Thandiswa Mazwai

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5min3240

Ever been smitten with someone so much, that you think they’ve hit you with a love potion…or have a wholesomely wild night partying, that you suspect someone spiked your drink? Some things can be so good, that they have you chokeheld by paranoia and disbelief. Great live performers can leave you in such awe- an impression left on me after seeing Thandiswa Mazwai live.

I saw Mazwai for the first time last year at the State Theatre and man, I got it. ‘it’ being why she is King Tha. You have to understand, listing to records and seeing an act live are two different things; seeing an artist live can solidify a listener’s bond with the artist or put a dent on that relationship. Nas’ live 2014 performance in Mzansi was insipid, juxtaposed to that ferocious young man who spat on Illamatic. While I cared no mind for Wiz Khalifa, witnessing him live made me appreciate his showmanship.

Cape Town is fortunate to witness King Tha live this weekend at the Artscape Theatre, where she’ll be presenting her A Letter to Azania show. This is the same show she brought to Tshwane. Like any live dope act, King Tha brings out the greed in her audience-where we just want more, more and more. What was probably an hour set honestly felt like a good 20 minutes.

“We are so excited to finally bring this production to Cape Town. Fans are in for a show like never before,” Mazwai said in a statement. The show has already sold-out.

A Letter to Azania tracks a letter the singer is writing to “Azania” as a place of freedom that she says “Takes the audience on a sonic exploration of the utopian idea of Azania while expressing the melancholy that comes with a dream deferred.” Centering on love, the show opens with the words of revolutionary Ché Guevara, “the revolution is driven by great feelings of love”. “A love for the people, a love for country, and a love for justice,” adds Mazwai.

In this audio visual experience curated by Thandiswa in partnership with the Artscape Theatre, “Expect a range of sounds that have influenced my recordings and performances over the years: Jazz, Kwaito, Afro Funk, Reggae, Gospel and Traditional music. “There will be songs from her own albums, such as Nizalwa Ngobani, Transkei Moon, Ingoma, Jikijela, and renditions of tracks by some of her favourite musicians. “In the same spirit as Natalie Coles Unforgettable. This show includes a duet performance with the late great Hugh Masekela”

Letter To Azania is brought to Cape Town in association with Jägermeister. “One of Jägermeister’s core pillars is music and the supporting of the arts. Jägermeister is proud to be in association with Thandiswa Mazwai and A Letter to Azania.” Says Jägermeister Experiential Manager Ephraim Manana.

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9min2570

In the last two years, Covid19 hasn’t only robbed us of our loved ones, jobs and freedom of movement, but also music festivals that we normally see around this time. It’s the first time in two years that the South African State Theatre welcomes patrons to its annual Mzansi Fela Festival, without the dogmatic restrictions.

“Particularly the past two years, audience numbers dropped largely due to a limiting environment that came with COVID-19 restrictions. Gatherings were discouraged and people got used to staying at home. However, we kept shows and festivals going and even went at length to deliver content to our audiences through digital means to keep the theatre love alive, the South African State Theatre’s Artistic Director Aubrey Sekhabi tells Tha Bravado.

The Mzansi Fela Festival (MFF) which was found in 2007 celebrates its 15 years this year. The festival is in its final week of the 2022 instalment which commenced on December 1st and runs until this Sunday where renowned vocalist Thandiswa Mazwai will close it off. “Our people have missed the live performance spaces and the electric atmosphere that comes with being together. Hence we are welcoming them back with a diverse and star-studded line-up boasting musicians, comedians, poets, dancers, thespians and more for them to dig in,” says Sekhabi.

Crowd Puller: Zonke Dikane. Image Supplied

With this being the festival’s 15th year, Sekhabi says the disparity between this year and previous years isn’t that big. “Same festival, different artists – we have kept the same look and feel, with the exception that we included the Conversations with the Author, featuring the legendary Des Lindberg, chatting to us about his and her departed partner Dawn’s book, Every Day is an Opening Night.”

The past few weeks have seen the various stages at The State Theatre occupied by artists KB Motsilanyane, Zonke, Tumi Mogorosi, Mbuso Khoza, Zakhele Mabena, Pdoto & Blaklez, and comedians Thapelo King Flat Mametja, Trevor Gumbi, and Toll A$$ Mo. According to the Artistic Director, Zonke’s show has been the biggest in terms of audience numbers at this year’s MFF.

Funny Man: Thapelo King Flat Mametja. Credit Thobekile Shoba

“Zonke Dikana’s concert happened on the 2nd of December brought us a full house in our biggest theatre, The Opera, a 1300-seater. The partnership with Banda Banda Agency brought us a convincing audience number, followed by other in-house productions billed under the festival. Mayibuye Community Outreach programme which is a developmental programme with 15 productions, has also brought quite a convincing number of audience since it started on the 1st of December 2022,” Sekhabi says. 1264 of the 1300 seats were occupied during Zonke’s performance. The Soil and Langa Mavuso also brought a steady audience to their concert.

Teacher: Mbuso Khosa with Afrikan Heritage Ensamble in Amahubo in Concert at The State Theatre. Credit Sbonga Guyborn GatsheniTheatre.

The common thread between all the artists showcasing their work at this year’s MFF is their strong sense of identity, of being African. “Together with both independent producers, Banda Banda and the Akum Agency, we work together to curate the festival. The vision of the South African State Theatre is to be ‘The prestigious theatre of choice for a distinctly Pan-African Experience'” Sekhabi tells me.

The festival the stage for the future generations of artists through its legacy development programme, the Mayibuye Community Outreach Programme. This is a two-year mentorship programme, with the first year having communities/cultural groups allowed to present only South African classics. “This helps them to ground their work in South African theatre-making culture, and in the 2nd year are allowed to create/write their own works. All the works are presented at the SAST during Mzanzi Fela Festival. Testimony to the success of the programme, is the appointment of the SAST Associate Artistic Director, who started from the MCO community group.”

One of the stand-outs on this year’s line-up is Lifted- Let the blind sing directed by Zakhele Mabena, which is a theatre musical production featuring a vibrant cast of 12 artists with different disabilities and a five-piece band consist of musicians such as The Ga-Rankuwa Requesters which is a sextet of blind people. They are accompanied by mainstream artists such as SnowWhite, Tshepo Nkadimeng, Khwezi Sondiyazi, Maira and Sebenzile “Sebeh” Kuzwayo, and the award-winning songstress Nhlanhla Dube as a narrator.

Grounded: The Soil. Image supplied

“Our mission calls for ‘an entertainment destination of choice for inspiration, education and socio-economic transformation which is underpinned by our unique, engaging and diverse artistic offering that encourages audience growth and an appreciation for the performing arts’. We are inclusive to all creatives in their diversity and different abilities,” reiterates Sekhabi.

For more info about the Mzansi Fela Festival CLICK HERE

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8min5871

It was in May of 2016 that then SABC Chief Operations Officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng, temerariously declared that all the national broadcaster’s radio stations playlists will be dominated by home-grown ditties. The infamous 90% local music quota.

Motsoeneng was like the uncle who in his inebriated state at a family gathering, announced that the whole family should come to his house the following weekend for another get-together where there would be an ubiquity of food and beverages, without discussing it with his frugal wife.

The redundant radio station managers who never seem to sheath their appetite for payola, being the stingy wife in the analogy.

Although the move evinced Motsoeneng’s strange benign for artists, he never thought through the execution of such a catalytic move. In an interview with Nicky B on Kaya FM’s World Show around the same time, Nakhane Touré said one of the problems with the ratio is that listeners won’t be introduced to new music by radio stations. “Instead of hearing one Mafikizolo song a day, we’ll now hear two or three,” said Touré. Of course the Fog singer was making a mere example (he did say he loves the dance duo) but his point was clearer than a pair of new specs.

Of the countless utterances we’ve had to endure from Motsoeneng, I’m pondering particularly on this very one during the Covid-19 lockdown, because I’ve been immersed in South African music of different kinds for the last few weeks and I imagine how South Africa would be sounding like, had Motsoeneng’s wish been carefully granted.

To be more specific, it’s the Siya Makuzeni Sextet album, Out Of This World that has had me imagining a world where South Africans are exposed to their finest talent.

Siya Mukuzeni is an insanely talented artist who delivers her craft with ingenuity, ubuntu, vigour and in what looks seamlessness. The trombonist who also belts out notes has been in the industry for over 15 years now, playing in some of the biggest bands with fine musicians on world stages. She was part of Carlo Mombelli’s Prisoners of Strange ensemble between 2002 and 2011. She was also in the Blue Notes Tribute Ochestra where she played with the likes of Marcus Wyatt, Johnny Dyani and Chris McGregor. Together with another unique ensemble of equally talented artists, collectively known as Spaza, she released an album of the same name a year ago.

With the Siya Makuzeni Sextet, she put together some of her favourite musicians who she enjoys to play with to create a body of work that I believe more South Africans need to hear. The sextet comprises of Thandi Ntuli on piano, Ayanda Sikade on the drums, the trumpet being blown by Sakhile Simani, Sisonke Xoti playing the saxophone and Benjamin Japhta on bass.

There’s often the juxtaposition to bassist Esperanza Spalding because they both are female, sing and play an instrument. They’ll always be comparisons of females, especially in an industry without women in the forefront. Although the groove in their music is undeniable, Siya’s got the juice. That unfiltered African juice form the wells of the Eastern Cape.

Like on the title track, Out Of This World which teems with traditional Xhosa music from the first second, this while embracing modern sounds. Her voice is undeniably infectious as Stevie Wonder’s or Thandiswa Mazwai’s. The song New Age is a reiteration of a sought-out truth, while landing somewhat as a lament. Say Sibusile Xaba’s Uyahlupha. The joint has swing and it serves its purpose.

The seven track album has a fair balance for the padentic jazz ear that prefers songs without vocals, only the sound of instruments dancing. Another one composed by Makuzeni on the album, a Brazen Dream is a good introduction to Jazz for someone new to the abyss that is the genre.

