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 …

On: Ebro

One of three faces of Beats 1, Ebro Darden speaks to Helen Herimbi about radio, rap and relating to the world It’s silly, but I am still expecting it. The Black Beats headphones with a gold ‘b’ on each side and the African continent outlined in gold on them. Maybe slung around his neck. Or even on his ears. But when I answer Ebro Darden’s FaceTime call, he’s wearing his signature fitted cap and his lush salt-and-pepper beard matches his accented A Bathing Ape jacket. No headphones. No worries, though. He’s probably keeping them safe since the only people in the world who have this particular pair of exclusive custom headphones are him and British boxer Anthony Joshua. “There was one pair made for him,” Ebro tells me. “It was a special pair made for him. I saw them, and I was like: ‘yo! I need those!’ So they made me a pair. But they didn’t make more. Hopefully, there are conversations taking place to make more because there are major things happening on the African continent.” Over the past few years, Ebro, as he is simply known, has made a name for himself as the perpetually grumpy guy that the breakfast show on prolific New York radio station, Hot 97, is named after. But three years ago, he managed to become known worldwide, and not just by hip-hop heads, when he was announced as one of three faces of Beats 1 Radio. Ebro, along with Julie Adenuga and Zane Lowe, became a part of a trio that spearheaded the cool that Apple was looking to sell through taking traditional radio formats and flipping them on their heads through streaming. “I felt like it was home right away because there was no precedent for it,” he tells me. “It was whatever we made it. It’s our team, and it felt comfortable right away. We continue to stay hyper focused on our role within the ecosystem of Apple Music –which is to bring context to and find the music and communicate around the world to different areas. What’s become more evident Read More …

On: Arsenic

Ahead of the release of ‘Hidden Formulas Vol 5: Project Indigo’, producer Arsenic speaks to Helen Herimbi Arsenic is exactly where I expect to find him: in the studio. He sits in a low chair and a mic stand, computers, monitors and other sound paraphernalia envelope him. Like a music hug. Ahead of the Cape Town producer’s newest project, Hidden Formulas Vol 5: Project Indigo, Arsenic tells me what it took for him to get here. But first, what in the world is a smoortjie? He laughs when I ask and points to his t-shirt. The words “Kaapstad Smoortjies” are emblazoned on his chest. “It’s a mixture of onions, tomatoes and other food,” he attempts to explain. “I don’t know what the English version of it is but this shirt is from a show I did with Jitsvinger.” Arsenic began producing in 2001 and has since worked closely with the likes of Jitsvinger, as well as the people’s champ, YoungstaCPT. His beats have been the soundscape for some of the most lyrically dexterous artists to come out of the Western Cape and the art of collaboration is something this boom bap lover who was known as the Jazzy Mongrel takes seriously. “With Jitsvinger and Youngsta, I heard them and thought my beats would go nicely with them,” he tells me. “It all started from being a fan of theirs first. With my newer collaborations, I sit down with the artists and speak to them and see where their headspace is so that can influence the beat as well.” Earlier this year, Arsenic released his first single in three years: Hidden Formula. The track features Mvula Drae on the raps and, while it is not a departure from Arsenic’s style, it has a certain jovial quality to it. It even feels funkier. “Definitely,” he exclaims in agreement. “I think most of what I do has that boom bap, funk, soul, jazzy influence to it. Strangely enough, that beat was made in 2015 because the mixtape idea is something I had before I got sick.” “I had actually done another song with Read More …

On: Masego

Before a private show in Jozi, American traphousejazz artist, Masego talks to Helen Herimbi A gilded saxophone hangs from a chain and rests on his chest. Fresh off a highly anticipated performance at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival – and before treating Joburgers to a private show – Masego is basking in his shine. But unlike his bling (do people still use that word?), the Virginia-raised artist who was born Micah Davis refuses to rest. When I sit down with the artist who took on the Setswana name, Masego, as his alias, he tells me he’s got a studio session with AKA planned for that evening. As told through Twitter, the pending Supa Mega collab came about after Masego shazamed all the songs he liked in Cape Town clubs and they turned out to be AKA songs. “I don’t want to be easy and say it was All Eyes On Me,” Masego says as he fishes his phone out of his pocket to look for the song that compelled him to want to collaborate. “Ah,” he exclaims as he finds the songs. “Sweet Fire was the one that made me go ‘wow!’ I heard that and 10 Fingers back to back. Rhythm and melody got me and how the people react to his songs. When they came on, people got up. So we’re supposed to have a session tonight and we’re going to see what happens.” That night, he also takes to the Universal Music Group stage to perform a new song where he croons about how he’s going to “call you lady, lady”. Then, he performs a slew of songs ranging from Wifeable as well as Girls That Dance (with Medasin) to Tadow (with FKJ) and his latest, Queen Tings. On that last song, he name-drops Kenya’s Lupita Nyongo, Zimbabwe’s Danai Gurira and a list of American actresses. I call him out on the fact that his South African dedication doesn’t even include Nomzamo Mbatha or Thuso Mbedu. “People ask me about that,” he admits. “But it’s about the essence. Think about it like this: what started Tadow Read More …

On: Corinne Bailey Rae

Cape Town International Jazz Festival headliner, Corinne Bailey Rae, speaks to Helen Herimbi about writing grown-up love songs A few days after her 39th birthday, Corinne Bailey Rae hops onto the phone to tell me how she celebrated. “I went out on Sunday actually with a really big group of friends,” she shares. “We went to this vegetarian restaurant in Leeds. It was a big party. And so on Monday, I just chilled and went for a walk and it was just before this crazy snow happened. It was nice to be able to get that.” The British singer-songwriter-producer is, of course, not just ringing me up to catch up about birthdays. She will be one of the headliners of the 19th annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival, taking place at the Cape Town ICC on March 23 and 24. Other acts that will perform over those two days include Louis Moholo-Moholo Presents 5 Okes and 1 Doll, Mulatu Astatke, Incognito, R+R=NOW, Amanda Black, Jordan Rakei, as well as Blinky Bill and Sibot’s Afrofunk Spaceship, among others. Rae was last in South Africa to perform at a 46664 concert in 2007. With a multi-award-winning eponymous debut album (2006), The Sea (2010), The Love EP (2011) and The Heart Speaks In Whispers (2016) under her belt, Rae is looking forward to sharing her life’s work. “I wanted to do a sort of retrospective, really, of all my music to date,” Rae tells me. “It’s been a really long time since I was in South Africa and I want to play some of my old songs to catch up with people who have been supporting me from the start. And then I want to take people on a journey to where I am now.” Rae’s latest album introduces us to a more mature artist. My favourite song on The Heart Speaks In Whispers is a guitar-driven slow jam that intersects between hope and melancholy: Hey, I Won’t Break Your Heart. “With all of that record, so much of it came in images,” she explains. “I have this idea of this person standing Read More …

On: Bra Herbie Tsoaeli

Ahead of Voice’s performance at The 4th Movement, Helen Herimbi talks to band member Herbie Tsoaeli Bra Herbie, as veteran jazz musician, Herbie Tsoaeli is affectionately called, also answers to another name: uMalume. This is also the name of a popular song from the bassist’s debut solo album, African Time, which was released in 2012. I am set to meet Bra Herbie on a windy afternoon. When I ask a waiter if he’s seen Bra Herbie, he looks confused. And then Bra Herbie appears from the escalators and the waiter exclaims: “Oh! uMalume? He was here earlier.” I wonder if he is referring to the song or merely calling the older gentleman that out of respect. There’s no time to find out. Bra Herbie is already in front of us. We’re meeting ahead of the reunion of his band, Voice, at the fourth birthday of popular jazz club, The Orbit in Johannesburg. With two albums released, Voice, which had a residency at Bassline – when it was still in Melville in the early naughties – is made up of Bra Herbie, Andile Yenana, Marcus Wyatt, Sidney Mnisi and Morabo Morajele. They will share the stage with the likes of Steve Dyer’s Mantswe a Marabi, Tlale Makhene as well as Sibongile Khumalo. The six day-long festival is called The 4th Movement and many of the acts who have performed at The Orbit will be present. We settle at a small table on the balcony and Bra Herbie tells me: “My most memorable time spent at The Orbit was when I was sharing the bill with Bra Louis Moholo – whom we learnt all this music from. All those greats – you remember The Blue Notes, Mongezi Feza and Chris McGregor – people who went into exile in the 60s such as the likes of Bra Hugh. But that group was just on another trip, musically.” Bra Herbie tells me the African Time music has been guided by a force greater than him. He has even coined the phrase “jazz moya” to explain the spiritual side of creating music. “I remember I Read More …

