HHP speaks on xeno­pho­bia and Le­sotho gig

Lesotho Times - - Entertainment -

AHEAD of the first Li­faqane-mfe­cane Fes­ti­val in Maseru, Le­sotho, which will fea­ture artists such as Than­diswa Mazwai, Phuzekhemisi and Tsepo Tshola, the M&G caught up with award-win­ning South African mu­si­cian Hip Hop Pantsula (aka HHP, and born Jab­u­lani Tsambo).

As one the founders of Motswako rap – a popular hip hop sub­genre in South Africa – HHP says artists can re­act ap­pro­pri­ately to tragedies such as the re­cent xeno­pho­bic at­tacks by cre­at­ing pos­i­tive re­in­force­ment and ed­u­ca­tion. Artists “need to in­ter­pret what is hap­pen­ing cur­rently in the world and present it back to the ears and eyes that lis­ten or watch them,” he says, adding that “art has the abil­ity to pen­e­trate even through the small­est of cracks”.

De­spite im­ply­ing that art and pol­i­tics can be sep­a­rated, over his 15-year ca­reer, the rap­per has in­cluded so­cially and po­lit­i­cally con­scious lyrics to his songs and has even taken a vo­cal stand against in­jus­tices. Re­cently, Jabba - the mononym he of­ten goes by – used his celebrity sta­tus to speak out against the at­tacks while host­ing the Sa­mas in April and on other plat­forms such as TV and so­cial me­dia.

Fol­low­ing the large-scale xeno­pho­bic at­tacks in 2008, HHP has over the years par­tic­i­pated in ini­tia­tives to pro­mote the idea of a united Africa. His pan-african out­look re­sulted in the Daraja Walk to east Africa in 2013, de­signed to bridge African youth across the con­ti­nent. “The walk is not so much about the ac­tion of walk­ing but the ac­tion of meet­ing peo­ple, in­ter­act­ing, and just spread­ing the mes­sage of the im­por­tance of Africa hav­ing its own in­dus­try and its own iden­tity in the world,” he told Okayafrica in 2013. About his ac­tivism, the artist says, “Hope­fully one day I can be recog­nised for us­ing my mu­sic and art to forge unity among a war-torn Africa. For try­ing to build a bridge over trou­bled bor­ders.”

You re­cently took to the Ex­presso Morn­ing Show with an acous­tic anti-xeno­pho­bic song. What are your thoughts on the re­cent spate of at­tacks across South Africa?

It’s very sad. Part of the rea­sons why th­ese at­tacks are hap­pen­ing is that we don’t know any bet­ter. We don’t know the true his­tory of the ori­gins of many of our eth­nic groups here at home; and half of our fam­i­lies are made up of for­eign­ers who adopted lo­cal sur­names to ac­cul­tur­ate.

The re­cent at­tacks were re­ported to have been sparked by His Ex­cel­lency King Zwelithini, and that baf­fles me be­cause I know of the Ngoni peo­ple in Chipata, Zam­bia, who are of Zulu de­scent. It’s even been re­ported that our pres­i­dent, Ja­cob Zuma, has gone to Chipata to at­tend tra­di­tional Ngoni fes­ti­vals. [“The Ngoni peo­ple are re­lated to the Zulu but fled mod­ern-day Kwazulu-natal to set­tle in Zam­bia, Malawi and Tan­za­nia as part of the migration trig­gered by King Shaka’s wars of con­quest in the early 19th cen­tury.”] Th­ese at­tacks have been an un­for­tu­nate eye opener. Our his­tory needs to be rewrit­ten, in­clud­ing the true his­tory of Bechua­na­land, Zim­babwe and the ori­gins of the Nguni peo­ple.

What has been some re­sponses to th­ese at­tacks that has stood out for you? On the re­cent Daraja Walk to Kenya, I had a con­ver­sa­tion with a lo­cal while in Tan­za­nia who told me how they were raised on South African his­tory at school. He also shared how the po­lit­i­cal land­scape of South Africa, in his own opin­ion, was a rip­ple ef­fect of apartheid. He went on to ex­plain that he thought apartheid iso­lated South Africans from the en­tire con­ti­nent and made them think life ro­tated only around them. I can al­most pick out some truth in that. South Africa is/ was so de­vel­oped that many felt like we were a first world coun­try in a third world con­ti­nent. This was hap­pen­ing while other coun­tries like Ghana, Mozam­bique, Zim­babwe, Ethiopia, Botswana and many oth­ers were help­ing to lib­er­ate us.

