It was record executive Dino Woodward who bestowed the nickname Black Moses on Isaac Hayes. Woodward believed Hayes’ music had the same effect on people as the leadership of the Biblical figure, Moses.
A then devoted Christian, Hayes found the juxtaposition sacrilegious at first, but later titled his album with the same name, seeing it as a symbol of black pride. “Black men could finally stand up and be men because here’s Black Moses; he’s the epitome of black masculinity. Chains that once represented bondage and slavery now can be a sign of power and strength and sexuality and virility,” Hayes said in an interview.
Over 40 years later, a queer young man from rural KwaZulu-Natal in Ndwedwe has resurrected the Black Moses moniker and taken its ownership. “Though I grew up hearing his music around the house, I never really paid special attention to him,” admits Thoba Ndlovu, who recently dropped his debut project Black Moses.
“It was only in 2014 while reading an old Rolling Stone Magazine that I came across his story about having desires to liberate the black people out of the ghetto. This reminded me of our own leaders in post-colonial Africa who like Isaac Hayes have promised the black masses liberation by postulating themselves as saviours yet similarly became disillusioned by money and power. This prompted me to write the song Black Moses which later became the favoured title for the EP.”
It’s not so much of postulating himself as the saviour and leader to the promise land, but the Ndewdwe-native understands the importance of representation. “Growing up in an environment that was not very accepting of not only my sexual orientation but as well as my gender, performance means that visibility is very important to me. Not seeing images of people that look like you can be very detrimental for children. It is thus my mission that I tell my story as loud as I can be it through visuals or vocals. So being from e Ndwedwe has allowed me to appreciate representation so much more because I was starved of it as a queer child growing up,” Thoba says.
The six track EP is produced by Juice, Dave Audinary as well as Lance Romeo and the production heads served their purpose. Thoba has solid vocals and compelling lyrics, but had he recorded on lethargic beats which are more on the Afro-pop side, the album would have limited reach. “I have been getting a lot of positive feedback, people really seem to be vibing with it. What is more exciting is the varied audience as people have different favourite song. It’s made me very happy with the direction we decided to take in terms of sound as this means that it responds to various music tastes.”
The beats on the project are the stuff that could be ridden by Hip Hop group Las Days Fam or Neo-soul singer Bilal. The songs Ungowami and Buyela are gems that should be fixed on radio station playlists across the country. The project’s songs were written over a period of time, with some tracks being jotted down over five years ago. “The recording was a much quicker process though. Recording with Lance Romeo was one of my best experiences in studio. I was so comfortable and felt like he actually listened to me while pushing me to do more with my voice.”
Thoba is currently based in Joburg, having moved from his beloved KZN last year for a gig as a Grade R teacher. “Since it was a year of firsts (first time in JHB, first time teaching Grade R as well as finally working on a project). I really needed to make sure I settled in to all of these roles. It is only this year that I am beginning to venture out by putting my music out there and looking for opportunities to perform. It’s been a whirlwind of emotions being away from home and everything familiar, but also knowing that you need to get your act together ’cause you are far away from home. So there has been a lot of growth.”
He studied Psychology, then went on to do his honours in Industrial Psychology at UNISA before returning to University of Kwa Zulu-Natal to do his Post graduate certificate in education.
The independent artist is using this EP as a vehicle for inspiring other queer boys and girls who might not have enough bravado to be themselves. “The album is of course the goal however it is one of the goals, alongside exploration of other avenues that can lead to the hypervisibility of a queer body in order to combat false narratives (like us being unAfrican) by living our truths. This is my more immediate focus right now. I therefore cannot say when an album will be available but it’s in the plans.”
“The eye sees what the mind believes” and that is a scary thought considering that most of us as children of the soil, believe whatever they want us to believe. Zothile ‘Solo’ Langa wants us to believe that it is possible for a South African celebrity pretty boy to possess a high capacity for introspection and an above average level of critical thinking.
My default setting when it comes to dealing with pretty people is the prejudiced idea that evolution does not allow them the development of interesting genuine personalities and/or characters. Consequently, I was sceptical when a fellow shinobi declared that Solo’s latest musical project is fire and an essential addition to the playlist of anyone who considers themselves a mature Mzansi Hip-hop head. I have no frame of reference as it pertains to Solo’s musical journey or growth because this is the first time I have listened to any project by the Diepkloof native. I have always viewed him as a rap purist whose focus was more on lyricism than the music and I generally lack an appetite for such artists. After listening to Solo’s latest offering C Plenty Dreams, I feel bloated from the shit load of humble pie that this mo’fo has been feeding me and I have nowhere to hide my shame.
