Music Kwaito

While white rockers expressed their angst to largely white audiences during the 1980s, the black townships were held in thrall by what came to be called ‘bubblegum’ – bright, light dance pop influenced by American disco as much as by the heritage of mbaqanga.
Forebears of this style were groups such as The Soul Brothers, who had massive hits with their soulful pop, while artists such as Brenda Fassie, Chicco Twala and Yvonne Chaka Chaka drew huge audiences for their brand of township dance music.
House music arrived in Cape Town in the early 1990s and spread northward to Johannesburg clubs by the mid 1990s. Local artists fused house with other South African music to from a new style of township music called kwaito.
Kwaito grabbed the attention and the hearts of South Africa’s black youth. Arthur Mafokate, Makhendlas, Oskido and Mdu Masilela were the first artists to produce huge kwaito hits and popularise it inside and outside the townships.
As Kwaito became increasingly mainstream in South Africa, collaborations, such as that between R&B artists Danny K and Mandoza, have become more common.
Kwaito is now the biggest force in the South African music scene. However, it was only after 2001 that kwaito artists and have found their way to Europe and the United States.
The kwaito industry is growing fast and there is more competition between the kwaito stars, old and new.
Lekker Links
BBC: Kwaito – the voice of youth
USA documentary on the Kwaito generation
TIME Europe: That’s Kwaito style magazine
YFM Radio Missionaries & choirs; Minstrels; Marabi; Kwela; Mbaqanga; Jazz
Brenda Fassie; Yvonne Chaka
Popular artists now include Zola (Bonginkosi Dlamini), Mandoza (Mduduzi Tshabalala ), Mzekezeke (Zakhele), Brown Dash (Siphiwe Mpamile), Mahoota (Zane Sibika), Spikiri (Mandla Mofokeng), Mzambiya, Chippa (Loyiso), Msawawa, Mshoza (Nomasonto Maswanganyi), Thembi Seite, Thandiswa Mazwai, Unathi, and the late African pop and kwaito star Brenda Fassie.
Groups such as Bongo Maffin, Abashante, Boom Shaka, Trompies and TKZee developed huge followings, propelled by a streetwise visual style, an in-your-face performance energy and a host of pop videos.
Key recordings such as TKZee’s ‘Halloween’, Mdu’s ‘Mazola’, Chiskop’s ‘Claimer’, Boom Shaka’s ‘It’s About Time’ and Trompies’s ‘Madibuseng’ swept the charts and dominated youth-orientated radio stations, particularly YFM.
From the beginning, kwaito carried with it an undercurrent of oppression. The throbbing, pulsating music was often accompanied by lyrics that embodied the newly animated black youth culture. One of the earliest kwaito songs, “Kaffir” by Arthur, risked mocking former white South Africans’ use of this derogatory word:
Boss don’t call me a kaffir.
Can’t you see that I’m trying?
Can’t you see that I’m rushing around (busy)?
When I wash myself he calls me a kaffir
I don’t come from the devil
Don’t call me a kaffir
That lazy kaffir
You won’t like it if I call you baboon
Kwaito is named after Amakwaitos (gangsters), who were in turn named after the amalaita – an organization of Northern Sotho gangs active outside Johannesburg during the first half of the 20th century.

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