Kwaito: The Soundtrack Of A Reborn South Africa

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South African music is bubbling! So much good stuffs are now coming from this tip of Africa. The local House music scene is very creative and grabbed Warp Records attention with DJ Mujuva and his hypnotic melodies but what about their version of Hip Hop? It actually sounds very different than the underground and worldwide successful band Die Antwoord. Named Kwaito this local genre is born in the 90s in Johannesburg. Their mixture of electronic music, african vibes and Hip Hop became the national anthem of the South African people.

Kwaito brings a fresh contribution to today’s Hip Hop world still saturated by american sounds. This music emerged from the township when Nelson Mandela took office. The first democratic election was an amazing soft revolution in a country that used to be divided for so long. More than freedom of expression, the new president managed to bring together a people that could have dived in a civil war and probably be separated for ever.

Most of the white South African didn’t leave the country and contributed to make what the country is now: a thriving nation in today’s highly competitive globalised world.

First assimilated to anti-apartheid chants, the rhetoric slowly moved to a class fight. Societies are moving slowly and the majority of black people remain extremely poor. But although the genre emerged from the ghetto and from angriness, this music remains for some artists very laidback. MCs are often using irony to describe the new injustice instead of hatred. Kwaito was first sung in Zulu but as the genre became more popular, Afrikaans (a dutch dialect) and english started to be more heard in song. In the meantime, this new kind of music started to be seen on TV and became mainstream in South Africa.

The music resonated in Europe where the country has a special historical connexion with the UK. South African diaspora has a strong presence in the commonwealth country but London remains a big destination. In the beginning of the 2010s, the underground UK electronic music scene discovered the potential of Kwaito through Okmalumkoolkat’s collaboration with the londoner trio LV.

Released on the forward thinking urban record label Hyperdub, this antipodean association is a fresh draught in the british music scene. Kwaito seems to lean more and more on electronic music and artists such as Mix N Blend & SFR are keeping the genre alive.

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