Sunday World - - Front Page - Liver­mon is as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Texas at Austin. Source: http://the­con­ver­sa­ XAVIER LIVER­MON

N THE 1990s the South African mu­sic in­dus­try was taken aback by a new sound that drew from in­ter­na­tional house, yet sit­u­ated its at­ti­tude and forms of ex­pres­sion in the newly-lib­er­ated black youth.

Quickly ris­ing in pop­u­lar­ity, by the late 1990s kwaito had be­come the sec­ond high­est sell­ing mu­sic genre in South Africa.

Kwaito cul­ture spawned a num­ber of cul­tural in­dus­tries in­clud­ing mag­a­zines, fash­ion, ra­dio sta­tions, web­sites and tele­vi­sion shows. It also set the tem­plate for the con­tem­po­rary youth cul­tures that cur­rently dom­i­nate SA.

The re­cent pass­ing of mu­si­cian Mandoza is an op­por­tu­nity to re­flect on the legacy he left.

For many, kwaito be­came an em­blem of free­dom. But the rise of kwaito as a mu­si­cal genre and the im­por­tance of Mandoza as a key fig­ure in it were not un­con­tro­ver­sial in newly lib­er­ated South Africa. For some, kwaito rep­re­sented all that was wrong with black youth with its sup­posed glam­or­i­sa­tion of vi­o­lence, ex­plicit sex­u­al­ity and con­sumerist cel­e­bra­tion.

Through his mu­sic and per­sona, Mandoza per­formed a tsotsi mas­culin­ity”. This le­git­imised and pro­vided space for the black town­ship thug, a fig­ure of post-apartheid trauma, to be un­der­stood as a com­plex , fully hu­man per­son. He re­sisted elite nar­ra­tives that po­si­tion work­ing class and poor black town­ship men as ir­re­deemable tsot­sis, best man­aged by the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.

In post-apartheid SA kwaito oc­cu­pied a con­tested space be­cause its lyrics and im­agery ap­peared to glo­rify forms of toxic mas­culin­ity. Toxic mas­culin­ity can be de­fined as a set of so­ci­etal norms that de­fine and cel­e­brate mas­culin­ity based on vi­o­lence, sex­ual ag­gres­sion, ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion of women and lack of emo­tion.

Al­though the tsotsi la­bel was used to ex­clude it, it also be­came a sym­bol of qual­i­fied in­clu­sion. It rep­re­sented a com­mod­i­fied au­then­tic black mas­culin­ity that could be re­formed and turned to­wards the needs of both cap­i­tal and govern­ment.

In­clu­sion rested on no­tions of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion. But a re­formed tsotsi still had an air of au­then­tic cool and sexy de­sir­abil­ity.

Tsotsi mas­culin­ity (in its re­deemed form) could thus also be pre­sented as a sym­bol of cap­i­tal­ist con­sumer suc­cess.

The poor, black man from the ghetto who re­formed his life, had made it” and pos­sessed the con­sumer prod­ucts to prove he be­longed to the mid­dle class.

This pop­u­lar nar­ra­tive of postapartheid ob­scured the sys­temic forces that made such a rags-to- riches nar­ra­tive un­likely in the first place.

Yet, as a story it was an ideal mar­ket­ing tool that served the ends of con­sumer cap­i­tal by us­ing it to sell prod­ucts.

Mandoza re­jected the in­hu­man­ity of the tsotsi as well as the no­tion that he needed to be com­pletely re­ha­bil­i­tated.

He con­sis­tently re­minded South Africans of the value of his tsotsi ori­gins, and on in­clu­sion in so­ci­ety as a tsotsi. Mandoza ar­gued that his fi­nan­cial suc­cess made him a fam­ily man. Yet he was also tsotsi yaseZola” (a tsotsi from Zola, in Soweto).

Mandoza forced South Africans to reckon with the un­der­belly, and to re­spect it, turn­ing the tsotsi into a fig­ure of re­spect, if not an en­tirely re­spectable fig­ure.

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