown’s message on Say It Loud, I’m Black & I’m Proud cannot not be misunderstood, so is Zoë’s Abantu. It’s a candid conversation she has with Bantu people- touching on black on black violence, self-image, and poverty but yet the song is mighty reassuring. “This song is dear to my heart because it’s part of all the conversations we’ve been having. It’s a beautiful love letter because it’s a song that puts us in a place of realising that we commit so much violences [sic] amongst ourselves as black bodies and part of that is calling systems into place that have allowed us to think in this way,” she says during her performance.
With her trademark brush-cut, rocking a leather dress and snakeskin print ankle boots Zoë looked elegant. A glimpse of her Instagram page will let you know, that she’s an aesthetically-conscious one, and is comfortable in her style.
It was her vision that inspired the album cover art, helped by an amazing team of creatives in its execution. “I’m blessed to have people who believe in my visions,” she says. The idea for her cover stems from a visit to her paternal grandmother as a 5 year-old KwaMpisi, in rural KwaZulu-Natal. “I’d always have this moment of looking into cows for a long period of time, and she’d [grandmother] always look at me like I was crazy. That’s the power of this record that it’s allowed me to really look back into childhood, look back at what’s made me who I am, right now.”
THERE probably isn’t a better adjective than ‘blooming’ attached to the spring season we’re in. But the word is also apt in describing the six young, fresh and eccentric artists who’ll be performing at Constitution Hill this Saturday at Blooming Sounds.
LaliBoi, Witney, Manu WorldStar, Moonga K, Lolo Skai, and Umlilo are the six Gauteng-based artists who will be presented on the day. Blooming Sounds is put together by Institut Français d’Afrique du Sud (IFAS) the French Institute of South Africa in partnership with Total South Africa, in association with Kaya FM and is produced by Bassline.
“I was struck by the quality of the music sent by the applicants, and I am very proud to say that each of the six selected acts will present a highly original and powerful sound to our audiences,” said Selen Daver, the Cultural Attachée at IFAS, in a statement.
The half-dozen of artists were chosen by a jury which included Josh Georgio from the Hugh Masekela Foundation, the Bassline’s Andrew Poane, Jerome Galabert from the Sakifo Festival in Reunion Island, Kaya FM’s Katiso K. Matabola and and Daver.
LaliBoi, who is one-half of Radio 123 is vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, who collaborates with Spoek Mathambo to create a unique blend of hip-hop, jazz and traditional South African tribal music. He will be performing on the day, including Zambian-born musician Moonga K who was raised by a musical family. Umlilo is a genre and gender bending multi-disciplinary artist whose signature sound has been dubbed as ‘future kwaai’.
Manu WorldStar is a Johannesburg born Congolese artist who has been lauded as the breakout artist as well as ‘a must watch’ African act. Zimbabwean-born vocalist Lolo-Skai’s music is influenced by neo soul, afro pop music and poetry which she has loved from an early age, will also grace the stage. Witney, an independent vocalist, songwriter, model, actress, aspiring producer and DJ, whose powerful lyrics are carried by her eclectic voice and soul-inspired sound is part of the chosen six performers.
“They all have a fresh sound and seem to be really paying attention to their craft. They seem to be trying something daring and original with their music,” says jury member Georgio.
The concert will be free to the public, who can enjoy the acts from the comfort of their own homes. The broadcast will take place from the iconic Constitution Hill against the women’s prison and will kick off at 16h00 and end at 20h00.
Skyroom Live will be the online live-streaming portal. They showcase live performances and have been ranked 12th globally as live concert producers by iRock.
Sakifo Musik Festival will also be a part of the French team behind the event alongside IFAS and Total. This annual music festival, which has been hosted on Reunion Island since 2004. The Sakifo network is a streaming partner and will be promoting and broadcasting the concert from its Facebook page.
The broadcast’s primary aim is to provide as much exposure as possible for new musical talent by giving them the opportunity to perform alongside the headlining artists Zoë Modiga whose sophomore album titled Inganekwane, was released a few months ago to critical acclaim and renowned god-emcee Stogie T.
“Blooming Sounds from Joburg is not only about revealing fresh talent, it is also about creating long term opportunities for this new generation of musicians,” Daver says. “We wish to have some of these acts grow and show South African music’s diversity and modernity abroad in a few years’ time.”
“HELLO LIEFIES” is probably not the first thing you’d expect to spew from a dark-skinned fella rocking a wifebeater, chino pants with feet bare, in the backyard over Drake’s Pound Cake beat. But I guess that’s what makes Jabulani Majola- a Zulu man based in Cape Town, who has a slight lisp and enjoys his coffee- so unique.
“The word “liefies” is Afrikaans for lovers. It’s a word I started using a lot when greeting friends in the latter part of 2019 and it just stuck with me so I just started using it with everyone” Majola tells me. The young man from Greytown in KwaZulu-Natal, is one of the many emcee who stood-out during Stogie T’s refreshing Freestyle Fridays.