Sonically, Solo generally fuses kasi and isiZulu vocal samples with mellow melodies to create a laid-back and familiar sonic textures, which often feels uniquely South African without the usual pretentiousness that one gets from most mainstream Hip-hop artists trying to reach a wider market. Upon these textures he lyrically delivers priceless gems of wisdom to the young urban black youth of Mzansi. In the retrospective joint Imali he starts the track with a menacing sangoma chanting sample and later questions the instances of “bottle wars” that often occurs in SA’s nightclubs What is boasting anyway if it ain’t a hate on yourself…
On my favourite song on the album Imposter Syndrome, he explores the process one goes through in order to reach their dreams and/or goals by offering practical and authentic insights on how to approach such a dilemma “...jump on the stage while picturi’n people naked everybody naked, people just say shit, kodwa that’s one of my favourites…how do we walk around downplaying victories, highlighting miseries often eclipse…I’m talking about the delusion of chasing perfection while flaws are what sharpens the gift…”
It is clear that Solo has put a lot of effort into improving his creative process in order to become more musical without losing his lyricism. With that said one feels that the back end of the project he reverts back to his hold habit of monotonously rapping with generic vocal inflections which are void of any real emotions. In the kwaito influenced joint Promises, he predictably features Kwesta who recites some throw away verse to get that feature money and royalties. Solo delivers some wack ass rhyme scheme which one has heard a million times before “…I have had the visions since u pikinini ngi gijimisa u grot, figuring the business get my business get my niggers out of the woods…” In the following joint Ubuntu Babo he goes into a double-time rapping tiered which makes my eyes glaze over with disinterest over the entirety of the joint. Hypocritically though I love the last track Take me which is a boom bap tribute to Hip-hop legends who passed away in 2018 “…I have lost heroes that’s how villains are born…the cloth that I am cut from isn’t withering the storm , and what is a left is expensive fabric that you new niggers know nothing about… “
The two interludes in this project, Highlight reel and Show the Bloopers are touching monologues by his parents which leave a “broke-ass-know it all” blogger with daddy issues feeling a bit tender. In the first interlude his mother reflects upon the circumstances that have led her towards living a spiritual lifestyle and how that ended up influencing her children. In the second interlude Show the Bloopers, Solo starts the joint with a cold eight bars which contain a moving tribute to Gugu Zulu
“…I was a defrabulator with those with no pulse, really shouldn’t be looking in those parts, pull the fuse and leave the room with no spark, Gugu Zulu put me in a go cart, who would have later known later that I would be so clutch, hope his daughter knows he had the biggest heart”
This is followed by his father, who dishes out compliments about Solo’s work ethic “…to do the right thing…ireward of doing that…iyazizela…when a person thinks about doing good right.. some people say ‘I do good so that should I die, I go to heaven’…and let’s say there is no heaven but you would have lived a good life…If you do something correct, ireward iyayizela…I promise…you will see”
In totality this project is dope as fuck, not chart climbing and internet breaking kind of dope. The hidden gem kind of dope, buried underneath the pop singles of the Nasty, AKA or Casspers of the game. This album is an important contribution to Mzansi’s Hip-hop culture because it is a clear indicator that our music can be more than just a bottle pusher in the North of Jozi. Hip-hop can be an authentic contributor to this country’s story and legacy. Due to that fact, I can’t wait for the next album from this not-so solo any longer pretty boy.
Ntate Keorapetse Kgositisile would have been proud of the poets who bravely shared their truth at this year’s Keorapetse Kgositsile Poetry Café held almost two weeks ago in Jozi.
The mind-blowing poetry session had poets and writers from as far as Sweden touching down on African soil, was the highlight of this year’s South African Book Fair.
Ishmael Sibiya, who I describe as the young father of poetry, produced this year’s poetry café session and together with his team curated a thought-provoking and heart-wrenching event. Sibiya is also the founder of poetry movement, Hear My Voice. I know him as a poetry advocate whose passion has afforded him the skill to organise poetry sessions that have the power to impact and change the experiences of those who might have the privilege of attending.
Vangile Gantsho doesn’t read from her hard-hitting poems which are reflective at most times, she shares her experiences. And that is what I mean by choosing the right poets to deliver what I call poetry. Sibiya has good taste in selecting the right poets. Through the poetry competitions and workshops he runs throughout the year, Wits is where (I am convinced) Sibiya gets these amazing poets
Gabi Selloane said: “Their poems leave you searching your soul.”
I guess that is why I ended up at the poetry café session, beause I was searching for some soul and truth – only poetry can give that and yes, Jazz too.
One of Gantso’s poem’s left me paralysed. She asked why women and children were not safe in present South Africa and why men were inflicting so much pain in their bodies. That made me a bit uncomfortable as a young man who has never beaten a woman before or intentionally hurt a child. But I needed to hear those questions and ask myself what have I done to prevent the continued violence on these harmless innocent bodies?
The truth was still lingering in the air.
Looking at how things are, the number of women who were read about and whose stories grabs newspaper headlines each week, I had to really ponder on why we as men are so angry. And why we take out that anger on those we should be making happy than scared.
Swedish poet and writer Jenny Hogstrom shared a story that talked to race within romantic relationships. Hogstrom interrogated the idea of an interracial couple, who seem to be happy on the outside but are fighting a quite inner war with each other.
The poem she read contrasts our different backgrounds – our clashing worlds. But because we love each other we stick together, creating an unhealthy type of a relationship which is caused by our skin colour, our privileges or lack of (depends on which side of the world you are viewing this from).
