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

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid