On: Ben Sharpa

Friends and family of the culture-defining Ben Sharpa reminisce about the late, great rapper, writes Helen Herimbi “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” That phrase, from the film, Dead Poets Society, was immortalised by the late, great emcee, Ben Sharpa. As a rapper, producer and thought leader, his words over eccentric rap beats and ideas around social justice galvanised members of underground rap as much as it gained him fans across the globe. Because he gave us B.Sharpa, a seminal album, 10 years ago, he was able to change the scene and make the world realise you could be an alternative to the mainstream and still be popular. Ben Sharpa, whose real name was Kgotso Semela, had been living with Type 1 Diabetes and passed away on July 26 in Johannesburg. He was 41-years-old. He will be buried in Enerdale on Saturday morning. A memorial service, which will be open to the public, will be held on Thursday (August 2) at Stop Sign Gallery in the Nedbank Majestic Building on 141 Bree Street in Johannesburg at 6pm. The seed of ideas having the ability to change the world was planted in Sharpa at a very young age. His sister, the musician and educator, Tebs Semela, recalls: “Dad was an academic and my mother is a teacher so my parents always instilled a sense of being busy and doing as much as you can to change lives in a positive way. Kgotso took that and ran with it.” In 1979, Sharpa’s dad got the opportunity to leave Soweto to study in America. He came back for Sharpa’s mother, his older sister and Sharpa in 1980 and Tebs was born four years later. In the years that followed, having moved from St Louis to Chicago to Michigan, it was there that Sharpa developed a knack for a dice game and academia. “He topped the whole state of Michigan in English and mathematics,” says Tebs. “Those are things people don’t know. He actually played the viola and that’s how I started playing the violin. I always Read More …