i(m)bali is back!

I know, I know. I really played myself by not staying committed to the i(m)bali podcast. But today, I was just so restless that I realised my newly mounted priority list was making me crazy. But I realised that too late. Now though… I’m happy to say I got over myself and there is a new episode of the podcast up. This time, it’s a snapshot of Mshoza’s journey. Right now, the kwaito star is making headlines because of her personal life. I didn’t create the episode to tie in with that. I created it so that you can hear – from her own mouth – what it’s taken for her to be who she is. South Africa’s femicide stats are insane. Infrigginsane. And people just carry on as though women and girls aren’t being abducted, killed and just plain disrespected every single hour on this corner of the earth. I’m not saying this episode is going to change that but I’m sending out all my positive energy with the hope that Mshoza stays safe and that she gets her life to where she wants it to be. In this episode, she talks about her lyrics, the law of attraction and what she ultimately learned from making Kortes.

Celebrating Bra Hugh

Last week, we went and watched A Celebration of Bra Hugh Masekela at the Joburg Theatre. I wasn’t ready for all the feels. It had a limited run and thankfully, it wasn’t a musical about the legend’s life. Too soon. Too much pressure. It was actually a look at some of Bra Hugh’s songwriting and staging. Songs from three stage productions he played a pivotal role in were the focus. There were scenes from Gone Native, Songs of Migration and Sarafina – all backed by Bra Hugh’s band. Mam’ Sibongile Khumalo performed a few from her production with Bra Hugh, Songs of Migration, and the last song. Thandiswa Mazwai sang Stimela and the opening song, Bajabula Bonke. This is not a professional review. Shoot, this is not a review at all. Just a snapshot of what put me in my feels. As we were finding our seats (which were great seats, thanks Joburg Theatre), there was music playing softly while pictures of Bra Hugh were projected on a screen above the stage. There was one picture that immediately made me mushy – a babyfaced Bra Hugh who must have been younger than 10 years old. It struck me: a person can be such a reassuring, dare I say familial presence for so long that he becomes your granddad even though everyone calls him Bra. So much so you forget he was ever a kid. Another blow: what Bra Hugh has managed to do with his life is so rebellious, so rock ‘n roll, so role model because he came from a place of truly living life and not just resting on laurels. And then what truly put me all the way in my feelings was this: the first thing we hear in the production is Bra Hugh’s voice. His very youthful voice by the sounds of things. “Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen,” he says as the theatre lights dim so we can focus on the bare stage. “At this time, we’d like to do, for you, a song coming from Swaziland. It’s a song that I learned from Read More …

Qhawe lamaqhawe

The week Mam’Winnie passed away was a heavy one. Before, Thandiswa Mazwai had put on her all womxn show and performed Nizalwa Ngobani. You’ll know there’s a part where she sings Madikizela (and Sobuke, Biko, Mandela etc) with the qhawe lamaqhawe backing in between. Somehow, everyone only associates this part and the heroism sung about with Mam’Winnie – as evinced by the backdrop of the icon’s image at Thandiswa’s show. Just me? I’ve always associated that song with her. Anyway. So I was not surprised when, at the Red Bull Music Festival Johannesburg, Langa Mavuso and Zoe Modiga took on Nizalwa Ngobani. The entire show paid tribute to classic South African songs. But when Zoe started singing “umama usishiyile” – just goosebumps. She didn’t have to say which mama, we just knew. The video quality isn’t great because I’m teaching myself how to do everything myself. Askies. Next time.

Radio daze

April 3. My one year radioversary came and went last month and I couldn’t bring myself to write about it. If you know me, you know radio has been the best thing to ever happen to me – and I’ve had some pretty epic things happen to me. Over the weekend, someone I love asked me how my show was going. It hit me: it’s been an entire month off air and no one noticed. That’s testament to two things: 1) I have had no impact 2) Support can have many definitions Before you think I too am in the sunken place, I’m not. Here’s what I believe: Radio is transformative. A talented and skilled DJ can transform your day, your mindset, your entire life. It’s a gift to be able to do that. Some of it is pure talent, sure. And some of it can be taught. But if it’s yours, it’s yours. There are people who don’t walk the red carpets who make transformative radio. There are people who don’t have a thousand live reads during their shows – people who will have only four links in one hour (and the rest is made up of songs and ads)  – but their sheer presence can turn your day from bad to good. That’s impact. Then support… I’ve had some incredible support from corners of this country where people know my name and I didn’t even think that would be possible. I’ve had friends whatsapp me to LOL about something I said on air and I didn’t even know they were listening. I’ve also had people excitedly introduce me to others as the girl on the radio. I’ve had people tell me they’re proud of me yet they didn’t even know the name of my show. Shoot, I’ve had people mess up the station name but that doesn’t quell their enthusiasm about how someone (me!) who was an unlikely candidate made it. It’s easy to feel sad that people aren’t actually listening. Not listening enough to know that it’s been a month since I left the ultimate second chance, Read More …

On: Ycee

On a tiring trip to South Africa, Nigerian star, Ycee, catches up with Helen Herimbi Ycee is a trooper. The only sleep this Nigerian rapper has had since arriving in Joburg is during the drive to this interview. He attempts to smile through his yawn and he tells me he’s fine. His mojito is placed on the table and he scoffs at my green juice – he’s not losing sleep over getting some nutrients into his tired body. The reason for his staying up all night? He’s been in studio with the hyper energetic hitmaker, Gemini Major. “Me and him had been exchanging emails a lot,” Ycee starts. “We actually hadn’t met prior to this trip. So as soon as I got here, I called him and we linked up over the weekend at Cassper’s (Nyovest) house and made a song there. Then, last night, we linked up and did another joint, which everyone is feeling really good about. It’s good to see someone like Gemini who makes trap, afro trap and pretty much every sound that’s important right now. As soon as he played me last night’s song, I was amazed. We’re already talking about shooting a video.” Ycee, who was born Oludemilade Alejo, is no stranger to gaudy music videos. His 2015 hit, Condo (featuring Patoranking) is the stuff of teenage boys’ dreams. To be fair, he was a 22 year old who was trying to get out of his marine biology studies at the time. “After we recorded Condo, everyone just felt like the song needed to come out immediately,” Ycee recalls. “We put it out, shot the video and I remember that the song dropped on the weekend, and on the Monday I had an exam. When I got to school, people were pointing at me and whispering : ‘Oh, that’s the guy who featured Patoranking!’ And by the time my next single, Jagaban, came out, I could not go to school anymore.” Since then, Ycee has had a few more hits. Juice, featuring Maleek Berry, is one of the songs that has given Ycee a Read More …

On: LeAnne

With a stellar but slept-on album under her belt, LeAnne Dlamini continues to enjoy every waking moment, writes Helen Herimbi It’s a tiny nod to Kendrick Lamar. It’s also a part of her T-shirt line. But when a fresh-faced LeAnne Dlamini takes a seat in the booth opposite me, scrawled across the front of her tee is a statement about her work ethic: Be Humble, Sit Down. Humility was instilled in LeAnne – as she is professionally known – from a young age. She started singing in her church choir at 13 years old and, three years later, she was leading praise and worship. It was that year, while studying music at the National School of the Arts, that Loyiso Bala heard her sing during a service and recruited her to become his backing vocalist. “It was the time when TKZee Family was really huge and Loyiso had just come out with, I think it was Musuk’ukhala, and he was just the hottest thing ever, right,” LeAnne laughs. “So yes, I did completely lose my mind. Then things happened very naturally. I think it was just God-ordained.” “They had to ask permission from my parents for me to go to studio because I was 16,” she says of an era where she sang with the likes of Danny K and Kabelo Mabalane. Back then, producer-extraordinaire, Alexis Faku started booking her for other sessions. He has been her producer ever since. The flame that is LeAnne’s latest album, Warrior, was prematurely extinguished because she put it out under Mabala Noise when the now defunct record company was signing everyone and their aunts. But out of those ashes, her latest single, Patch It Up, has become her phoenix. While most songs on Warrior are produced by Faku, Patch It Up was originally written by Antonio Dixon for Toni Braxton, living legend. The mid-tempo ditty sees LeAnne sing about Saturday being the worst day to fight and being willing to fix a relationship that is going awry. I ask her what her remedy is for a relationship in bad shape. “I’m still trying Read More …