I’m a sucker for great vocals accompanied by some dope show-don’t-tell typa lyrics which take the role of a travel tour guide, when listening to the music. Imagine a congregation singing Moya Oyingcwele in unison, truly in the spirit. It slaps umoya.

I feel the Holy Spirit’s presence each time I listen to this song-I’m overwhelmed with questions of how this song was conceived. With churches being open now, I believe choir conductors/worship leaders should introduce Moya Oyingcwele emasontweni, if they haven’t.

Out Of This World is just one of many great projects by a South African artist. People need to hear more of this and many other albums. To enjoy them, while simultaneously putting some randelas in the artists’ pockets. True “proudly South African” shit.

Listen to the album HERE

Thato Mahlangu09/25/2019
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8min4830

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.

Miriam Makeba. Archive photo
Miriam Makeba. Archive photo

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.

Sipho Hotstix Mabuse. Archive
Sipho Hotstix Mabuse. Archive

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.

Thandi Ntuli at The Orbit. Photo by Siphiwe Mhlambi
Thandi Ntuli at The Orbit. Photo by Siphiwe Mhlambi

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.

Mandisi Dyantyis performing at the Sophiatown The Mix. Photo by Lindo Mbhele
Mandisi Dyantyis performing at the Sophiatown The Mix. Photo by Lindo Mbhele

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.

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9min1760

VINCE STAPLES reminds me of those singers who have impeccable, unfathomable voices and energy, which remain on par live as on their records. I’m talking the likes of D’Angelo, Thandiswa Mazwai and The Brother Moves On.

Over the last week and a half I’ve been listening to Staples’ third studio album FM! and during that period, I was fortunate enough to see the 25 year-old from North Long Beach, California performing at Soweto’s Zone 6 for the Capsule Festival. I’m always fascinated by album titles and covers, in my first interaction with a musician’s project, before delving into the tracks. Often the name of the album and its art make sense as I listen to the music. Like pieces of a puzzle, it all comes together with each track.

Vince Staples at Capsule Festival. By Sip The Snapper

FM! is themed as a takeover of LA radio station show, Big Boy’s Neighbourhood, hosted by Big Boy. It opens with Feels Like Summer which ironically is meant to celebrate how Long Beach always feels like summer, but Vince paints a picture of the dangers in his hood in the verses. He pulls from personal experiences, where he lost a friend at 15 years-old while they were just playing ball. I was slightly surprised to learn that Don’t Get Chipped where he features Jay Rock, is the first song where the two West Coast kats share the mic. I enjoyed the track, particularly the first verse where he raps…

Can’t wait ’til I’m rich, I’m finna buy a whole
Crate of guns, for my naughty Crips,
Shit I really come from the slum
Time to represent, let me see you bang, where you from?
Don’t be acting spooked, I’m a troop, I don’t give a fuck,
I just wana live it up, use to make ’em give it up,
Flockin’ is for hoes, I’ma take somebody soul,
If he don’t give me what he own, now I’m getting what I’m owed,
You ain’t seen me at a show? Oh, you missing out,
Swear I bring the realest out,
Everybody know me who’s somebody to know
(Who somebody to know)
Watch me mind my business my business while I’m counting my dough
(Counting my dough)
Stay away from citches who would clown me before
(Would clown me before)
On the road to riches, they gon’step on your toes
Sammy told me that a change gon’come
(Gon’come)
I’m not going if my gang won’t come
(won’t come)
If you see me pull that thang, don’t run
(Don’t run)
Playing ball, if I swing home run

I can’t say I’m a Staples fan, I appreciate some of his joints. But more than that, I’ve always respected how he thinks and delivers his ideas and thoughts, on beats that can get any party started. He is quite dark, largely because of gang activity he witnessed growing up on the West Coast. But he merges that eerie side of him with the music, which makes for good art. The effect this contrast has on an audience when he’s performing, is good on the eye. Like when he performed Lift Me Up from his Summertime ’06 project, just before the end of his set at Zone 6, most of the club was in a jump.

Vince Staples performing at Capsule Festival. By Sip The Snapper

His set at Capsule Festival was after midnight, with most of us tired and just waiting to see Staples on stage. He played tracks from his previous work from Big Fish Theory, Summertime ’06 and even invited Yugen Blakrok on stage to perform the Opps  they did together for the Kendrick Lamar curated Black Panther soundtrack.

Vince’s fans in Soweto had familiarised themselves with his new album, that as soon as Outside! came on, the atmosphere in the club became feverish. Standing on the second floor, I could see the crowd’s unfiltered reaction.
“We didn’t expect this many people and I didn’t expect this much love, so thank you, thank you, thank you. But before I get out of here…shhhhh! I just need one thing, everybody repeat after me, ‘Oh yea, oh yea, oh year right…” said the rapper interacting with his fans, just before playing crowd favourite Yea Right.

Vince Staples getting down at Capsule Festival. By Sip The Snapper

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