Cracks in Man­doza’s flashy im­age

As­sault charge and plum­met­ing record sales tell a sorry story, writes Charles Molele

Sunday Times - - News -

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?

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