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?

The cost to be the boss, or just yourself, really

I’m a recovering people-pleaser. There. I said it. In the past six months, though, I’ve been forcing myself to be ok with potentially making someone upset. I’ve been forcing myself to be comfortable in my own skin. To not hide my double chin. You’ve seen my InstaStories. You know what I mean. Essentially, I have been learning to become more of myself whether someone else sees that or not. Yesterday, my brother sweetly posted a picture of me on social media and someone commented that I look like Mandela. I know you’re laughing at this point. It’s funny, right? But my immediate reaction when I saw that comment was to look at the picture and all the flaws on my face glared back at me. But, see how the Universe is working on me: That anxiety-inducing feeling of “woah, someone just said I look like Dibz” lasted about two seconds. Because then I laughed. It’s funny. I’ll take it. But more importantly, I know, for sure, that in the past, I have said the Mandelas could be my family. Even the OG, Nomzamo. Must be the Xhosa in me. However comma that wack reaction and dope recovery was a lesson for me. It taught me that I’m getting better at seeing the opinions of others and not allowing them to cause me to shrink. The point is: you can’t please everybody. And it’s a trap to try. So if you haven’t been giving yourself a chance to be your authentic self, you can start now. As always, you don’t have to take my word for it. But Whoopi with the good sneakers summed it up more eloquently than I could: “The price of being yourself is other people’s angst about you being yourself.” And if you know who I can speak to in order to get my face on a R100 note, holla at the kid.

Prince and a Queen

I want to blog every day and in an effort to be a woman of my word, here is today’s post. It’s short but it counts. I was driving home and listening to the radio – my CD player is broken and I believe that’s the Universe trying to teach me how to be a better broadcaster by forcing me to listen to even the stations I wouldn’t ordinarily mess with. I was listening to this other station while driving and they played an Alicia Keys song that instantly made me think of my mother. If you’ve met her, you’ll know my mother loves music. Correction: my mother loves to sing. When we were kids, we’d know where she is in the house because she was singing. All. The. Time. But she nine times out of 10 is singing a gospel song. It’s quite rare for her to be belting out a tune that doesn’t have Jesus in it so my memories of her loving other songs are few. One of them is that Alicia song. But, a significant one is Prince’s The Most Beautiful Girl In The World. Church had just wrapped and we had just got into the car. She was driving us out of the yard and the line to drive out was super long. So my mom stopped whatever CD was playing and turned to the actual radio. The Prince song played and my mom and I instantly sang along. I was surprised that she knew and liked the song and told her as much. Phapharing me. She just sang and snapped her fingers and we drove home. It’s not a big deal to you reading this, I know. But I thought it was dope that my Queen was into Prince. What songs or artists are you surprised to know that your parents (or parental figures) enjoy?

Listen to your elders

Before I ever accepted that I was going to be a music journalist, I was and am a music lover. That fact sometimes gets in the way of me being a Karen Civil type. A decade later, I still go geek when I hear a song I like or when an artist teases, for the third year in a row, that that album really is coming “by Dezemba.” Every now and then, I get reminded that the music doesn’t exist without the musicians. Obvious, I know. But as fans, we can act entitled to the musician and seldom allow them to go through the human experience – with its range of emotions and prompts to make personal decisions – that often plants the seed of the music that shoots up from their soul. Quick aside: a few weeks ago, I went to interview an artist who rarely speaks to writers. He was apprehensive and told me a story about his favourite journalist – one of my mentors in my head – who was set to interview him while he had hot songs on the charts but his personal life was a hot mess. She, according to him, closed her notepad and said they’d have to talk music another time because in that moment, he clearly just needed someone to let him be. I tell you that story to make this point: sometimes we have to accept that musicians are people, too. This morning, I took to Facebook to ask about what practical ways we can help a legend who is in hospital. Yes, I know about the option to donate money. But was that it? Is all we can do as music journalists and lovers of music dig into our pockets? Can SAMRO and RISA and the government and musicians in general not guide us as to what can be done for this legend and others? I don’t have the answers to these questions. But in that Facebook post, a friend responded with a picture of an article about this beloved musician. In it, he reportedly asked for us to Read More …