His geeky yet likable personality which is a mainstay in all his eccentric videos and Instagram posts might fool you into thinking Majola’s rhymes come softer than continental pillows, but the dude can actually rap. Enough to impress Stogie T.
“Every Friday during the early stages of quarantine Stogie T was hosting IG lives where he was looking for some bar spitters that would feature on his next Friday Freestyle. I joined him on one of them and he loved what he saw and that’s how I ended up on there,” shares the artist.
Stogie T’s Freestyle Friday movement reignited the love for dope lyricism, was entertaining and perhaps most importantly, shone the spotlight on dope emcees who rarely get the recognition for their skills. “I definitely think that Freestyle Friday has given me credibility as an emcee you know,” Majola says. “Being on platform like Freestyle Friday amongst some of the greatest bar spitters in the country and being shown love by one of the best to ever touch the mic. I don’t think people view me any different though. For most of them Freestyle Friday was the first time they saw/ heard me. For those that already knew me I think they always knew that I can emcee.”
Majola has been based in Cape Town for about five years now, after relocating to join a Christian youth organization called The Message Trust. “…I’ve been curious about Joburg, however never thought it was right to move that side over the years.”
During his time in the Cape Majola has been part of a band, Kinetic IV which can be categorized as a faith collective that has a strong pop sound- Gospel seemingly targeted at young people. But it’s the stuff he’s done solo that really slaps and is more compelling. The difference isn’t just sonically, but his rhymes and his storytelling have a wider reach than the material he records with the band.
“First and foremost I’m a big consumer of music, I listen to [it] all the time. I listen to loads of genres and in that I love to explore different cultures and sub cultures they represent,” Majola says. He is yet to release a solo project, but he’s done a number of freestyles which have managed to generate hype around him.
In a move that is of a bygone era of rap, he tried his luck on radio at Good Hope FM’s cypher sessions on a Thursday evening, and through that Majola left a mark on legendary DJ Ready D. “This [Thursday Hip Hop show] was a platform for all upcoming emcees to come through and showcase their skills and represent where they’re from and this is where we met initially. He then later on contacted me and started chatting on collaborating on a tune together that we then recorded at Redbull Studios.” The song is on DJ Ready D’s new album Ghoema Music.
Majola reminds me of artists such as André 3000 who are aesthetically-conscious in everything they do. This goes beyond being dapper or having drip, but having that innate knowing of what looks and feels good.
His vest and chinos combination with no shoes in the Freestyle Friday video is a case in point. “I use to thriftshop a lot, visit second hand bookshops, going to markets and art exhibitions. I love meeting new people and starting conversations. I’m also a writer, I write poetry and spoken word, songs and short fiction, I also love fashion. I read a lot of SA historic fiction and poetry and biographies.”
IT’S one thing to win an award deliberated over by a panel of industry experts, but it’s another to be chosen by the people. The significance of this is that, ordinary people go out of their way to vote for you because they genuinely believe and vibe with you, even the OGs.
“…The legendary Zubz telling me that my music is incredible and exactly what the game needs. He had a lot of praise for me, which was a shock considering I didn’t even think he had heard about me,” says Touchline. The rapper was reflecting on a moment with OG emcee Zubz the last letter, at the SlikourOnLife Verse of the Year awards in Braamfontein last week. Touchline won the Hennessey People’s Choice Award, with 700 votes.
The Muthaland artist says he believed he could win, but didn’t think it would actually happen. “Fortunately I have manged to build a core fan base that holds me down in times like these. Plus, they really relate to 5Grand which is the song that got me the award. I can now attack some of the toughest situations knowing that they have got my back,” he says.
In a statement, awards founder Stogie T said “These awards were created to salute Hip Hop and to celebrate skill and the art form of MC’ing.”
Touchline’s storytelling is soaked in township syntax, delivered in great word play and hard-hitting lyrics. Because of his skill, he’s being compared to Pro Kid, especially after releasing the heartfelt The Procedure after Pro’s passing last year, where he rapped on the Uthini Ngo Pro beat.
This comparison can come with a lot of pressure for a young artist trying to certify his place in the game. “It’s only motivation, the only pressure is from me to hit the heights that I truly believe I can hit. The pressure is never external, being compared to my idol only validates me doing this for so many years.”
The award winner promises to release new music this year, he’s already released Celaukuthi which he did with DJ Citi Lytes.
The ceremony was attended by over a 100 Hip Hop heads in the industry such as Sabelo Mkhabela, Azizzar Mosupi, YFM’s DJ Sabby and MTV Base’s Sandile Ntshingila among the list attendees. Some of the night’s winners include Kid Tini, Kwesta and Laylizzy.