THE FIRST time I saw Afrotraction (pictured) I was surprised. This crooner, of whom I had only heard, had the audience singing along to every one of his songs. It was a Castle Milk Stout event that featured Kabelo and Zonke as well as Afrotraction and was held at one of those coolly obscure venues in Braamfontein.
The invited guests were the amaBEEs and the potential amaBEEs. Granted, they knew the fabulous Zonke who is just up their street and whose profile at that stage was certainly on the rise. They definitely knew Kabelo because they had grown up with him as part of TKZee and then through his prolific solo career.
This time he, like Zonke and Afrotraction, played with a band and stripped his kwaito songs down. It was amazing.
But now, who was this Afrotraction guy who the crowd seemed to love more than the other two established stars?
That was two years ago, and not really being a fan of love music a la Eddie Zondo, I did not pursue the question.
Now Afrotraction has just released his third album, For the Lovers.
I finally hook up with him at the Hilton in Durban where he plays me a range of his songs from the album. It is not hard to see why he attracts a more mature audience in this country. He has every ingredient in his music that they absolutely love. First up, the production is excellent.
Second, he sings about love, love, love and more love – it nearly borders on kitsch, except for the fact that his lyrics are poetry in motion. Third, he has sentimentality in his song constructions but enough songwriting skill not to make it a cliché.
Our final meeting for the album takes place over breakfast in Melville which is close to his studios in Linden.
He is a producer, singer and songwriter and produced the entire album, which features a great track with Kabomo. In the past he has written and produced for Teargas, Jamali and JR. He first landed a job in Jozi through Chris Ghelakis of Electromode where he was a producer. This was after he left his province of Mpumulanga where he had established himself as a gospel singer.
Besides For the Lovers, he has subsequently released two other albums, Soul Deep and Soulfully Yours.
“When you hear one of my songs for the first time it will come into your head within the next hour,” he smiles. “Since the beginning I have been striving for a distinct sound that will define me.
“I have learnt from working with all these artists, artists who do different things to me. Teargas, for instance, are particular with their sound. I also learnt from creating songs for Kabelo and Thembi Seete.”
He is confident that For the Lovers is his best album so far.
“Like every artist you need baby steps. My first album was a building process, that I can do this. But I think my songs were all over the place. I was trying to find myself.
“With my second album I was still trying to find my sound. My sound is Mzansi soul.”
It is well documented that Afrotraction is proudly South African and sings in his mother tongue of siSwati as well as other languages.
“I try to promote culture in language. My strongest point is the vernacular. I sometimes worry that the younger generation are speaking less African languages.
“On my third album my subject matter, again, is love and relationships, probably because I now have more love to give. I have had my heart broken maybe twice but now I don’t break hearts any more. I have found my purpose. There is always an arrow to a destiny.”
When one listens to For the Lovers, it is clear his arrow has found its destiny. The album is (cliché ending here) for the lovers.