Trompies Keep Kwaito Flames Bright


In the deceptively quiet suburb of Gallo Manor, in a house designed to maintain such illusions, there are at work musicians who go by stage names like Spikiri (Mandla Mofokeng), Mjakajaka (Jairus Nkwe), Magesh (Tokollo Tshabalala), Maloya (Sibusiso Ntshangase) and the like.

Their hats are tilted forward, obscuring their eyes, necessitating the tilting of their heads when looking at a person, which gives the subject the impression that they are being stared down.

In the late Eighties, some of these artists were found on township street corners, engaged in their art and plotting the beginning of kwaito. In post-apartheid South African suburbia, they stand as genuine pioneers of a musical genre.

They carry themselves as they did in those days, as bona fide “pantsulas for life”. Or “original gangsters”, if you like.

With kwaito perceived as a genre on the wane, Mofokeng and Nkwe remain defiant and have released Nkwe’s new album, Dancefloor Commander, in defiance of the naysayers, with Mofokeng behind most of the production.

Those quick to pronounce the genre dead were mostly working off a hip hop base trying to negotiate their way through the township market, which is the main stronghold for kwaito. Like a general, Mofokeng feels passionate about his “troops”.

“But it is these guys who copy the way Americans do things who are quick to dismiss kwaito.”

“I have worked with artists like HHP, Pro and Teargas before which was cool,” Mofokeng says.

“But it is these guys who copy the way Americans do things who are quick to dismiss kwaito. It means that these people really have nothing to offer as artists because they are busy using other people’s styles of music to get ahead.

“Kwaito is our own creation, a reflection of the townships, and people like HHP and others represent that. The idea in the beginning was to come with a different style to be myself and not copy anyone,” Mofokeng says.

For Nkwe, the genre is an extension of himself and his lifestyle. Along with Mofokeng, Nkwe is part of the group Trompies, who have sold over half-a-million albums since the Nineties.

And at 46, Nkwe remains a pantsula, dressing the part, talking the lingo and retaining the same flair on the dancefloor.

“We found the pantsula culture here and when we die, it will still remain,” he explains. “Even at this age, I am a pantsula through and through. I have tried wearing other styles of clothes but I always feel uncomfortable.

“Isipantsula has evolved and it is reflected in the way I speak, the way I walk and the way I dance. It used to be that if you are a pantsula you are wise, and if you are from the rural areas, jy is a mogoe (“you are an idiot”), Nkwe says.

“That has changed, and and pantsula has evolved into a more creative and artistic lifestyle choice. It fits nicely into kwaito, which is an original South African art form and my album is about being honest and paying homage to this art form,” he says.

    Original Article Published by The Citizen