Kwaito's looking sharp!
9 April 2003
A new documentary film about kwaito culture is spreading awareness about this uniquely South African music form around the world and creating an international market for kwaito artists.
"Sharp Sharp!", written and directed by Aryan Kaganof, was broadcast in the Netherlands on 8 April. The first film to tell the story of kwaito, "Sharp Sharp!" contains detailed interviews with all the major musicians, producers, figureheads, media commentators, industry executives and others involved in kwaito.
"Sharp Sharp!" tells the story of a music form that burst from South Africa’s
computers and synthesizers after the release from prison of Nelson
Mandela in 1990.
By the time of the first democratic elections in 1994,
kwaito had its first stars, Boom Shaka. Today, there is a veritable
pantheon of kwaito celebrities who are idolised by millions, and kwaito
is now breaking into the international market.
M'du, Zola, Arthur, Kabelo, Oskido, Don Laka and
Mzambiya are just some
of the artists featured in the film, which was broadcast on
Holland’s prestigious RAM world culture programme.
Johannesburg-based Kaganof, who won the prize for Best Video Made In
Africa in 2002 with Western4.33, is currently working on bringing "Sharp Sharp!" to South Africans as a five-part television series.
Voice of the ghetto
The music and culture of the township youth of South Africa, kwaito is
the voice and language of the ghetto, speaking of the daily experiences
and dreams of the first generation to come of age in the post-apartheid
Despite suffering a lack of recognition, and often downright
disparagement from mainstream cultural institutions and figures, kwaito
has forged ahead, providing employment for tens of thousands of people
in the music, radio, entertainment and fashion industries.
To date, no substantial analysis of the kwaito phenomenon has been
written or filmed, and the music and
the scene surrounding it have often
been relegated to gossip columns.
But kwaito is a force to be reckoned
with. It is the site of a major sonic revolution: the dawn of the
digital age in South African music.
Dominated by a radically different approach to sound, kwaito is a music
of textures and repetitive modal vamping, as opposed to classical song
structures. Rather than a weakness, this is kwaito’s great strength, for
this is the direction that popular music culture across the world has
taken since the mid-1980s and the onset of house music.
Purely SA dance music
Kwaito, then, is an addition to the library of world dance music; a uniquely South
African contribution to global dance culture that is respected precisely
because of its distinctive South African qualities: the languid, rolling
bass lines and vocal chants that imbue this music with characteristics
that are purely South African.
These chants and phrases link the
music form to American hip-hop, but
kwaito’s lyrics come straight from South Africa’s townships and convey
the street language of these townships: the tsotsitaal
, the street "lingo" that is a glorious pot-pourri of all 11
official languages that puts paid to the apartheid mythology of separate
Kwaito is a wild, eclectic mix-up, a boiling, cooking brew
of language and sound that could have happened nowhere but in South
Source: Franki Hills