On: Pearl Thusi

Ahead of the release of her new film, Pearl Thusi takes Helen Herimbi along for a ride A long number fills up the top of my cellphone screen. The words “New York (NY)” appear below the number and above the words “Would like to FaceTime…” When I answer, a fresh-faced Pearl Thusi appears and she says: “Babe, look at my eyes,” as she zooms the phone into her face. The actress and TV presenter who now lives between the US and South Africa explains that she’s had a long day. She flew into Joburg from the US to attend the Catching Feelings film premiere, then flew to Durban. As we speak, she’s actually driving to the airport to catch a flight back to Jozi where she will shoot a morning-to-night campaign the next day. Thusi is a busy woman but when I do manage to chat with her, she’s funny and insightful. She is proud of Catching Feelings – where she is the leading lady starring opposite writer and director Kagiso Lediga – which opens in South African cinemas tomorrow. She places her phone in what seems to be a cup holder in the car so I am looking up at her while she drives, and I ask her how the premiere was. “It was great, the film is great and there is a lot of me in it because I am very similar to my character in certain ways,” she says. “But there are certain things (my character does) that I am not stressed about – like break-ups. “I’m a single mom, I don’t have time to cry about trash. My mom is dead, my gran is dead… I’ve cried for people dying, but me choosing to separate with someone is not a life or death matter, so it’s not worth my tears.” “I try to make my tears very expensive,” she laughs. “I don’t like being that way. But I’ve been forcing myself to be strong for my daughter, for myself and just to survive. But yeah, it was a very warm reception, to answer your question.” “I Read More …

On: Oskido

Ahead of appearing at the inaugural Red Bull Music Festival, Oskido talks to Helen Herimbi about kicking down closed doors Oskido puts his hand up just as the waiter is about to turn around. “No,” the kwaito and house music pioneer says. “No bread.” He’s just come from a general check-up at a medical centre in an affluent Jozi suburb, and he’s trying to follow his doctor’s orders. The fresh face underneath the red cap he’s sporting makes it clear that he’s been following his doctor’s orders for a while. Perhaps it’s a combination of his youthful energy that allows him to keep up with the rappers on his radio show – as well as the slew of producers that want to run with the baton he’s passed on after taking South African house music to Miami and beyond. Or maybe it’s his zest for creating and mentoring even after co-founding the iconic label, Kalawa Jazmee. Whatever it is, Oskido is the face of the new 50. It’s no wonder his new album is called 50 Degrees. On the album, Pepereza (featuring Dr Moruti and McKenzie) presents a bossa nova feel, while Ngci is given a soulful touch by M.Que’s sultry vocals and Ma Orange (featuring Candy, Nokwazi, Bhizer and Western Boyz) is undeniably gqom. “For me, all of it was to say: ‘Let me check what’s happening in the music industry,’ ” Oskido tells me once our apple and ginger juices have been placed on the small table in front of us.” “I just decided that, in terms of sound, all of these sounds mean something different to me. Especially the soulful stuff, I felt like there isn’t a lot of soul and people are forgetting about it, and that’s why I did a song like Ngci.” “When you look at the gqom sound, that’s what’s happening right now. I just wanted to show people that I am still here, and I can do these things. Even the latino feel in Pepereza and the down tempo stuff – that’s big – and I grew up on down tempo stuff. Read More …