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Kwaito artists Bravo and producer DJ Cleo talk about kwaito and offer a sample of Bravo's work.
Bravo is one of the many kwaito artists who grew up in a notoriously rough area of Soweto called Zola. He was born Siphiwe Msimanga in 1982 and got his start performing with friends in parks, schools, malls and finally clubs. Later, he won the Schweppes Sparkling Granadilla Kwaito Fabulous competition, rapping to a back up track provided by Kwaito superstar, and fellow Zola-ite, Zola - who was also the host of the show. The victory landed him a record deal with Ghetto Ruff which released Bravo's debut album Skhokho in 2004. He is also featured on several tracks on label-mate Pitch Black Afro's debut CD Styling Gel.
DJ Cleo DJ Cleo says he's been called the Quincy Jones of South Africa. And judging from his resume, that's not far from the truth. He's produced songs and full CD's for a many of the very biggest kwaito and South African hip hop stars, including Mandoza, Mzekezke, Brown Dash, Zola, Doc Shebeleza and Pitch Black Afro. His efforts have led to two consecutive South African Music Association Song of the Year awards (both tracks he produced for Mzekezeke). In 2004, he released a CD of his own house tracks called Es'Khaleni, a joint project of his music company Will of Steel Productions and Ghetto Ruff Records. He says, "All I need is that one chance produce just that one song for any rapper, Jay-Z, Jah Rule, 50 Cents, whatever. And I will kill it. It will become a hit worldwide. Try me. Whoever you're going to play this to, get a hold of me."
Ghetto Ruff Managing Director Lance Stehr and artist Ishmael talk about the label's first kwaito hit.
Ishmael Morabe says he was homeless when he met the people who would make him a star. They were from Ghetto Ruff records and happened to find him at a nightclub where he'd sometimes freestyle over back up tracks, staying out as long as he could and napping in the park when need be. Ghetto Ruff recruited Ishmael to be a dancer for its lone group at the time - a hip hop outfit called Prophets of Da City. In 1996, when it was clear hip-hop was not hip yet in South Africa (at least not in terms of sales) Ishmael put together a kwaito group called Skeem. Skeem's first single War Was Jy became a huge hit and went on to win a South African Music Association award. From there, Ishmael went on to become a celebrated R&B solo artist. His fourth solo album Long Way Home was scheduled for release in August of 2005.
Oskido, co-owner of Kalawa Jazzmee records, talks about how the end of apartheid inspired the birth of kwaito.
Oskido - Oscar Mdlongwa is one of the forerunner's of kwaito. He got his start selling sausages outside of a Johannesburg nightclub, eventually making his way into the club to spin the closing sessions. At first he would remix American house music tracks, slowing them down to the speed that, he says, black South Africans were used to dancing to. But Oskido says he eventually got bored of doing that and ultimately started developing his own style. Soon he gathered a following on the underground circuit with Bruce Sebitlo and their group Brothers of Peace. When the mainstream record labels in South Africa refused to sign him, he created his own label, Kalawa Jazzmee. In the ensuing years, Kalawa Jazzmee has won numerous awards and produced some of the most popular artists in the country, including Bongo Maffin and Mafikizolo - both of whom have had some success internationally.
Mapaputsi Mapaputsi - Sandile Ngwenya says he was given the name Mapaputsi by an Italian shoe salesman in Zola, Soweto where he grew up. ("Paputsi" derives from an Italian dialect word for "shoes.") He says it was a good name for him because, ultimately, he wants to travel the world, telling the story of his country and spreading South African pride wherever he goes. He began his musical career in 1998 working with kwaito "it" groups like TKZee and Chiskop. In 2002, he hit it big on his own with the Ghetto Ruff release Izinja.
Niq Mhlongo
Niq Mhlongo reading a passage from his novel Dog Eat Dog.
Niq Mhlongo is the author of the celebrated "kwaito generation" novel Dog Eat Dog, which is culled from his and his friends' experiences growing up in Soweto and attending The University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He writes, "The end of apartheid gave rise to this new, youthful and energetic generation that expresses itself through kwaito, Afro-pop and rap music as well as through poetry - hence I refer to it as the kwaito generation. This is the new national, hybrid generation that is united in a new kind of struggle: against Aids, poverty, xenophobia, unemployment, crime, etc."
Mzekezeke expounds on the genre of music that made him famous. Recorded at the Vaal Institute of Technology Fresher's Ball, March 12, 2005.
Mzekezeke (pron: "Mm-ZEH-geh-ZEH-geh) is the Unknown Comic of kwaito. His real identity is unknown as he is never seen in public without his signature balaclava mask and yellow overalls. Mzekezeke hails from Tembisa, north of Johannesburg. He began his career as a recurring guest on Johannesburg radio station YFM, making prank calls and poking fun at celebrities. Soon he was recording his own CDs, winning awards and appearing on television. He says he wears the mask to "represent the normal man in the street. I'm the voice for the voiceless. I represent the poor people of this country. I'm their voice. As you can see me now, hear me now, I'm talking. They are not here to talk to you. Because they are in the ghetto."
Zola gives reporter Sean Cole an African name.
An extended free-style session with kwaito superstar Zola, his producer Thaso, Ghetto Ruff engineer Mpho Pholo (aka 37 MPH) and two of up-and-coming rappers Zola has taken under his wing, Tuks and Slice.
Zola - At a young age, Bonginkosi Dlamini was nicknamed Zola after the rough-and-tumble section of Soweto where he grew up. (It made sense, he says, since his uncle was nicknamed Soweto.) Years later he would become one of at least half a dozen kwaito stars to emerge from Zola, including kwaito pioneer Mdu Masilela and crossover sensation Mandoza (aka Mdu Tshabalala). Zola is probably the most popular kwaito artist in the country. His fame has been propelled by his hit reality TV show Zola 7 in which he travels around the country, and sometimes the continent, trying to solve people's problems and make their dreams come true. In 2005, he won the South African Music Association's Artist of the Year award. He is the owner of the music company Guluva Entertainment and a champion of younger performers whom he's helped into the industry. Lance Stehr of Ghetto Ruff records calls him the second biggest brand in the country next to Nelson Mandela.