What is “New Age Kwaito”?

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new_age_kwaitoOver the past couple of months, something has emerged within the South African music scene, especially in the “urban” genres. House has dominated the airwaves and record sales, South African Hip-Hop has had more of a commercial appeal with the likes of AKA and Khuli Chana, R&B has been in its own lane , but what happened to KWAITO? Oh yeah, that’s right, the media has been trying to force it out of the airwave and record stores, therefore trying to eliminate the proudly South African genre. I even found it hypocritical that some of the major radio stations have been trying to celebrate 20 years of Kwaito’s popularity when they have tried to wipe it off! An example of evidence would be the dominance of Deep and Durban House music being overplayed and labeled as Kwaito, therefore confusing the masses.

Fortunately, there have been sites such as Kwaito Kulcha, Kwaito.com, Kwaai Kwai Magazine, and Kasimp3 that have not only showcased but introduced new Kwaito artists as well as keeping the culture alive. I have been introduced to artists such as Tyson Kwaito General, Voro da Viruz, Ceety Msayi, and Sponche Makhekhe. Though Kwaito has been driven underground and the classic artist such as the Trompies, Arthur, TKZee, Mandoza, and Zola have strived to rejuvenate their sound and fanbases, I had a feeling that Kwaito was not yet dead, but something else was starting to emerge and rile my hopes for Kwaito’s resurrection.

When I was listening to Tru FM one day, I heard a Hip-Pop song sampling the Doc Shebeleza song “Getsa Getsa”. Not too long after that, I was on YouTube listening to an upcoming artist named Casper Nyovest. Ironically enough, his song (not the same song I heard on Tru FM) was called “Doc Shebeleza”. A month later, I hear a song from an upcoming artist named Duncan titled “Tsiki Tsiki”. To my prediction, it sampled M’du’s 1994 classic of the same title and I was not too impressed. As more as I heard these Hip-Pop artists sample Kwaito tunes and pioneers such as Spikiri and Tokollo appear in these videos I didn’t mind it as much until I head the dreaded phrase “New Age Kwaito”.

I couldn’t comprehend why the media would coin that phrase because it did not really sound like Kwaito to me. Yes, it sampled Kwaito music at best but it had Hip-Pop artists such as AKA, Caper Nyovest, and Duncan rapping over these songs therefore confusing the audience. I really wouldn’t have cared if people said that it was a mix between Hip-Hop and Kwaito as the Pro-Kid and Brickz track “Umfutho” or Kabelo, H2O, and Lira’s “Thina Kayi One”, which as a good mix between Hip-Hop, Kwaito, and R&B. Don’t get me wrong, there has been plenty of good Hip-Hop and Kwaito collaborations but to call it “New Age Kwaito” would be a an oxymoron. I remember researching about the history of the two genres and the producers of the genres weren’t really fond of each other’s music at the beginning.

South African Hip-Hop was viewed as another fad from America when Black Noise, the first group to come of out the country, started the national scene and began to rhyme against apartheid during the late 1980s. Prophets of the City was the apartheid regime’s worst nightmare when they emerged as the first multi-racial Hip-Hop group, along with their anti-apartheid messages. Meanwhile, Kwaito was born out of the studio by former Township music producer M’du and then back up dancer Spikiri. It had a Township Pop sound at the time but also fused early House music and there was minimal Hip-Hop influence, especially with former Hip-Hop turned Kwaito artist Senyaka, until the late 1990s.

During the early ‘90s, as Kwaito started to emerge from the underground, Hip-Hop artist and people involved with the genre felt threatened and vice versa. Lance Stehr, the CEO of Ghetto Ruff (now Muthaland Records) which focused on Hip-Hop at the time, admitted in a documentary called “After Robot: Kwaito in Johannesburg” that he disliked the production of Kwaito music at first. I also heard in a radio interview that Oskido was urged by Speedy from Boom Shaka to include Hip-Hop acts to Kalawa Jazmee, which was then a developing record label that focused on Kwaito and House Music. Unfortunately, it seemed as if Oskido rejected the idea at the time, until later in the decade. During the late ’90s there were a few Hip-Hop acts around Johannesburg that were trying to seek fortunes with the big record companies. On the contrary, the same international labels took note as Kwaito became a strong force in the music industry. To compete with the independent labels and to gain Black audiences, they had to urge the new acts to do Kwaito music.

Groups and acts such as Karamo, Chiskop, Mshoza, Msawawa, TRO, Mzambiya, Brickz, TKZee, and others have been said to been Hip-Hop or have been influenced by Hip-Hop but were pressured by the record companies to peruse a career with Kwaito. The TKZee story happens to be an interesting one because I have heard from many people that two of the members, Tokollo and S’bu were in the Kwaito group Mashamplani (produced by M’du). After their falling out with M’du, Tokollo teamed up with Kabelo and Zwai to create TKZee. It has been said that the group wanted to create the genre of “Guz”, a mix between Hip-Hop and Kwaito, because they wanted to distance themselves from the genre to add more of a Hip-Hop flavor.

