Post-Koppi musings

Two years ago, I swore I’d never go to Oppikoppi again. Nothing bad happened. I had just been going to the festival in Limp City since I was a baby writer. I’d missed some years but overall, part of my job was attending festivals like that and I did it on and off for years. The only sucky thing about it: I hate camping. And I have anxiety about being unable to share experiences with people I love but that’s a story for another day. Fast forward to two years later, I made it to Northam for the highly melanated, archandroid orchestrated three day festival. I arrived on day two with my Day One and actually had a good time. What was a pleasant surprise is just how many women stomped those stages. I don’t know if I just didn’t notice all those years before or if, since there was less pressure on me to be hyper-observant this year, there really were more non-rock musicians and DJs who happen to be women than usual. Deniece Marz and Ang held it down on the Red Bull stage. I missed BrownPepperAnn on day one but she’s always dope. #SOZLOL played in the wee hours of the morning. A new friend I made at breakfast told me he was impressed by Goodluck – led by Juliet Harding. DJ Bob’s Jazz Club stage consistently featured women spinning and despite it being super, super loud, the space was well attended. Sho Madjozi was a major highlight – so much so I lost count of how many people were singing her songs in blissful euphoria as I walked back to our tent to get dressed for what was the coldest Koppi night I’ve ever experienced.  Melo B Jones fronted her new band while people like Tecla presented at the Ray Ban stage. There was also definitely a lethargy in the dust at Oppikoppi this year. I can’t even explain it. I’m definitely too old and too sober to wild out anymore but that’s not even where the feeling of a sluggish fest came from. I can’t Read More …

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 …

Shallow water

Anxiety is a bitch. At the beginning of this month, my Dude was sprawled across our sofa couch as sun rays licked and lulled him into sleep while he pretended he was really concentrating on this stupid movie he insisted we watch. His eyelashes curved up as salutation. When I was much younger, I used to religiously read Demetria L Lucas’ blog. On the day of the bad movie, I’d just stopped going down a rabbit hole of really old posts from her blog. I stopped because of this line: “TV is like the water in Cape Town. Cold. Is swimming where I am settling or is it sensible?” It jumped out at me and placed a cold hand around my throat. I looked at Dude but he was asleep. See, the night before, I’d had this long dream about auditioning to present a music TV show. The dream had a myriad of famous people as cast and I woke up before I could find out the most important thing: did I get the job? And the line from Demetria’s (we’re on a first name basis in my head, you know) blog snatched the air out of my throat because when you know the next step is bringing your brand of music journalism to television but there are too many obstacles, you wonder if the Universe got your calling mixed up with someone else’s. A bit of context: Demetria was recounting a tale told by someone who was not having luck in her career until she went “where the water is warm.” That means instead of doing what is expected and failing, she took matters into her own hands and became a creator. Then she was successful. Demetria was interested in pursuing television but the obstacles in her way kept making her think maybe the water is warmer where she was then: writing. But she had already received massive success in the writing world so was she settling? I haven’t been even slightly as successful as Demetria. Her path is hers. But I do tend to wonder if it’s the Read More …

I’m on Peak Time!

This is a piece of my vision board. My vision board – my wishlist to the Universe even when I’m not sure how to work to achieve what’s on the list – has been up on my wall since the beginning of the year. As you see in the picture, there is a Red Bull Radio studio environment in the mix. That’s what I put out to the Universe. I wanted to become the first African with their own show on Red Bull Radio. Yesterday, I was a guest on Peak Time, a popular Red Bull Radio show. And I was talking about my favourite thing: South African music. To me, my vision board wish has been realised in a way. And I am so, so grateful. I speak about the power of the vision board all the time. If you’ve been waiting for it, here’s your sign. Just start your own vision board. Create it today. Yes, we’ve just started the second quarter of the year but that just means you’re right on time to start something new. Create it. Put it where you can see it every day – mine is where I moisturise my body so I have long enough to look at it and I often say what’s on it out loud. The Universe has got you. Sure, I’m not the first African with their own Red Bull Radio show yet. But, if it’s meant for me, there’s still time to achieve that milestone.

Paid in full-ish

I just spent what feels like 10 minutes – although it was probably shorter than that – scrolling through Facebook. I found out that Masta Ace has a Tiny Desk Concert out. Good job, NPR! I mean, just two days ago, my Dude and I were in a convenience store and saw the American soft drink and I yelled: “somebody gon’ slice him and send him to Dr Peppa!” But that’s not what I was looking for. What I couldn’t find was this post – I forgot who uploaded it – where someone was complaining that South African artists don’t deserve what they charge to perform. This person was saying these artists charge according to the lifestyle they want to live. I can’t remember the rest but I assume he meant that they charge what they want and not what they deserve. It made me think: that’s a ludicrous thing to say. Here’s the thing: most (not all, relax) of the big names became big names because of their performance skills. Remember how people came after Babes and her lacklustre performances at some stage? A big song on the radio doesn’t guarantee a banging performance. Just as minimal radio airplay doesn’t mean a performance will be bad. With that said, why shouldn’t they charge according to what they want? In a business (key word), no one aims to pay more than what the other party is willing to be paid. People will shortchange you – and often – whenever they can. So, yes, negotiate according to the lifestyle you want and beyond. I look at it like this: firstly, what Big Artist A negotiates now, sets the bar for those who are coming up after him. They set the market value. Then you can stop complaining that our artists die as paupers if they are financially savvy. Secondly, performing live is skilled labour. It’s not a favour. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying applaud a bad performer or one who is a serial bore. I’m saying: if they showed up and were entertaining, you can’t be mad that they Read More …

A is for April (and accountability)

As a journalist for so long, you’d think I respect a deadline… Hello, again. It’s been a very long time since I put up a blog post. I’d love to say it’s because I’ve been so busy. I have been busy. But that’s not why I’ve been away. I haven’t quite known how to come back. I wanted to come back, with something significant to say, and the courage to say it regularly. So I set a deadline: 1 April 2018. A big part of me is like: you can tell yourself it was an April Fool’s joke, Helly, no one will know. But I will. I do. So here we are. It’s the first of tha month, wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up. And maybe we should speak about accountability. No one forced me to start a blog. My livelihood doesn’t depend on it. Although the way the world is moving, I’d be an idiot to think there aren’t any people making money off exactly what I’m running from. I digress. No one is pressed about my words or waiting with baited breath for them, sure. But I know that I have to write some of the things I think about down. For better or worse, for myself more than for others. I have to be accountable to future HDot. I have to be accountable to people who support me. What I’ve learned since the last time I blogged is that the longer you are quiet, the more you believe you have nothing to say or that no one cares what you have to say. So, I’m grateful that you’re reading this. Your eyeballs are what’s going to keep me accountable to what I say I want to do. Yeah, these analytics don’t play. Jokes aside, I am a person of my word. So I am going to try and be here, be here for real and be here often. Thank you for sticking around.