I love what poetry does – it has this ability to give a million meanings to different people, even when Gothenburg-based poet Nino Mick read some of his poems in Swedish, those in the room could understand what he was saying. The infusion of slam poetry, which was a surprise at the fair was enjoyed by fair-goers.
Just like Gantsho and Hogstrom, Upile Chisala made me think deeply about the role we as artists, storytellers have, which is to bring the truth forward. Africa is a place filled with darkness and sorrow as much as it is with joy and successful stories. US based rapper Noname described Africa as forever dying. And that for me is the truth – uncomfortable as is.
Chisala delivered some truth when reading some poems from her debut collection, Soft Magic.
Jamaican-Canadian born poet D’bi Young Anitafrika launched her new collection of poetry and interacted with some of the people who attended the fair.
The fair has been known to attract thousands of people annually with the aim of inspiring a reading South Africa. Since its inception almost 14 years ago, it takes place during the national book week-first week of September. According to Elitha van der Sandt, chief executive of the South African Book Development Council (SABDC), the Fair has been able to get more than a million new South Africans readers.
IN honouring Denzel Washington at the 47th AFI Lifetime Achievement Award Gala Tribute this year, actor Mahershala Ali said “…your influence, your reach transcends race without ever denying it…” Fitting words for a thespian who’ll go down as one of the best to ever do it. Rapsody’s latest album EVE, and her other previous work in fact, displays how much this black female’s art transcends gender, without denying it.
Something rappers who are female tend to get tripped by is the novelty of females in the rap game. You find sisters only rapping about being females who rap, which more often than not, comes off as a homily- not music. Like how the typical “underground” rapper would bog you down with how the mainstream is being manipulated by a secret society and that the biggest artists are actually aliens in human form-all of this without telling you their story and making actual music. But Rapsody has mastered the art of music making and storytelling. When listening to her music, what’s between her legs isn’t relevant and you’re there listening to a dope ass kat. But her sex is unquestionably significant to everything and very much unmissable.
Poignantly titled EVE, Rapsody’s third album is more special because she titled each of the songs with names of powerful black women. From Cleo (the character from the movie Set It Off played by Queen Latifah), Oprah Winfrey to Nina Simone. She paid homage to these women and all others in the globe in the best way she could.
Till this day I think her previous album Laila’s Wisdom is universally underrated. I couldn’t fathom her returning so quickly, with something so rich in sound, lyrics, and concept. Plainly put, I didn’t think home girl could top Laila’s Wisdom.
Ibtihaj is named after Ibtihaj Muhammad, who was the first Muslim woman to wear a hijab while representing the US at the Olympics where she took silver in fencing. Rapsody gives nods to strong female emcees that came before her on the song, like Lady of Rage and Roxanne Shante- and taking a leaf from their book, she shows her bravado and says ain’t an emcee on this earth that make me feel afraid. GZA’s verse has that nice old school feel, thanks to his flow…with D’Angelo vocals complementing both rappers.
There must be something about Rapsody’s chakras because whoever she features, the genuine chemistry is always palpable. Whether it’s Sojourner with J.Cole, Oprah with Leileki47 or even Iman featuring J.I.D and SiR. In an interview with Sway, she said she wanted Cardi B to be on the track Whoopi. The bouncy beat produced by Khrysis would’ve suited Cardi’s energy. Rapsody’s beat and collaboration selection is like that of a producer; she’s quite decisive in that space.
The opening keys to Hatshepsut took me to church and even when the beat comes on, the warmth of the song remains. It would be wrong to say Rapsody got chowed on this joint because of all the love in the song, but hearing Queen Latifah rap is hella refreshing and inspiring. Her verse was on some Big Sis’ tip not only for Rapsody, but the youth.
Even living single we connected by the tribe Was raised by a Queen, know how to be one And love one and raise a King When he’s older I’ll describe how to love ’em Queens come in all shapes and colors Though we sit on thrones we don’t look down on each other I learned how to rule from my mother and my aunties Got the blood of the Asante I could be Cleo or Ghandi to protect mine It’s peace of mind, word to Jersey I’m a giant, a Queen’s pride stronger than the lions Connected by alliance, sisterhood The day you try to test me, look homie I wish you would Open doors for the ladies as a Queen like I should That’s why I’m Queen Latifah in every village, every hood And I’m good, and every city worldwide And why I been reigning for the last twenty five So all hail the Queens and the next ones to arrive Came out of Jersey with naughty dudes and hella drive Just another day above ground working my thighs, we runnin’ it Member the days me and ‘Pac, we had some fun with this When I would bust you dead in your eye, that’s called humblin’ Been holding the torch, I don’t fumble it I’m a child of God versus son of men, tellin’ ’em
I enjoyed Rapsody’s heartfelt letter to black folk, especially us black men on the track Afeni. It’s a timely song looking at the issue of Gender Based Violence in South Africa right now. The emcee drops knowledge about how men should learn to treat all women with the respect and love they would their mothers and sisters.
EVE cements her name as one of the best to ever do it. If we’re talking top emcees in the game right now in the mainstream, Rapsody’s name should be mentioned with the Coles and the Kendricks.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.