News / Africa

For South African Blacks, Kwaito Music = Fun

U.S. superstar, Sean "P Diddy" Combs, left, was joined by South African Kwaito musician Mandoza at a concert in Cape Town South Africa, November 23, 2002.
U.S. superstar, Sean "P Diddy" Combs, left, was joined by South African Kwaito musician Mandoza at a concert in Cape Town South Africa, November 23, 2002.
Kwaito music emerged in South Africa at the same time as democracy did in the country. Born in the township of Soweto almost 20 years ago, the upbeat music is deeply linked to the history of the country and is trying to reinvent itself.

Released in 1995, the song "Kaffir" was one of the first hits of a new genre of South African music called kwaito, which means "angry" in Afrikaans language. The music is a mix of dance rhythm with lyrics in South African languages.

Its author, Arthur Mafokate, was born and raised in the township of Soweto, just south of Johannesburg. The title of the song is a derogatory term that white people used to call black people under the white-minority rule.

Kwaito singer Mandoza says he got instantly hooked to kwaito because it talked about the real life experienced by black South Africans at the time.

"The first thing that I like about kwaito music is to express our way of living in the ghetto. We are not adopting styles, lifestyles from the states saying we are living like this.  We are living like that. Kwaito music represents our ghetto," he said.

Kwaito is, indeed, about life in the ghetto, but its singers claim it is not political.  They say it is positive music for partying and dancing like there is no tomorrow... and no yesterday. Kwaito music was born in the mid-90s, as Nelson Mandela became president.

Mandoza says this is no coincidence. After years of struggle, youngsters craved for a way to enjoy the freedom. Kwaito provides just that.

"Yes, we talk about history, but like, most of it is about fun. Fun in the ghetto. I mean, our struggle days are over, so now we're talking about fun," Mandoza explained. "Encouraging the upcoming youth to say 'Now, we are free.  We can do whatever we want." That was the first music that represent our freedom, as blacks."

Kwaito quickly became very big in South Africa and in neighboring countries. Cheap to produce, it did not require any formal knowledge of music and each kid in Soweto could make that music and hope to achieve success.

But because racist prejudices remained, kwaito singers had to build their own industry from scratch. Stapura, a DJ who specialized in kwaito on the youth South African radio station YFM, says the music empowered a whole generation of black South Africans.

"The movement, the music, is bigger than just the music. This industry was able to build a lot of household names, kids who come from townships, kids who couldn't even speak English," Stapura said. "Suddenly there were entrepreneurs, Suddenly there was positivity. You know there was records labels.  It created a whole economy by itself. Whereby so many black people were employed, and they could do something."

But, almost 20 years after its birth, kwaito is now in the process of reinventing itself to keep up with other genres.

"Now, it has become more competitive. Before, all we had was kwaito. Hip hop wasn't as big.  You didn't have your dubstep.  You didn't have your MTVs.  It wasn't that big," Stapura explained. "Now people are exposed to a lot more.  We have a lot more access to everything in the world.  And, the music did struggle with keeping up with the trends, worldwide."

A new generation of artists is remodeling the genre, mixing its dance beat with samples of jazz or soul. Kwaito is becoming more sophisticated, but with always the very same idea in mind : enjoy the freedom and spread the fun.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid