Spikiri talks to Helen Herimbi about new music, respectful names and improved formulas

Sporting a Starter jacket and his signature plaits, Spikiri is in a good mood.
He speaks freely, laughs a lot and, when his wife whips out a mini-tub of Vaseline from her bag, he dabs a finger in it, mid-sentence, without skipping a beat. This is the jovial mood that arises from Mandla “Spikiri” Mofokeng putting out his new music.
A man who puts the O in OG, Spikiri has just released King Don Father: Half a Century.
“After a long break, I feel good that I came back very strong,” he grins. “It’s been two years of me working on this album. Sometimes you must chillax and give the little boys some time to have some fun with their music. “We saw that most gents are with hip hop and gqom and we thought: let’s return with our original style. I stick to my guns. I don’t change a working formula – I improve it. I don’t lose my identity. Imagine me doing gqom,” he laughs. “I’m too old for that.”
He’s not too old to listen to his fans though. He tells me his alias, the King Don Father, which he began naming albums after around 2001, came from them.
“That name came from the fans,” he exclaims. “I’d go to places, and they’d call me a king. I’d go to other places where there’s the mafias, and they call each other names like don, and some would tell me I’m a father of kwaito, so I just combined the three.”
“That’s how people know me,” he shares. “I love that the name King Don Father gives me more style and more respect.”
Although the rhythm of the King Don Father series has sometimes been interrupted by other Spikiri albums, he says it’s been intentional to number them. There was King Don Father 2001 and King Don Father 2002 – denoting the years they were released. There has also been King Don Father 2.5 and now, Spikiri has just released King Don Father: Half a Century following his 50th birthday.
“Konje, what did we do for my birthday, baby?” he says as he turns to his wife.
“We had our white wedding,” she tells me with a smile.
To celebrate his milestone birthday Spikiri and his lovely wife had a white wedding after being together for 20 years and already being traditionally married. She has seen his rise and rise from being an integral part of iconic kwaito group, Trompies, a part of the DCC producing collective and standing on his own as the King Don Father.
Spikiri began his career at just 14 years old and he has shown no sign of slowing down or switching up.
“Music is my passion,” he says as he places a fist on the table. “Even if I stop doing shows, I’ll be behind the scenes – producing and grooming young stars. I love it.”
One of the young stars who features prominently on King Don Father: Half a Century is a girl who simply goes by Mpho. She has a classic kwaito timbre to her voice which has prompted some to compare her to the late great Lebo Mathosa.
“On most of my songs, I don’t use very well known singers,” he explains. “Mpho came when I was working with Mono-T, and I loved the texture of her voice. She’s not someone who is fussy or moody. Everyone is talking about her and how she reminds them of Lebo. Her voice is not quite like Lebo’s, but she has a similar vibe. On this album, I mix established gents like Kabelo with the young boys like 2.5 – no one knows them, yet.”
Mpho appears on the album opener, Mpintshi Yam, also featuring Professor. She also appears on the single Moriri Wama Indian – which mocks girls with weaves – featuring HHP, Uhuru and E2.
“We were working on another track with HHP, and once we were done, maybe around midnight or 1am, HHP told me he had this idea for a track about a girl with Indian people’s hair,” he chuckles. “So I said let’s start the track and we did. It’s about how you can want a girl and the girl wants a blesser.”
Another stand out track on this album is Mina Ngu’Guluva featuring Kabelo Mabalane and Mpho. Some of the lyrics are a hat tip to their previous collaborations – like how 10 times Guluva comes from the super posse cut Ndofaya. It has an infectious groove and is a declaration that you can become a pastor or a don, but the spirit of kwaito will never leave you.
“I know what kind of vibe Kabelo likes and I’d told him I’ll call him when the vibe is ready,” Spikiri recalls. Kabelo – aka Bouga Luv – was the first person to say the phrase that was coined and immortalised: ‘asinna, ke Spikiri’. Meaning: it’s not me (who is bringing the heat), it’s Spikiri, the phrase has become a tag on many a South African hit.
“We’ve been like this,” Spikiri twists his fingers, “since day one. He was the first person to say that line. That day he first said it, the mood was so nice the whole day. We had been coming back from a meeting and went to (club owner, producer, engineer) Chris Ghelakis’ house to go and work with Kabelo.”
“That house had two or three studios and on the other side Tokollo (Magesh Tshabala) was working with Moses Molelekwa in one of the other studios,” he continues. “So Oskido and I went and when it was time to record Pantsula 4 Life, Kabelo just started his vocals by saying that. I didn’t know he was going to say that. Then everyone started doing it.”
Spikiri has made an indelible mark on kwaito and Afro-pop and continues to evolve with the genres he loves. This new album is proof.