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I grew up before the Kwaito revolution. So I was fortunate to witness the birth of this revolution.

Before the Kwaito Revolution, in the 80s, we listened to Brenda Fassie, Chicco, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson among others.

Then we had something we called international, with songs such as Fantasy by Black Box. And then entered the 1990s, the Kwaito revolution began, and yes it was televised.

This book documents the birth of the Kwaito Revolution. The background that informs the music. The various role players, and the behind the scenes of this revolution.

It does an amazing job of linking the history of the country and birth of democracy in South Africa in 1994 and how democracy unleashed a plethora of Kwaito songs, mainly celebrating freedom.

The authors interview various Kwaito artists and digs stories of their lives. The book share stories of artists such as Arthur Mafokate, Makhendlas, Bong Shaka, Abashante, Mzambiya, Mshoza, Mashamplane, Trompies, Mapaputsi, Bricks, Mandoza, Thebe, Brothers Of Peace [BOP], Zola, Bongo Maffin, TKZee, Brenda Fassie, Chiskop, Ishmael, Prophets of Da City, Brown Dash, Mzekezeke, etc.

The book looks at their rags to riches journeys, the fame and famous lifestyles, the struggle with drugs and alcohol abuse, and the unfortunate self-destruction of some of them.

It is an amazing narrative of the rise and fall, the bold and the beautiful of their music, the life behind the scenes, the record labels that produced their music, the radio stations that played their music, the vulgar language in some of their songs, the Tsotitaal, the Kwaito women and the TV series [such as Yizo Yizo] that made soundtracks out of their music.

I love this book. It’s an important step in documenting the history SA music and one of the important derivative of post 1994 South Africa.

Rating:

9/10 – Thoroughly enjoyed the book. My sense however is that this is just the beginning of literature in the Kwaito music. It would be great to see more stories and biographies of these artists.

What I enjoyed in this book is the connection of the dots about what makes these artists similar and what sets them apart apart from their music.

The nostalgia of  TKZee’s Haloween’s “Yo ke summer. Etla kwanu ku tsware ka le rama. Ka bonu o tswere ke stlama. Thula tsa mo besa nama,” Trompies and Lebo Mathosa’s Magasman, Mapaputsi’s “Abobani abakhumule izinja la,” Mshoza’s Kortes are just some of the stories this book ignites.

Just to set the record straight, of the three amazing TKZee founding members, all them are great, mara Magesh [Tokollo] is King… Yeah I said it 🙂 …..‘Phakamis’ izandla zakho laph’ ukhona, uz’veze, sik’bone’ [Throw your hands in the air where you are, show yourself so we can see you] 

Big ups to Esinako and Sihle.

Favourite Quotes:

  • “And for me, Kwaito, was just a distraction. It didn’t have a message at all. So, after the first democratic elections, all of a sudden nobody was interested in any socially conscious message. They were just into, “Yeah, yeah let’s party!”
  • “Kwaito artists such as Oskido have said it that it was a celebration of freedom.”
  • “For Spikiri, kwaito is about identity; the expression of oneself and one’s experiences through art forms such as fashion, dance and music.”
  • “Here are some things you might not know about Sandile Ngwenya aka Mapaputsi. He is an avid reader and a big fan of Mark Twain, or at least Mark Twain’s quotes.”
  • “Mapaputsi got the name that became his stage moniker from an Italian shoe salesman who used to work in Zola. ‘Paputsi’ derives from an Italian dialect’s word for shoes.”
  • “What people don’t understand about that song [Izinja] is that it’s not just about dogs barking, it’s also about freedom. It’s about when we got the right to vote and were able to express ourselves, and that there was nothing that could hold us back. The dogs were out and anybody who wanted to hold us back would regret that.”
  • “It’s a heartbreaking video. A reminder that a musician dies twice. The second time is when the spirit leaves the body, which is the death we can all expect as inevitable. The first death however is when the muse leaves. This first one is way more cunning because, despite the evidence of history, no musician thinks it will happen to them. But it will happen; it always does. For Mapaputsi, the muse left in the summer of 2007 and hasn’t been back since.”
  • “It was a very happy time and place in 1998. The kind of partying that used to happen was on another level. We were really enjoying the feeling of freedom, and whatever we were dreaming about, we could actually see it happening. So Halloween was a response to that; the record represented the kind of unfiltered happiness we saw around us daily.”

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