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Kalawa still king of SA music castle

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TO METRO5

Oskido and Dr. Malinga perform at the Metro FM Awards. Photo: SANDILE MAKHOBA

It was when they asked me to stay at the hotel that I knew it was on, that it was going to be spectacular and sweet and simple and stylish ’cos that’s how Kalawa Jazmee roll.

It was the week of the Metro FM Music Awards (MMAs) in Durban. The radio station came to town, as did the Kalawa stable. They threw parties every night of the week and as a bonus, dominated the MMAs by taking six awards and giving three performances. They also hired out an entire hotel, rooms and all, for a huge after-party on the Saturday night.

The company is celebrating 20 successful years in the industry. This includes discovering artists such as Boom Shaka, Bongo Maffin, Mafikizolo as well as Professor and Dr Malinga, to name a few.

Of course, the Kalawa owners are the remnants of Brothers of Peace and Trompies. Bruce Dope is considered one of the best engineers in the country, Spikiri is the King Don Father of kwaito. Mahoota is the glam money-maker. Mjokes is the lovable joker. Jaros is the crazy dancer. And then there is Oskido…

The company, with 999 and Ghetto Ruff, was one of the first black-owned independent labels. They are riding high with Oskido’s latest album having gone gold and DJ Vetkuk vs Mahoota going platinum. Pepsi has also released his most successful album to date.

Kalawa has started a dance label with some of the hottest young producers working for them.

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The current sound coming from the label has deep African rhythms mixed with Afro-house beats. As with kwaito, Afro-pop and house again, Kalawa is breaking new ground.

They recently launched a hip hop label, which is a genre they have consistently stayed away from. This is a strange move and only time will tell if their venture into hip hop will work.

My week with Kalawa started on Wednesday night when I met up with Oskido at Docklands Hotel. He gleefully took me on a tour of the hotel, showing me exactly how the after party on Saturday night would work.

“Ai, we gonna rock this party,” he smiled. “I paid cash upfront for them and they have me at a discount because it was not peak season. They didn’t know it was the Metro weekend so maybe I can re-rent some of the rooms back at a profit,” he laughed. “We are bringing in extra bars for the party, too. I’m a black Jew.”

The idea was to have an interview with Oskido and Professor, but Professor was nowhere to be found.

“The thing about Professor is that once he goes to Umlazi it is difficult to get him out,” explained Oskido. “He is a township guy like that.”

Forward to Thursday night where Kalawa is hosting a party at Plush, celebrating the launch of Professor and Oskido’s latest albums. It is also a celebration of DJ Vetkuk vs Mahoota going platinum.

On arrival, there is a queue of more than 100 females dressed in whatever is short around the legs and long under the heels. Apart from the bouncers, there is not a single male in sight, just how Kalawa like it.

The first men arrive an hour into the party. They are dressed in skinny jeans and speak shyly behind their hands. The girls are already dancing on this hot summer night.

Pepsi arrives, rushing up the stairs with his DJ bag. “I’m late,” is his greeting.

Where are the others?

“Oh, they’ll be here around 1am.”

Then it dawns on me, I have never been to a Kalawa party where the artists perform before midnight. This is a stable composed of midnight ramblers.

T’zozo arrives with a lady in tow and straight after that L’Vovo Derrango is at the door with his entourage, all of whom get VIP access as do the big entertainers, Sox and DJ Bongs.

Kalawa has three people at the door checking cellphones. Entry fee is discounted if the person has a Kalawa download from Vodacom. Clever.

Around 1am I am outside the club grabbing some me-time air. And right on cue, they arrive. Oskido is first, followed by Dr Malinga, Vetkuk, Mahoota and then Professor. The entourage of more than 30 parts the crowd like Moses and the Red Sea, women screaming in delight, men respectfully holding out their hands for a shake. Their arrival at the club on the red carpet is like something out of a movie.

While Professor is performing, I get to hang in the VIP area with Mahoota who is luxuriously puffing on a Cuban cigar with a cognac nestling in his hand. Mr BEE times three.

“Are you good, girl? Are you cool, luvvie?” he asks me.

That’s the thing about the Kalawa boys; their peeps must always be taken care of and feeling happy.

Looking around the club I see their wish has come true. Oskido is behind the decks and Professor is rocking the stage. Everyone is taken care of and they are all happy. It is one of those nights where there is no drama, just beautiful party people and beautiful music. Oskido spots me in the crowd and screams my name, giggling at my subsequent embarrassment.

He truly enjoys himself behind the decks, grinning the whole way through his set. In fact, there are not many moments when he isn’t smiling.

I finally get out of there at 3am, leaving the boys with their party people. The next day at breakfast there is no one to be seen. Midnight ramblers indeed.

Friday night the party is at Tira’s venue, Uber Zulu. The reason? A listening session for Mafikizolo’s first album since 2006. The venue is a colonial house, Durban style. Members of the media have been invited, but are delayed as the Metro FM bus they were trundling on from Jozi broke down.

Oskido is concerned, but decides to wait. Tira is scuttling around in his very busy life. The media and celebrities arrive at the same time. This includes Metro FM’s Amon Mokoena and Ishmael, 5FM’s Thomas Msengana as well as actress and singer, Lucia Mthiyane.

