"We're not just about Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela
and traditional dances. Something else is happening over here."
-- Maria McCloy, editor of rage.co.za
Some people call it South Africa's hip hop. But kwaito is more than that. It's
an urban soup of South African jazz and township pop mixed with Western house and rap. It's the
music that defines the generation who came of age after apartheid.
South Africa's story today is its youth. More than half the population is age 25
or younger. In a still prepubescent democracy, this generation has been affecting the culture,
language and economy of South Africa in more ways than the West may realize. And kwaito is the reason.
Like American hip hop, kwaito was built from the ground up, originating in what its
performers often refer to as "the ghetto." (In this case, though, that ghetto is in Soweto, the
township where blacks were forced to live during apartheid.)
The music has afforded young blacks opportunities they could
only have dreamt of under forced segregation. It has meant financial
freedom for some. Moreover, it has given them the chance to
exercise their recently won freedom of speech; to address the
new struggles (AIDS, crime, xenophobia) that have developed
in the wake of the struggle; and to bring their experiences
to the TV's and radios of a nation that is still discovering
What I like about it is that I'm hearing so many different
sounds in one sound if you know what I mean. And I think that
for me as a South African, that's sort of the way that I want
to be South African. So, I want to hear a little bit of house
and a little bit of hip hop and a little bit of kwela and toi
toi because that's who I want to be. And it seems to me that
a lot of other younger South Africans want to be that too. We
want to be able to take from the world what it is that we want
and to remix it.
- Sarah Nuttall, researcher at the Wits Institute of Social
and Economic Research in Johannesburg.
We sing in slang, which is "totsi taal." [Totsi means "thug," taal means "language."]
And Zola was known to have the worst criminals in the book. And those criminals spoke slang.
So when Zola started having the first artist to be popular really, M'du, who came up and sang
in slang, people were like "Wah! Guy from Zola! A guy from the home of the thugs is singing
about good and he's doing it in slang!" And the many generations then would follow, people
like me and Mandoza and Mzambia. You know? So it became that. It's like when you listen to the
hip hoppers sing, they'll say something about New York, where they come from. Always acknowledge
home. Always remind the people that I come from shit hole. You know, I come from the worst
place ever. But look at me!
- Bonginkosi "Zola" Dlamini, kwaito star.
We may not have voted whenever, whenever. But that was because of frustrations that
were happening to this particular culture. I mean the group of kids that made up this culture.
And that obviously started to get a lot better because I think we started to get older and started
to see the importance in that. And you will see how effective we are in the next election. The next
election's going to be the biggest election ever. That's my prediction. And that's because a lot of
the kids that weren't trying to say anything and were just trying do their own thing, and thought they
were exclusive of the going on of the country, actually realized that actually we make this place. You
know what I mean? We're actually the people that actually make this place. You know? There's more of
us in number than any other age group. We affect this place economically. Everybody's trying to sell
to us right now. That's really what's happening.
- Sechaba Mogale, co-founder and co-owner of the fashion label Loxion Kulcha.