What do you think are re­spon­si­ble re­ac­tions from high pro­file per­son­al­i­ties to is­sues like xeno­pho­bia?

Artists – whether ac­tors, singers, mu­si­cians, fash­ion de­sign­ers, dancers, pain­ters et cetera – are so­cial com­men­ta­tors be­cause of the power of ex­pres­sion they pos­sess. They need to in­ter­pret what is hap­pen­ing cur­rently in the world and present it back to the ears and eyes that lis­ten or watch them. Art has the abil­ity to pen­e­trate even through the small­est of cracks. Art reaches places pol­i­tics can’t.

Mu­si­cians like Kelly Khu­malo and Brickz have had their in­ter­na­tional shows can­celled in protest against the sit­u­a­tion in South Africa, while there have been al­leged threats made to mu­si­cians like Cassper Ny­ovest, ahead of per­for­mances around the con­ti­nent. How do you feel about trav­el­ling and per­form­ing out­side of South Africa, like in Le­sotho next month? I’ve al­ways ex­pressed my love for my con­ti­nent. Be­ing a de­scen­dant of a for­eigner – my great grand­fa­ther James Tsambo – who walked from Mozam­bique back in 1887, I’ve fully em­braced my “African-ness”. If some coun­tries don’t want me in their coun­try be­ing a South African cit­i­zen, I’ll un­der­stand but I haven’t had an is­sue yet. I’m also pre­par­ing for a show in Tan­za­nia end of May. On a lighter note, you re­cently hosted the Sa­mas to much crit­i­cism. Can you tell us about your ex­pe­ri­ence host­ing? I en­joyed my­self. Learned a lot about what I am and am not ca­pa­ble of. I’ve al­ways thrived in crit­i­cism. My whole mu­sic ca­reer was cast on crit­i­cism and still I stand. I’m to­tally lov­ing the hon­est crit­i­cism I’m get­ting. Its con­struc­tive and I will learn from my mis­takes. But oth­ers who are just be­ing nasty, I’m brush­ing it off or tak­ing jabs at them too. I do love me a hater early in the morn­ing be­fore break­fast.

What changes would you make to bet­ter the show?

The sound qual­ity at the last few awards has been shock­ing on TV. For an event that’s the big­gest mu­sic do in the coun­try, they could beef that side of the pro­duc­tion. The vibe at the venue was nice but if it does not comes across on TV, then it’s point­less. Be­sides that, I re­ally think ev­ery year they’ve been im­prov­ing.

On to your mu­sic: it’s been 15 years since the re­lease of your first al­bum “In­tro­duc­tion”. You’ve come a long way. If you could ad­vise a younger HHP on the ins and outs of the in­dus­try, what would you say to him?

I’d tell him to play with a live band sooner. Live mu­sic is the truth. I’d also tell him to stop im­press­ing peo­ple and just do what he loves straight from the get go. My first two al­bums were dic­tated [to by a record la­bel] and that wasn’t what I was about. It was when we went in­de­pen­dent with my al­bum Mang? [in 2003] that I started re­ally ex­plor­ing my world. Re­gard­ing O Mang?, I started own­ing my masters and had cre­ative con­trol over it. Had I done that sooner, with my pre­vi­ous records, I could be far. But all things good or bad hap­pen for the good of your growth.

Af­ter hav­ing ac­com­plished so much in your years on the SA mu­sic scene, is there any­thing else on your bucket list?

I must get a No­bel Peace nod. Hope­fully one day I can be recog­nised for us­ing my mu­sic and art to forge unity among a war-torn Africa. For try­ing to build a bridge over trou­bled bor­ders. I’m also go­ing to keep go­ing un­til I per­form on a Satur­day Night Live stage. Also, I need to write a book, start­ing with chil­dren’s books.

What can au­di­ences look for­ward to at your per­for­mance at the Li­faqane-mfe­cane Mu­sic Fes­ti­val in Le­sotho?

The same old Jabba: #Mr­sur­prise. Le­sotho is one of the best places to per­form with a live band. They treat artists with re­spect and they never com­pro­mise when it comes to sound. — M&G


South African mu­si­cian hip hop Pantsula.

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