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IN all my many, many years of interviewing artists, my interview with iFani has to rank as the most “out there”.
At one stage he was explaining why he is releasing four albums. It’s all got to do with Pythagoras and René Descartes’s Cartesian plane.
There is a circle and the Cartesian plane and the third album must be released after the first album because in the circle the third quadrant is opposite to the first quadrant. And did you know that he also released an album before I Believe In Me? It’s the negative album that lives in the very centre of the quadrant. iFani describes it as having lower frequencies.
“It is street, crude, dirty, while the other albums are higher, lighter. I have 1 500 copies which will be released after the others have been released.”
All of the quadrant theories were completed before iFani had even recorded one song for the project.
And then, of course, there is his name. This involves his real Xhosa name, his grandfather’s name and the square root of radical which is “i”. By this stage he was writing everything on paper as I just could not get it. Really, maths in a music interview? It took me back to my school days which traumatised me. The initial meaning is “it’s not the same” in Xhosa which is actually spelt “Ayifani”. I could get that, but when the square root of minus one came into it, it was beyond my comprehension.
Throughout the interview he mentioned that he only had one friend numerous times.
“I am both left-brained and right-brained, but it is a struggle every day,” says he of the crazy videos and even crazier rap.
Not only is he riding high with his (sort of) debut album, he also has degrees from UCT including an honours in computer engineering.
“I want routine and sometimes my room is clean, sometimes messy. I have this crazy side. I never realised I am both right- and left-brained until I did psychometric tests and one of them said I was bipolar. Most of the psychologists had never encountered my kind before. There are about five percent of us in the world. But it is difficult to make friends.”
So why did he choose to do engineering before rapping?
“I chose engineering because the only way out was education. I was a nerd at school, but a broke one. I never had expensive glasses.”
His is a very interesting story and it is almost as if he was ordained to travel this road. iFani, however, does not believe that.
“I look back at what happened and I understand. I put reason into the things that happen to me.
“My mother moved out of my grandmother’s house in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth, when I was seven. She moved into a shack in Motherwell. It was one room and there were three children and herself. There was no electricity. She wouldn’t work and she was always out. I couldn’t go and play with the other kids because I was always so hungry. I would just sit and read my notes from school.
“This happened until I was 13. In those years there was only one thing I wanted and that was to escape Motherwell.”
“I would run to my gran’s house who lived 30km away. Then my aunts would send me back on a bus. When my grandfather died my grandmother asked me to come and live with her and help her out. It was too much. I had freedom, food, electricity, television. I failed that year and she sent me back to the shack. I then asked her what I could do to return. She said ‘education’ and that’s when I became a nerd.”
After being encouraged by the principal of the Ethembeni Enrichment Centre to win a bursary to study at either Wits or UCT, iFani chose computer engineering.
He won a fellowship during his studies but decided he wanted to take time off and unleash the creative side of his brain. For six months he wrote poetry in New Brighton and then went back to Cape Town where he found a real job in computers.
A promotion led him to Joburg and where his love for sound engineering saw him produce his best and only friend’s album.
A bonus track of iFani rapping had a positive response and so began his journey involving Cartesian plans, Pythagoras theories and rap music. He really is a great rapper – and then there are those funny, insane, unique, fast-paced, highly entertaining, imaginative videos.
Three singles and videos into the album and he was snapped up by Sony. Now he’s riding high on charts around the country, on radio and TV and the gigs are coming in thick and fast. He has three more albums to release and then, who knows? The moon? Mars? Inventing the first 3D Cartesian plane?