“Though I half-heartedly appreciate the homage that the Hip-Pop artists are giving Kwaito,…”

Unfortunately, Guz was just viewed as another subgenre of Kwaito as TKZee reached national and international stardom. Meanwhile, a similar subgenre was born in northern South Africa. Motswako, what I consider as Guz music in Tswana was created by the Crowed Crew and other artists such as Baphixile, Hip-Hop Pantsula (HHP), and Khuli Chana expanded the new sound, mixing Hip-Hop and Kwaito in the Tswana language. Towards the late ‘90s and early 2000s, the industry started to change for the best. Pioneers of the two genres, South African

Hip-Hop and Kwaito were starting to ease tensions despite some snaps from Hip Hop artist such as KGB, a local group from Cape Town and Amu and Selwyn from Ghetto Ruff. Ironically Amu would end up working with Kwaito artists and Oskido, the South African House music and Kwaito pioneer who seemed to ignore the presence of homemade Hip-Hop signed Motswako artists Baxphile and Hip- Hop artist, Milazi. Also around that same time, Oskido hosted the “Rap Activity Jam” sessions to promote local Hip-Hop talent on “Oskido Church Grooves” radio program on YFM, a radio station that was developed to support the country’s Hip-Hop, R&B, Reggae, House, and Kwaito scene.

Fast forward to today, “Rap Activity Jam” is now on Metro FM (SABC owned station) as Oskido has moved from his show from YFM (which rarely supports Kwaito now) to the national network. South African Hip-Hop has been having a better reception than it did a decade ago though some if the acts are following the same blueprint from US Hip-Pop artists such as Drake, Lil’ Wayne, and Big Sean. Meanwhile, Kwaito has been pushed underground as Durban House music invaded the industry during the late 2000s. Though it seems as Kwaito’s 25 year reign has come to an end, it may be an honor that people such as Casper Nyovest and Duncan are sampling Kwaito tunes and Khuli Chana and Da L.E.S. are collaborating with Kwaito artists such as Tokollo (Magesh) from TKZee.

I remember watching a documentary about West African Hip-Hop during the documentary, Awadi from the Senegalese group Positive Black Soul mentioned that DJs and producers from different regions in the US have sampled many genres of different music to create their own regional sound. In the East Coast ( New York, Philidelphia, Boston, Washington D.C.) people have sampled Jazz music, while in the West Coast (Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle) Funk music was sampled to transform “Gangsta Rap” into “G-Funk”. In Senegal, as Awadi explained, they used samples of famous Mbalax (Traditional influenced Pop) musicians such as Youssou N’dour, Baba Maal, and Cheik Lo. After recollecting about that documentary, I started to think “If the SA Hip-Pop artists grew up on these Kwaito tunes, why shouldn’t they sample them?”

Though I half-heartedly appreciate the homage that the Hip-Pop artists are giving Kwaito, I still thought that the “New Age Kwaito” label was still an improper term. I would’ve thought that “New Age Guz” could be the appropriate title as TKZee would’ve probably imagined. From my perspective “New Age Kwaito” is the Kwaito that is still being made from artists today but has rarely been played on the radio. Unfortunately, I viewed this as another tactic by the media to drown out real Kwaito from the airwaves to support Hip-Pop music. It’s sad that the same radio stations that I listened to for Kwaito are now playing the same watered down version of Hip-Hop that radio stations are playing here in the States. It’s worse enough that Durban House, which gets overplayed by these stations has been labeled as Kwaito by the media but for them to label Kwaito sampled Hip-Pop as “New Age Kwaito” can be an insult to the artists as well as the fans!

    Matthew “M-Point” Key is an aspiring freelance journalist as well as a music historian and former host of the music show “The Basement Mix” on WNEC radio in New Hampshire, USA. He now resides in Connecticut, USA where currently lives and enjoys World Music.

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17 COMMENTS

  1. Kwaito music will never die.it changes with time to suit fans from generation to generation.kwaito is culture not tradition,I try so hard to keep kwaito tempo alive even thou I'm taggeting new market because some cats are using house beAts,I choose to be loyal to kwaito music that's the reason why they call me Tyson KwaITo General the last pantsula standing

  2. Kwaito is energy and energy never dies it just changes forms, as long people like me are still breathing kwaito will live forever they will come and go but kwaito will remain still

    • Kevin, I am not blaming Hip-Hop in Kwaito's downfall. There are many factors to blame, such as promotions, fans not buying enough albums or pirating other music, and other issues. We can do more to improve the state of Kwaito but really, the stuff they play on SA radio (not the local stations) is not real Kwaito or Hip-Hop. Come on, try listening to someone like Zubz and compare them to AKA. I'm not sure if you're young or not, but there has been no creativity in mainstream music lately. These Hip-Pop guys are sounding like the same Hip-Pop artists we have in the US (Drake, Lil' Wayne, Nicki Minaj, etc). They should've called this genre "New Age Guz" instead, since it was a combination of Hip-Hop and Kwaito. It has been done before but this "New Age Kwaito" sounds more Americanized in a somewhat negative way!

      • so how about we create blogs and posts that focus
        on what went wrong with kwaito and what we
        can do to bring it back instead of what other
        genres couldve called their type of music

        • Fair shot! If you're concerned about the state of Kwaito as much as
          me and plenty of others, I'm all for it! I have written other articles on this
          site regarding the neglect of Kwaito and if you have an opinion,
          post it. I'd like to hear your take as well as others!

  3. so how we create blogs and posts that focus on what went wrong with kwaito and what we can do to bring it back instead of what other genres couldve called their type of music

  4. Peace! You've got interesting views.

    You ignore Kwaito's role in its own demise. You also overlook that genres, by their nature, morph with time. Take that into consideration the next time you pen an opinion piece placing the blame squarely on "the media…trying to force it out of the airwave and record stores."

    Oh, AKA sampled a kwaito song? Which one? You say a lot of other questionable things (Black Noise the first group to come of out the country???'; Oskido hosted the “Rap Activity Jam” sessions to promote local Hip-Hop talent on “Oskido Church Grooves” radio program on YFM???; Durban House music invaded the industry during the late 2000s???).

    They make it hard for one to take your case seriously.

    Stop lamenting the death of a genre; it makes you sound old and miserable. Ease up brethren, it's just a label! 😉

    Lastly, do remember that Tokollo was an emcee before the Mashamplani and TKZee deals…so ja

    Peace!

    • Hello Tseliso, I'm glad that you've read the article but had some concerns and comments. When I started to write this article in mid-2014, I was upset of the neglect of Kwaito from the media, as if they were trying to pull the plug on the genre, although I am aware of how the scene has had it's ownfaults for the unpopularity. As a fan of both Kwaito and Hip-Hop (be it from the US or SA) I just wanted to point out how both genres were once rivals but now united (though recently it's gone through a commercial edge). Some of the facts of South African Hip-Hop vs. Kwaito conflict (e.g Oskido's Rap Activity Jam, Black Noise) came from this article:

      THE HISTORY OF SOUTH AFRICAN HIP-HOP BY : RASHID RAY
      http://www.publicenemyafrica.com/the-history-of-south-african-hip-hop-by-rashid-ray/

      and about the Tokollo story, I have heard many stories about how he came to be and formed TKZee (though I was confronted by one of the extended members of the groups on this issue!).

      I hope my elaborations shined some light to the article and I thank you for the comments as they will also bring improvements!

      – M-Point

  5. Peace!

    I appreciate you clarifying your point brethren.

    What I don't appreciate with the Rashid KAY (as opposed to 'Ray') article is that it assumes the likes of Oskido, Sbu, et al., were 'against' hip hop? How, when Oskido was co-hosting Rap Activity from its inception? (Alongside Rudeboy Paul. I stand to be corrected, but he was there from early on). Sbu managed Skwatta Kamp at one point. There are a couple of other factual inaccuracies in it, such as The Muthaload's release date (I've myself a copy. It's dated 1995!)

    It was all business in my eyes. Kwaito was the de facto genre to be involved with if one wanted to make money/have an impact in the nineties

    Mizchif's album was called "Life FROM all angles". Mr Devious is mentioned with no reference to Braase Vannie Kaap…argh!!!

    Anyway, my frustrations are neither here nor there…

    Thank you for opening up the debate brother, keep on! 🙂

    PS. Since you're onto Kasimp3, I was wondering whether you've checked out the Gqom scene?

    • Hello Tseliso, I when I read Rashid's article, I was also wondering about Brasse Vannie Kaap as well! They came out right after POC's last album! Though it was an interesting article, there were some things I was familiar with and some I disagreed with as well. As for the Gqom music scene, I always thought of it as some Afro-House music, as I usually viewed as "Durban House". I hear it more on South African stations (such as SABC) than I would Hip-Hop or Kwaito. I sort of hated it as first because I felt as if Americans already fused House with African sounds but then I later started to like it because it seemed like one of the very few electronic music genres out of Africa (besides Angola's Kuduro, Ivory Coast's Zouglou/ Coupe Decale, and Algeria's Rai). Good stuff!

  6. and about Kwaito being "just a genre", I view it as more than that. I see it as a CULTURE! Just like Hip-Hop. 🙂

  7. I say Kwaito old skool is alive it still playing poeple should be aware that it will return with a powerful sreanght and different skills

  8. Wow thanks Matthew,such a motivation to view life in reality,truth is very important than acting like we don't see anything, thanks for this article!

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