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.

On: Cassandra Wilson

Cassandra Wilson spoke to Helen Herimbi ahead of her appearance at the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz ‘OH,” Cassandra Wilson gasps from her home in New York. “I can’t describe how wonderful it was to be in South Africa. It was just magnificent on many levels. I spent time in Cape Town and had… just… a magical visit and it was hard to leave, to be honest.” The American jazz singer, songwriter and producer was last in town in 2016 and will be making her way back – this time to Johannesburg – to perform at the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz in September. The event is in its 21st year and I ask Wilson what she was up to when she turned that age. “I was already singing and performing at that age. “Where was I?” the 62-year-old muso tries to remember, and then says: “Ah! I had dropped out of school and had started performing in a rock/blues band and sometimes in a rhythm and blues band. I was also doing solo guitar work – folk, blues and such.” And for her set this year, Wilson will be bringing some of her eclecticism to the stage. “I always like to mix things up and it’s really difficult to pinpoint what I’m going to do before I go,” she says. “That’s why I like to get there ahead of time so I can flesh out the presentation because each concert is different. I plan on contacting my dear friend, Tony Cedras, to see if he’ll come and play a few tunes with me. We’ll see what happens.” With close to 20 albums as band leader under her belt, the Grammy-winning Wilson has experimented a lot. She is often lauded for her take on standards and has even been called one of the greatest jazz vocalists of all time. In light of this, I wonder if the title of jazz-anything over many decades can feel limiting. “Well, I’ve never looked at jazz as being limited or limiting,” she says. “However, I do think other people have expectations of what jazz Read More …

On: Maggz

The epitome of ‘own race, own pace’, Maggz has been at the finish line with his F.L.A.G waving for a while, writes Helen Herimbi Maggz is indecisive. It’s early in the morning but he doesn’t want breakfast. He might be in the mood for sushi, but the itamae hasn’t arrived at work yet. “How about the spring rolls?” Maggz asks after what feels like forever. Nope, the prawns are out of stock. We are already in the thick of the interview when a meal he settled on finally comes, but he’s not that invested in it. The only thing the prolific rapper is trying to do right now is keep his fans fed with a smorgasbord of songs from his new album F.L.A.G. On the fan favourite Rainfalls, he raps from a vantage point of someone in South African hip hop, but one who can also look at the game from an outsider’s point of view. I gave the world my talent, should’ve been been reimbursed, he raps, mournfully. When I bring this up, Maggz says: “Remember, back in the day, when Americans used to come to say, YFM, they’d always bring me and PRO to come and rap and represent. I’ve also done a lot behind the scenes – writing for other rappers – and sometimes because they don’t hear my voice, people don’t know how much I’ve done for a song. I feel like I should have been reimbursed,” he bursts out laughing. F.L.A.G stands for For Love And Glory and Maggz says it spoke to him because: “I’m essentially doing it for the love of the music and the glory of my surname. I believe heavily in my Zulu-ness. Magubane – that’s where Maggz comes from. When I do things, I always consider my ancestry.” He also often considers telling his real stories. Like how, on Don’t Know, he raps about being raised with forgiveness, while others were raised with swords. “The forgiveness stems from my mother,” says the Pimville-raised rapper who is the eldest of two boys. “I grew up without a dad and, essentially, the Read More …

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 …

On: Springbok Nude Girls

On Friday, Springbok Nude Girls release new tunes, so Helen Herimbi speaks to Theo Crous about the band’s ‘Beautiful Evolution’ The first song the Springbok Nude Girls recorded together, after years of not making any new tracks, is not one that the public has heard yet. “It was called Spider on the Sun,” Theo Crous recalls. The guitarist and producer is speaking to me ahead of the release of two new singles by the band that is affectionately called the Nudies and even he is impressed that they could pull it off. “I think if you’ve been making music with the same five people for so many years, there’s always the initial thought of: ‘I hope it will still work,’ ” he chuckles. “But from the first note, it was like: ‘Okay, everything still works!’” Comprising Adriaan Brand, Arno Carstens, Francois Kruger, Arno Blumer and Crous, the band was established in 1994 and has since put out 15 albums and EPs. After the Apes with Shades EP, their cult following has been longing for new music. “Everybody was very busy this last 10 years, but when we get the opportunity to play, we take it,” Crous says. “We just didn’t have time to record new material. We had some time now and decided to record another album instead of playing the same old songs to people.” Fresh off handing in his Masters in Art, Crous tells me about what he’d been up to since the band last made new music together. “My focus was on cultural studies and more on the relationship of the cultural relevance of music and its message in postapartheid South Africa,” he says. “I focused on alternative rock and a lot on one of our songs, Blue Eyes, which was about family murder.” Aside from their debut single, Bubblegum on My Boots, Blue Eyes is a seminal Nudies track. Carstens sings: “The others didn’t make it” and “I aint gonna leave her behind” and, at face value, the song could just be about the pursuit to thrive in life. But it was actually the opposite. Carstens 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.

On: Marcus Wyatt

Veteran musician Marcus Wyatt speaks to Helen Herimbi about collaboration and creating You know the saying: You can chew gum and cross the street at the same time. I’m not sure how easy it is to play the trumpet with gum in your mouth, but armed with his horn, Marcus Wyatt can make magic and cross the street simultaneously. And he often crosses into bands – some of which call him leader – that challenge the confines of genres. One such example is his newest band, Bombshelter Beast. Made up of a motley crew of artists – and described as “afrobalkan skadubhall” – this band is putting on a special show at Rumours Rock City in Randburg on Friday. But when I meet up with the Language 12 maestro a few weeks before, he’s preparing to travel to Europe. It’s also a few weeks after he reunited with his first professional band. COLLABORATION Over a decade after they last played together, a well-loved quintent called Voice got back together for The Orbit’s birthday festival. Made up of Wyatt, Andile Yenana (piano), Herbie Tsoaeli (bass), Sydney Mnisi (tenor saxophone) and Morabo Morojele (drums), Voice was an institution in the early naughties. They were what jazz journalist Gwen Ansell called “the best outfit in Joburg”. I ask Wyatt how it felt to be back together, even for one night. “The reunion was cool,” he says as he looks beyond the lenses of his orange glasses and way past me. “I love all of those guys. That band meant a huge amount to me. When I got to Joburg that’s the band we started and it was the first project that I really felt helped me to grow. Sydney Mnisi, the tenor player, has always been an inspiration to me – the way he plays.” “I think we realised, through the process of doing this, that the band was kind of important in the lineage of South African jazz. A lot of younger musicians were excited and told us how they’d listened to the band. In that sense, it’s great because you always Read More …

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 …