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.

Flowers for Ms Cosmo

By now, you know what i(m)bali is all about. This week’s episode sees us attempt to get to know hip hop DJ and radio personality, Ms Cosmo, a little better. She speaks to me about taking her career into her own hands. She also exclusively tells me about how Gigi LaMayne was meant to be on her first single and she lets me in on how she really feels about people who question whether she actually makes the beats of her songs or not. If you enjoy i(m)bali, please tell a friend.

How my first artist date went

I’ll be honest, I’ve had a very sad start to my week. I actually didn’t even feel like writing this post (and I still don’t have an artist date for this week, but I trust the Universe’s timing) but in my initial The Artist’s Way post, I said I would try to give some feedback. So I hope you can find strength in me to persevere when you don’t feel like doing the things you committed to doing. So, yeah, last week was my first The Artist’s Way week and the idea for my first artist date came pretty quickly. [Sidebar: An artist date is a solo activity strictly for the pleasure of your artist child. It needn’t cost money or be “artsy” it has to be time with yourself spent doing what you want – see why you should go buy the book?] I don’t quite know what sparked the idea. I think I asked the Universe what I should treat myself to and this answer came: go to the library. So I did. Let me explain to those who don’t have time to go and read the initial post. The point of me re-doing The Artist’s Way is to equip myself with the confidence and tools to pursue my dream of being the best interviewer of musicians I know. I do a lot of background explanation in my blog posts – I’m a fiction writer and chatterbox and a middle child so if you lend me your ear (eyes) I will explain til I can’t anymore – so I had to explain that. Anyway. The Johannesburg City Library is a three minute walk from my work. I took the trip on my lunch break. It’s easy to forget how revitalising direct sunlight is when you’re staring at a computer with the aircon constantly at White Walker level so I appreciated the stroll. The artist date was just meant to be about looking through some music criticism books but I decided I wanted to actually sign up for membership so I can take out books when I feel like Read More …

Introducing i(m)bali

First it’s name was Archives. I had even thought about how I was going to make the h in Archives the hdot logo. But then I asked the Universe to give me another name if Archives was not it. It came to me in the shower. And I am obedient to the call of the Universe. So here we are: i(m)bali. Quick backtrack: I have spoken to A LOT of musicians throughout the years. Often, 1000 words (or less) in an article does not do their stories justice. Especially if there is a gig or a specific album to be dissected in the article. And South African artists don’t always get to tell their stories in detail. Sometimes we only find out the genius or complexity of an artist at their memorial service. So this year, I am digging into my archives to give you details about South African music history straight from the mouths of the people who lived it. Ibali is a story. Imbali is a flower. My intention is to be the vessel for these artists’ stories and in doing so, give them their flowers while they can smell them. Th first episode tracks Thebe’s journey from wanting to be a sound engineer to being one of the most beloved kwaito artists of all time. Tell a friend if you enjoy it.


My favourite thing in the world used to be talking to musicians… about music. This marks the 12th year since my byline first appeared in print and I’ll admit: my favourite thing in the world is still talking to musicians…about music. But I didn’t always know that that was what it was. I used to think my favourite thing was writing. After a few years of what seemed like writing articles only my editor read, my love for writing began to wane. And every year my imposter syndrome (a blog post for another day) intensified. Eventually, I didn’t think I was a real writer. Then last year came. I got to take what would usually die on the page and breathe life into it on a different platform. I realise, only now – on the first day of 2018 – that I was being hard on myself. That I am a writer. Or maybe not. But one thing is for sure: I am happiest when speaking to musicians about music. And if they are happy talking to me then that’s enough for me. This year, I aim to become a great interviewer – who happens to write, present, produce, heck, whatever. That’s why I’m doing The Artist’s Way again. Yes, I said again. When I first did it, it changed my life so much I think I bought five copies for friends and even acquaintances who just seemed like blocked artists. Now that I have an idea of the direction I’m going in, I know I need help getting my toolbox together. I need Julia Cameron to help me try a little tenderness towards my artist child, my closet egomaniac, my inner imposter. I’m going to attempt to blog about my artist dates – seriously, go get the book – and to share what is likely to be 12 weeks of extreme highs and lows. But through all that, I aim to come out on the other side a phenomenal interviewer who makes musicians feel like they haven’t wasted their time talking to me about music. I have to bet Read More …

An African Soundcloud?

Can you remember when you first used Soundcloud? I can’t. But I know that it’s been a part of my life for a very long time. It was often a treasure trove for me when I was stuck at a desk in a job that I was quarter past bored with. And although I’ve had my fair share of time spent hurling expletives at the screen because the song I was looking for is on Soundcloud except it’s not actually that song but someone just titled it that way for clicks. It makes me mad just thinking about that. Anyway, last week, there were rumours about Soundcloud shutting down and not even making it to Christmas. Then there was a tweet involving a phone call with Chance The Rapper and it looks like the site is going to stick around. For now. This whole debacle got me thinking though: we all love discovering new music, right? We all love doing that for free, right? Sorry, Apple Music, I love you but free is better than not. So when are we getting together to brainstorm a similar mechanic for African music? I know, I know, everyone would just post their friends’ bad raps, right? But what if we all held ourselves accountable for the world hearing them? Oooooh. Seriously though, imagine if there was a place you could go that doesn’t have a press release paragraph under a video or datafilehost link? Sidebar: you guys really, really should stop hitting the cut and paste on these tired press releases and acting like they are original blog posts. I digress. I think it’s nice to have tastemakers and people who know music to guide us. Or simply, to do the labour of looking for new, good music so that we don’t have to. But sometimes people over-hype songs that are just plain wack. So what are we going to do?