On: Mafikizolo

In this exclusive interview ahead of Friday’s release of their new album, Mafikizolo takes Helen Herimbi through the past and looks to the future “I remember,” Theo Kgosinkwe says, smiling at Nhlanhla Nciza. She giggles. I’m sitting with the beloved, multi award-winning duo known as Mafikizolo in a posh boardroom at Universal Studios. The chairs have Ndebele-esque patterns on them and the walls are lined with plaques by artists from Bon Jovi to Zakes Bantwini. On the eve of releasing their ninth album, 20, on Friday, Mafikizolo met with me to reflect on the 20 years they spent thriving in the music industry. But first, I ask them to take me back to the beginning. To how two young, aspiring singers from Kagiso in Gauteng’s West Rand became part of one of the most established and treasured groups in Africa. “We lived on the the same street and I used to see her all the time,” Kgosinkwe recalls. “She had to walk past my house anyway, on her way home. We weren’t close, but what brought us together was music. We would see each other at talent search competitions. There would be dancing and miming songs. We had a youth club and I was always with the boys. She was always doing her solo thing as Toni Braxton or Whitney Houston.” Which Toni Braxton song was her go-to, I asked Nciza. “I sang Another Sad Love Song, but I used to do a lot of her songs,” she laughed. “We wanted to expand our youth club crew and asked her to join us,” Kgosinkwe said. “But as we grew up people started falling out of love with that. Some people just moved away from the youth club and the only people who remained were about three of us. I told her: ‘We’ve been winning competitions for a long time, how about we do a demo and try this music thing for real instead of for fun?’” “But because we had been miming all along, I didn’t know if she could really sing. It was Lip Sync Battle all the way Read More …

On: Rebirth of Cool

On a windy day in Johannesburg, we’re gathered in a room on the top floor at Kaya FM. Rebirth of Cool, featuring Stogie T, are at the tail-end of their live performance on the radio station when something funny happens. Thandi Ntuli and DJ Kenzhero, generally two very serious musicians, look at each other then dab. It’s not a dab with a flex. It’s not even the kind of dab that shows you they’ve been practising. It’s a dab that is layered with inside jokes. The kind of dab that says they are tickled to be able to make the worlds of jazz and hip hop – yes, even that trap-laced rap that Stogie T is now peddling – collide in a fresh musical experience. “When I born,” Ntuli exclaims after I ask her and Kenzhero when they learned how to dab. “I came out of the womb dabbing.” On this day, only Ntuli and Kenzhero are present for the performance but on Friday (in Braamfontein) and Saturday (in Brakpan), the entire Rebirth of Cool band will perform. The band is made up of Ntuli (piano and vocals), Sphelelo Mazibuko (drums), Benjamin Jephta (bass), DJ Kenzhero (decks) and the gentlemen who make up H3: Sthe Bhengu (trumpet), Senzo Ngcobo (trombone) and Linda Sikhakhane (tenor sax). The name of the band exudes a certain mystery and Kenzhero says it was inspired by one of the greatest to ever step on to a stage. “The name of our band was inspired by Miles Davis’ Birth of the Cool which came out in 1957,” he tells me. “When he came out with that album, it changed music. It changed the jazz scene from bebop to cool. It started to be called ‘cool jazz’. So I thought the idea of changing the landscape of music now was great. Obviously we won’t be Miles Davis, but we took from that idea to create our own Rebirth of Cool. I just thought we should do it in a South African context.” Initially, Rebirth of Cool was a seed in the minds of Kenzhero and his friends. Read More …

On: Tjovitjo

SABC 1’s Tjovito is the disruptor of the drama genre we’ve been waiting for, writes Helen Herimbi As I drive out of a tar road and onto a mixture of gravel and broken bottles and potholes, I spot a man on his knees on a patch of grass. He is kneeling in front of an old man wearing an off-white robe. And then? I wonder aloud. “Hhayi, that’s just where the prophet does his consultations,” Sibusiso explains to me in Zulu. He is one of the crew members on the set of SABC 1’s new drama, Tjovitjo and he’s directing me to the complicated location in Crown Mines, south of Johannesburg. Having seen a few episodes of Tjovitjo, I know this is going to be a polarising 26-episode drama series. Bomb Productions is great at producing dramas that hold up a mirror to the majority of South Africa but not since their controversial Yizo Yizo has a drama been this reflective, nuanced and interesting. Produced by Puo Pha, the production company that gave us series like Society, this drama is the second coming of disruptors in the drama genre. But what is it about? Viewers are introduced to MaFred, a pantsula dance leader who is troubled by more than what the viewer can see. He straddles the line of being feared and revered by his community and is in love with a girl who only has 50 cents to her name until her birthday. Tjovitjo has segue-ways that let us into the worlds of other characters in this destitute community. Other stars of the show include Rapulana Seiphemo, Harriet Manamela, Hlengiwe Lushaba, Ntosh Madlingozi and Jabulile Mhlamba. MaFred is the kind of character who seems like a bad guy – sitting upon a dusty thronelike chair – that you can’t help but root for. But as the award-winning filmmaker, Vincent Moloi, who is Tjovitjo’s director, says, it’s not that simple. “This is not your traditional villain and protagonist story because everyone has a good and bad side,” he explains in between shooting an emotive scene between two actresses. “There’s no Read More …

When the Tweets will do

Just some early thoughts. Thanks, Twitter. This is not a review: — Helen Herimbi (@uHelenH) September 25, 2016 When my Dude first played me Juice Back, I thought it was ill how a(nother) boy in rap was openly talking about how abortion affected him — Helen Herimbi (@uHelenH) September 25, 2016 A few features later, I figured maybe that song would be the only time he tells us who he is/what he’s going through as a young BM in SA. — Helen Herimbi (@uHelenH) September 25, 2016 You’re not obligated to share all of you in your music. Sharp. But Bad Hair, man. — Helen Herimbi (@uHelenH) September 25, 2016 That album might be some of his most vulnerable moments IF were willing to hear beyond (not ignore) the big butts, the side baes and clubs. — Helen Herimbi (@uHelenH) September 25, 2016 Nasty C is literallyyyyy says: “I’ve got problems/What you think I’m smoking for?” And he’s ultra paranoid about people around him. — Helen Herimbi (@uHelenH) September 25, 2016 Damn near every song points to how his relationship with his father has made him who he is now. (Yes, Neo, I’ll get to writing that book) — Helen Herimbi (@uHelenH) September 25, 2016 Good aaaaaand bad. Like most boys and their fathers I suppose. — Helen Herimbi (@uHelenH) September 25, 2016 “I smoke a lot more&people around me say it’s a bad habit/I wish I could tell u how I let that happen/But what did u expect I’m a black man” — Helen Herimbi (@uHelenH) September 25, 2016 Nasty C is spelling out what scores of men (and the world) has taught him about what it means to be a black man. Acquiescing, even. — Helen Herimbi (@uHelenH) September 25, 2016 I think a lot of us “met” Nasty C when he was still a kid so for some, he’s like a little brother growing up right in front of our eyes — Helen Herimbi (@uHelenH) September 25, 2016 So in some ways, I feel like us older, grownass hip hop kids failed this generation in some key Read More …