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The sight greeting me on arrival at the Kalawa Jazmee studio was a pleasant surprise. Tokollo and Spikiri are listening to a track and laughing together. I stare quietly, marvelling at the chemistry between the two.
They look up and see me. Hugs all around, before Spikiri laughs: “Dis m**********r is crazy!”
I was supposedly there to listen to Spikiri’s brand-new album 2.5 before it hit the stores. However, sometimes trying to control a Kalawa situation is like herding cats. You just have to go with the flow.
Magesh goes into the recording booth and gives his all. Suddenly it hits me why there is laughter on many of his tracks – because Magesh is so happy in the studio that he laughs a lot. Spikiri listens intently, his small body moving slightly to the rhythms.
Afterwards Magesh orders me to listen to his new recording for his forthcoming album. Many of the tracks, as usual, are produced by the King Don Father.
“I’m thinking of calling it Omega, which means ‘the end’,” says Magesh, pouring the obligatory Jameson which follows him everywhere. “Whaddya think?”
Well, considering the kwaito star’s crazy lifestyle, it could be somewhat ominous.
Spikiri shows me the video for his big hit at the moment Ngeke Balunge. Impressive – only Spikiri could gather so many artists in a video. Teargas, Bricks, Bruce Dope, Oskido, Madlaphutu even.
Everyone looks happy, particularly Spikiri. The track is thumping and based on the Michael Jackson song They Don’t Really Care About Us.
South Africa’s top producer often seems fragile, mostly because his soul is pure art. Yet, he is always with people who protect him. He is like a fragile gangster.
Afterwards, Spikiri and Magesh start working on their track again, tweaking it here and there. The engineers have added the keyboards and Magesh asks Spikiri if the keyboards are too out of synch. They listen together and finally Spikiri leans close to him and speaks under the loud music. Magesh listens intensely.
They take a break and Magesh tops up his Jameson. He looks at it fondly and raises his glass: “I’m chilling with my friend.”
Your best friend? “My very best friend. Have I got fat? My niece said I have, the witch!”
Never a dull moment with Tokollo, the kwaito artist with the attention span of a fly. It’s great fun. I follow him out for a smoke.
“I had a BlackBerry but there is all that BBM stuff and tweets like ‘I’ve just done my hair’ and I’m, like, ‘Who gives a f***?’ Nah.” He pretends he is throwing something away. “I don’t see the point.”
Back inside, and Spikiri lets me choose tracks from 2.5. It is a double album, as usual, and has some hot, hot artists. He has an anarchic, organic way of choosing who is on the songs.
“I phone people and whoever is here in the studio at the time is who goes on the track I am working on,” says Spikiri. “If they like the track, they carry on with it.
“I did the rhythms and the artists did their own lyrics. They’re all my friends. They must say what they want to say. It was a bit chaotic, though.
“Some people even wrote tracks for me, like Professor,” he continues.
I choose a track with Magesh, another with HHP and yet another with Flabba. The Flabba track is slow and beautiful, delivered with his customary cheeky wit. Bouga Luv’s track demonstrates, yet again, the chemistry between Spikiri and the TKZee artist.
Magesh returns: “Have you listened to my track?” Of course, baby, I asked for it first. Magesh starts nodding his head manically: “Uh huh! Uh huh! Uh huh!” This cracks up Spikiri.
Spikiri plays me his favourite track, which includes African drums and a live saxophone, and has his customary driving beat.
Magesh and Spikiri are singing, dancing kwaito style, looking into each other’s eyes and smiling in musical bliss.
He plays me the final track, which features classic Ishmael. It is impressive how Spikiri captures every artist he works with perfectly.
Our time in the studio is the first time Spikiri is experiencing the final product that is 2.5 consisting of over 20 artists. He looks at the CD cover proudly.
“Baby girl, you have to listen to this album on your own, discover it on your own. It will be the best way,” he says. “This is from me to you, from the King Don Father.”
He laughs and gives a bow.