On: DJ Lag

Before DJ Lag brings gqom to this year’s MTN Bushfire Festival, Helen Herimbi caught up with the producer/DJ DJ Lag is in the middle of the second part of his world tour. He’s already been to Russia, China, France, South Korea and, last week, he treated his home turf to sets in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Later this month, he’s headed to Belgium, Sweden and Greece, but even with all that travel, he still seems excited about playing the annual MTN Bushfire Festival in Swaziland. “It’s going to be my first time at Bushfire,” he tells me. “I’ve performed in Swaziland before, but never at a festival that’s this big, so I’m excited. I’m also going to be dropping my new EP next month so the people at Bushfire will get to hear all of my new tracks.” The 12th edition of this festival will see Lag share a line-up with the likes of Flavia Coehlo, Salif Keita, Staceyann Chin, Yemi Alade, Albert Frost, Dear Ribane and more. But for Lag, it’s all about the people getting to hear his music first-hand. The DJ, who created his moniker from his initials, Lwazi Asanda Gwala, has named his upcoming EP Stampede because he says it mirrors the music industry. Since matric, Lag has been sought after to perform all over the world. “No one could believe that I was still in school when my first (self-titled) EP came out,” he laughs, pleased with himself. That EP featured several club hits like Ice Drop. The video for Ice Drop has plenty of pretty aerial shots of his hood in Clermont, KwaZulu-Natal. It is shot as an ode to the place he was raised in as he becomes a citizen of the world. “Ice Drop is a video that shows everything that happens in Clermont,” he tells me. But what is an Ice Drop? Lag has a penchant for curiously titling his songs, like 16th Step. He laughs when I bring this up. “There is a sample I used to make Ice Drop, which is called ice drop,” he explains. “Then with 16th Read More …

On: Lady D

Ahead of being inducted into the Liberty Radio Awards Hall of Fame this weekend, Dudu ‘Lady D’ Khoza speaks to Helen Herimbi “You were not even born then,” says Dudu “Lady D” Khoza. She’s giggling between every sentence she speaks. The veteran radio jock and community builder who was raised in the Umlazi township of KwaZulu-Natal’s laughter is infectious. “You were not born when we were listening to Lourenço Marques Radio and I was still very young,” she tells me. “I used to love the music. And then I started listening to Ukhozi FM – it was called Radio Bantu back then. I loved the female presenters – maybe because of the kind of content they presented – people like Winnie Mahlangu and others.” “I’d tune into the teenage programmes on weekends and I used to love the content and music, but I never thought I would be one of the people on radio. But my love for radio started there. Since then, there was no other station than Radio Bantu that I listened to. It was only when the honourable Koos Radebe introduced Radio Metro that I started having a second station to listen to. Right up to now, those are the two stations I listen to.” Khoza’s loyalty runs deep. She has spent all 25 years of her career in radio on air at Radio Bantu, which became Radio Zulu and is now known as Ukhozi FM. She was even a part of the team that came up with the station’s current name. While the airwaves are entrenched in her life now, it wasn’t always that way. She got a University of Zululand scholarship to study to become a librarian, but her mom couldn’t afford the amenities that weren’t covered by the scholarship. Prompted by the dire financial situation at home, Khoza took a gap year and a teaching post, which ultimately led her to study nursing. “In nursing, I was a bright star and forgot that I was so afraid of blood,” she laughs. In attempts to stay away from working night duty, Khoza studied a diploma Read More …

Opinion: SA Music x Liquor

AKA sits dead centre. He keeps his shades on, but it seems he has a clear vision for his life. The self-proclaimed pop star and co-owner of the Beam Group is under the spotlight that specific evening because he’s just announced his own flavoured vodka, in partnership with Cruz. That’s just a slice of the watermelon, though. The big deal is that he will earn money from each bottle sold. He is flanked by David de Mardt, the managing director of Blue Sky Brands, as well as AKA’s business partner, Prince Costinyo. But he looks behind De Mardt, into the audience gathered to look for Da L.E.S. Once the North God has been located, AKA says: “I have to send a shout-out to him for also giving me that understanding that it’s more than just music. Not everything is about the music. As a brand, as somebody pushing the lifestyle, as somebody pushing the culture, this Cruz Watermelon really is for all of us.” It’s a touching moment. The bromance has been around forever. But part of what AKA says makes me a little uneasy. Not everything is about the music? Ouch. I get what Mega is saying. It’s the same reason why the rest of us non-creatives throw some money into retirement plans every month. But it sounds dismissive of the art that puts many in positions to negotiate with brands. During this announcement, AKA was proud that he actually had equity and wasn’t merely asked to design a bottle (ha!) or sent overseas to appear to be doing something significant (shots fired). AKA says the De Mardt family “allowed us to take the lead and take their brand and run with it and give them the ideas and inspiration. So today is a very special day because even the deal we did the first time was ground-breaking and very special, (but) this is ground-breaking on a whole new level.” “I think me and Diddy (are) probably the only people getting money by the bottle, baby,” he exclaims, then laughs. “That just speaks to us as Beam Group in Read More …