Mafikizolo arrive looking stylish in aqua blue. They position themselves on either side of Oskido behind a DJ console and take us through the songs. By the end diners from upstairs have left their food and are applauding the successful duo. It is decided by all that Mafikizolo are back with a vengeance.

Metro FM’s Naked DJ takes to the decks and the party moves up a notch. Oskido decides it’s time to get the hell outta Dodge as Saturday night is the big one.

The next night the black carpet is surrounded by screaming fans, eager to catch a glimpse of their heroes.

Minnie Dlamini in a gold dress, Mafikizolo’s Nhlanhla Ncina in yellow, Camagwini in something weird and Professor in a Metro police outfit saluting all the way to the stage. He arrives with Oskido in a white suit and Speedy in his trademark ’90s hip hop look. Doctor Malinga kicks his way down the black carpet much to the thrill of the crowd.

As everyone knows by now, Kalawa cleaned up with six awards and their performances were outstanding.

Arriving at the after-party was a fantastic surprise in the form of Bruce Dope, Jaros and Spikiri.

“Yes, my babeza, we decided to come just for the party,” whispered Jaros.

Hugs all around before they leave for the live music stage.

Bruce Dope is very cute at a party. He knows so many people and becomes overwhelmed by how many demand his attention. While he likes to party, this man is definitely more comfortable in a recording studio.

Spikiri and Jaros are inseparable; two tiny men pack-hunting. There is always much laughter around these people. Spikiri’s idea of fun is not on the dancefloor. He has a similar trait to Lebo Mathosa in that he seriously watches live acts, ignoring all the other action in the room, whereas Jaros just jives, enjoying the moment.

The place is packed full with celebrities and Kalawa fans including Madlaphutu and his teeth as well as David Tlale, who seems to enjoy being led around the place like a blind person.

The first lady of Kalawa, DJ Zinhle, is glowing with love. This intelligent woman stands out in the crowd because of her good looks and elegant mannerisms. And she’s loadsa fun to party with.

The parking lot is a great hip hop arena. The VIP area houses Professor in a corner looking very chuffed with his two awards. By 1am, it is bed time, but downstairs the party goes on and on and on.

Sunday morning and it’s like it never happened. Everything is quiet and neat and there are no kwaito stars in sight.

But, then I hear that familiar beat coming from somewhere outside and I know the King Don Father is in the house.

In the parking lot at the far end is a big white car blaring out some cool new Spikiri tracks. Mjokes, Jaros and friends are making plans to hit the Kalawa picnic and I hitch a lift.

“We’re not staying here tonight,” informs Mjokes. “It’s not close enough to the sea.”

There is a required stop at a bottle store for supplies. Durban is hot and muggy today and Mahatma Gandhi (Point) Road is even hotter. The boot shakes and clinks as the Kalawa boys load up with supplies for the after- noon picnic at the practice fields of the Kings Park rugby field. People stare in fascination at these famous artists just going about their life. Jaros does his trademark “atchoo!” and a bit of a jig and Spikiri laughs at him. Theirs is a life-long friendship based on much laughter.

As we finally drive off, Jaros decides that he wants cranberry juice. An argument ensues followed by more laughter and more arguments. I can see why kwaito artists are always late. Jaros eventually gets his way and scampers to the shop for cranberry juice.

When we arrive at Berea Rovers there are very few people. We eat Nando’s from the boot while listening to Flabba’s new tracks. Spikiri is very proud of his production on Flabba’s three songs.

Then we chill out to some more kwaito. It is a genre that can be quite aggressive at times, but Spikiri makes relaxing music. He has rediscovered the keyboards in a major way.

We move to a lounge area furnished in white leather. The mood is gentle, in keeping with Sunday afternoons.

The afternoon gets hotter and the crowds start arriving. DJ Zinhle takes to the decks and becomes the sexiest woman on the planet. She sways from side to side, her hips catching the beat, lost in her own world of music. The young guns of Kalawa, Black Motion, have been called in by Oskido to liven up the party with their drums. Their close friend Tira is on his way for a DJ set. The sun is going down and the crowd is getting bigger.

My cue to depart. There is only so much a gal can do before she gets tired.

I leave the picnic, which has now become a full on party, with many happy memories. Twenty years on Kalawa Jazmee is stronger than ever. Someone once said that Kalawa Jazmee were not Y2K compatible. This could be because they are already Y3K compatible.

From the early kwaito beginnings, which they basically invented, to the re-invention of Afro-pop through wedding songs, to entrenching Afro-house and then re-inventing kwaito with that Durban sound, Kalawa Jazmee are one of the greatest cultural gifts to our young democracy.

Their new sound, which fuses West African influences with deep Southern African beats, is yet another creative revolution in South African music, yet another way they are changing the music landscape.

Their branding is as organic as it is brilliant. Their philosophy of no stress is effortlessly carried from the studio to the dancefloor. Their work ethic and talent is reflected in their success at the Metro FM Awards. This week Kalawa owned Durban and Metro FM.

Oh, and they really know how to put on a party.

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