The de­scen­dents of TKZee

It may have tra­di­tion­ally been a defini­tively kasi sound but kwaito has grown to in­clude dif­fer­ent de­mo­graph­ics

Mail & Guardian - - Music - Esi­nako Nd­abeni

There is an un­tidi­ness to ac­count­ing for the black South African ex­pe­ri­ence. Our bod­ies carry with them a his­tory of mo­bil­ity; we have al­ways moved be­tween spa­ces that present them­selves as rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent.

My life, spent us­ing Ubers in Cape Town from my house in Clare­mont to Sea Point, is also a life I have spent in the East­ern Cape in a taxi we call iventsha — packed un­com­fort­ably as the taxi con­duc­tor yells “Madondile, Madondile!” as I make my way to my ru­ral home. The ur­ban-sub­ur­ban, ru­ral-ur­ban or ru­ral-sub­ur­ban ex­pe­ri­ence can­not be neatly com­part­men­talised.

This is the ex­pe­ri­ence that the neo-kwaito duo Bougie Pantsula so as­tutely ar­tic­u­lates. The two Univer­sity of Cape Town (UCT) stu­dents, Buni Mo­gopa (Matt Ryan) and Njab­ulo Mpanza (Jabba), re­leased their demo tape on Soundcloud on April 22 and have al­ready at­tracted up to 5 644 lis­tens on the song Un­ga­jump­isi. This rapid-fire at­ten­tion in­cludes no­tice from rap­pers such as JR and Yanga.

It is not yet clear how to com­part­men­talise this sound: Bougie Pantsula jok­ingly calls it­self “genre fluid” as it ex­per­i­ments with dif­fer­ent forms of mu­sic. But it is also clear that this ex­per­i­men­ta­tion is rooted in kwaito and the moder­nity of the sound shows us that this is mu­sic made by con­sumers of trap mu­sic.

“Trap mu­sic to­day is just sim­ple melodies backed with hard-hear­ing 808 basses,” says Ryan. “And kwaito had a sim­i­lar com­po­si­tion if you ac­tu­ally lis­ten to it. It has sim­ple, catchy melodies as well, but with more groove el­e­ments. I’d like to think that our sound is in the mid­dle of that.”

When asked what makes them Bougie Pantsula, Ryan con­firms that: “Bougie Pantsula rep­re­sents a com­ing to­gether of two iden­ti­ties. I’m a home­grown kasi boy — shout out to At­teridgevil­le — who went to pri­vate school and ended up at an elite pri­vate school on schol­ar­ship. My life was al­ways about crafting an iden­tity and try­ing to fit in. Or I’d risk be­ing os­tracised ei­ther back in the ’hood for be­ing a cheese­boy or from my school­mates for be­ing a schol­ar­ship boy and not be­ing able to af­ford what they could af­ford.”

This is not the first Model C duo to be as­so­ci­ated with kwaito mu­sic. Be­fore we knew Bougie Pantsula, we were in­tro­duced to Stiff Pap. The duo are Ayema Qampi (Aye­maProb­llem) and Mshindi Boya (Jakinda), also two UCT stu­dents. They have cer­tainly risen up the ranks since per­form­ing at Afrop­unk in De­cem­ber last year.

Hav­ing also pri­mar­ily re­leased their EP Based on a Qho Story on Soundcloud, they have worked their way up to pres­ti­gious gigs such as the Red Bull Mu­sic Fes­ti­val and the Cape Town Elec­tronic Mu­sic Fes­ti­val.

Stiff Pap’s suc­cess en­cour­aged Bougie Pantsula to put their mu­sic out there. “We re­alised that the dream is a lot more at­tain­able than we had thought,” Jabba raves. “It’s in­spir­ing to see a peer suc­ceed be­cause it in­spires you to do the same.”

This chem­istry and ca­ma­raderie is clear in Stiff Pap and Bougie Pantsula’s col­lab­o­ra­tive of­fer­ing, Dula Fela, which fea­tures Aye­maProb­llem on the Bougie Pantsula mix­tape.

But Stiff Pap is hes­i­tant to iden­tify its sound as kwaito. Jakinda at­tributes his love for mu­sic to the hip-hop and R&B that he loved grow­ing up, along with the jazz that his par­ents played.

“I never ac­tu­ally plan on mak­ing kwaito-sound­ing beats,” he says. “It just hap­pens nat­u­rally. Later, I re­alise that it sounds kind of like kwaito, but it’s never planned.”

Well, we don’t know how wellplanne­d kwaito was. The genre co­a­lesced when guys who danced as backup for Chicco Twala — guys like Spikiri, who were key­boardists and in­stru­men­tal­ists dur­ing the rise of South African bub­blegum mu­sic — stepped for­ward into a new role. They’d brought that bub­blegum bassline into the house mu­sic nightlife and birthed kwaito. Look­ing back, who knew what they were try­ing to do?

The last time I saw Ayema was at the Zevoli’s bar in the Cape Town sub­urb of Ron­de­bosch. I’d put R2 into the juke­box and played Shwi NoMtekhala’s Ngafa. Sev­eral peo­ple would re­mark in English that they loved the song. Zevoli’s, or “Zevs” as its af­fec­tion­ately nick­named, is the clos­est you can get to a tav­ern in Ron­de­bosch.

It might be where our bod­ies meet as Model C kids who also have life ex­pe­ri­ences out­side of the mid­dle class. “The gap be­tween the black mid­dle class and work­ing class is not that wide,” Ayema says.

“Most of the mid­dle-class stu­dents have rel­a­tives who live in town­ships. So, there is not a lot to rec­on­cile.”

But what of the gap be­tween these Model C newbies and the OG Bougie Pantsu­las? Leg­ends such as Zwai Bala, Tokollo “Magesh” Tsha­bal­ala and Ka­belo Ma­bal­ane met dur­ing their time spent at St Stithi­ans Col­lege in Jo­han­nes­burg when Bala moved there from Drak­ens­burg Boys High. To­gether, they formed TKZee.

The rest, as they say, is his­tory. Kwaito artists were peo­ple who emerged from the town­ship with man­ner­isms im­me­di­ately at­tached to the town­ship ex­pe­ri­ence. But TKZee would make a strain of kwaito that would re­veal them as the Model Cs they were — raps in the Model C twang, Joni Mitchell sam­ples and an in­cor­po­ra­tion of clas­si­cal mu­sic into their unique sound.

Although kwaito would be a tool for kwaito artists to leave the town­ship — Kalawa Jazmee op­er­ates from Midrand, af­ter all — TKZee seems to have been the first to di­rectly con­fuse kwaito and the class ques­tion.

Where kwaito goes from here is no less con­fus­ing, and all the more ex­cit­ing be­cause of it.

Pho­tos: David Har­ri­son, Jonathan Fer­reira/Red Bull Con­tent Pool & Alet Pre­to­rius/Gallo Im­ages

A class of their own: Bougie Pantsula (top) rep­re­sents the com­ing to­gether of their Model C-iden­tity and kwaito cul­ture. The duo at­tribute their suc­cess to see­ing Stiff Pap (above) rise in pop­u­lar­ity. Both groups build on the le­gacy of TKZee (be­low),...

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