What Happened to Kwaito Music?
Kwaito music started emerging in the 1990s, and was known as being South Africa’s “definitive genre”. This implies that Kwaito music is specific to SA, born and bred. It is a combination of many different rhythms, from marabi to kwela and without a doubt, this genre will activate your inner “dancer”. The word “kwaito”, originates from the Afrikaans word “kwaai” which means angry. In Tsotsi-taal, negative words have a positive connotation, emphasising on “hot” and “dangerous”. The culture of the township in SA is celebrated through Kwaito music, why and how did this come to an end?
The Kwaito musical genre did not only showcase township living, in a postitive way, but also reunited, South Africans of different races. There is no white person in South Africa, that can’t sing along to the chorus (at the least) of Mandoza’s hit single “Nkalakatha”. Kwaito music paved a way, at such a crucial time, communicating that we can over come anything, and be happy as South African citizens, regardless of the heavy history, left by the Apartheid era.
The Lyrical Value
Lyrically, Kwaito songs are light hearted and are relatively humorous. “Siya jaiv’ akekh’ uGogo” – translated “We’re dancing, Granny’s not home”, song by Mzekezeke. “Mickey Mouse” by Brown Dash, using the word “Mickey Mouse” as a person that is small (in the sense of failure). Artists were not afraid to rap or sing in their own mother-tongue. Tsotsi-taal was also used in Kwaito music, which made it even more relatable by fellow South Africans.
The Musical Value
Musically, there is nothing comparable, to Kwaito. This musical genre grew, right after the Apartheid era had ended. Black South Africans, were given a platform to express themselves, and give some insights, in living in the township. The tempo of Kwaito, is alot slower than house. It can easily put you in a relaxed and happy mood.
Influential Kwaito Stars
From the top of my head, I can name, Spikiri, Mzekezeke, Mandoza, Trompies, Skeem, Arthur and Alaska. All Kwaito artists have one thing in common, and that is being expressive, unapologetically. These artists were relateable people, vocalising the everyday life, yasekasi.
How SA’s definitive genre gradually faded
It is important to bear in mind, at what time Kwaito music became relevant. It was not about politics or race, but more about what it was like living ekasi, in post-apartheid SA. Could we say Kwaito music faded, as South Africans were trying to move on from the Apartheid era, or could we simply refer back to Westernisation / American influence? Non of the mentioned completely apply, if you ask me. Kwaito music ended with Mzekezeke. Had he not reintroduced himself as DJ Sbu, I have a strong belief that Kwaito would have continued to rise as a genre.
Mzekezeke was the face of the youth and Kwaito music at the given time. As soon as he became a house DJ (DJ Sbu), so did everybody else. Mzekezeke was and influential artist, and I believe his influence was strong enough to shut down an entire genre.
Is Kwaito Music Irrelevant Today?
It is safe to say, Kwaito will never be irrelevant. Play a Kwaito jam, at any event, the crowd will go crazy. Kwaito music has a sense of nostalgia, relatable by all South Africans. Listening to a Kwaito song works almost like a time machine, where one can remember, or imagine a certain time in South Africa.
Kwaito music is timeless, although new South African Artists have gradually introduced genres such as “Gqom”, they do not compare to Kwaito. Kwaito is proudly specific to SA and the sound cannot be replicated or stolen. Kwaito is nolonger popular, entlek, a big part of me blames Mzekezeke (ironically known for his anonymity), for reintroducing himself as DJ Sbu. That was when house became more popular, and Kwaito became less and less relevant, as the years went by.