Cracks in Mandoza’s flashy image
Assault charge and plummeting record sales tell a sorry story, writes Charles Molele
AT THE height of his career kwaito phenomenon Mandoza’s Nkalakatha topped radio station charts, even capturing the English and Afrikaans markets.
Five years down the line, the 29-year-old musician is faced with plummeting record sales and collaborations with the likes of Danny K — which some reckon has cost him his “top dog” appeal.
He is scheduled to appear in the Randburg Magistrate’s Court tomorrow on a charge of assault following an incident outside a nightclub in Johannesburg last weekend. He has not been asked to plead and is currently out on a warning.
Mandoza’s attorney is expected to ask the court to withdraw the case against his client.
The musician confirmed that there was an “incident” last Saturday night. “I just slapped the boy, but I am not proud of the incident,” he said.
“I am not under pressure and the fight has nothing to do with the state of my career or personal life. I feel great.”
Mandoza said he was busy with his music and was currently shooting a music video and preparing for a tour to Australia later this month.
Mandoza, who was once convicted for stealing a car and spent 18 months in Diepkloof prison, dismissed suggestions that his career had hit the skids.
He blamed EMI/CCP Records, who are responsible for his marketing and distribution, for failing to promote his album. “They didn’t market my album very well, but I understand they had a shortage of marketing staff.”
He also denied he had ditched his raw township style and music for commercial interests.
“I am not just a kwaito artist, but a musician and I want to grow,” he said.
“The crossover market opened doors for me. The image of Mandoza today is of a modern tsotsi who has progressed from being a hustler in the streets to a respectable businessman in the boardroom. I may live in the suburbs, but I remain Mduduzi.”
It is an axiom of modern showbiz that every scandal is a career move. In Mandoza’s case, there is a body of opinion that the youth icon is experiencing the most difficult years of his career since he shot to fame with Nkalakatha.
The album’s unprecedented crossover appeal sold over 300 000 copies and made Mandoza a star. It won him Best Kwaito Music Album, while the title track won Song of the Year at the SA Music Awards in 2001, and he won five other awards.
Then Mandoza became addicted to cocaine and in October 2003 his recording company asked him to spend three weeks at a drug rehabilitation centre.
A former business associate, who asked not to be named, said she quit working with the star after the demons of fame crept into his professional life.
“ Godoba [ one of his songs after Nkalakatha] is a Zulu word for a type of being who provides goodness when it is asked of it. But Mandoza chose the path of darkness: drugs,” she said.
Others blame the adoption of the crossover style as one of the fundamental reasons for his fading appeal.
They believe that as much as Nkalakatha turned Mandoza into a household name, it also destroyed the impressionable Soweto-born artist.
Arthur Mafokate, the selfstyled king of kwaito, said tapping into the crossover market could be both a blessing and a curse for most artists, citing MC Hammer and Michael Jackson as examples.
But Mafokate is adamant that the former Chiskop front man could bounce back.
“It is a matter of knowing who his real fans are,” he said.
Oscar Mdlongwa, co-founder of Kalawa Jazzmee, agreed that Mandoza’s experimentation with the crossover market was a huge risk but maintained it has worked for him somehow.
“I think, business-wise, it makes sense because he gets to do gigs where most fear to tread: in the white market.”
Mandoza is no stranger to controversy — a few years ago he was arrested by the Randburg police for allegedly assaulting his then girlfriend, and now wife, Mpho Mphuti. She dropped the charges.
SUPERSTAR: Has Mandoza lost touch with his roots?