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Uhuru have produced two of the biggest |hits of the year – Mafikizolo’s Khona and Happiness. The four producers are about to release their second album, Our Father, which just might make them the biggest thing to date. However, don’t behave like rock stars when you haven’t earned the right, warns Therese Owen.
My rule is: a 20-minute waiting period for rockers and a 30-minute waiting period for kwaito artists, ’cos, ya know, African time etcetera.
As for the Kalawa Jazmee men, ie Mahoota, Oskido, Spikiri et al, we have come to a workable agreement with them and their artists and the times they arrive.
It is also a well-documented fact that Kalawa Jazmee has never fallen out with any of their artists. The five directors of Kalawa also nurture their artists before unleashing them on the world.
They are one of the very few South African record companies that actually grooms and grows artists. By the time their artists are ready for the big time, they know their place.
The artists take their cue from the directors who do not bother with having egos. Their work is their passion. Their passion is their work.
The label’s history for landscaping the musical texture of this country is phenomenal. Think Boom Shaka, Trompies, Brothers of Peace, all of whom were the beginning and definition of kwaito.
Then the label went and reinvented Afro-pop with Mafikizolo. Durban kwaito followed with T’zozo and Professor’s Woza Durban, which opened the way for Tira and his Afrotainment label.
Oskido introduced Tsonga and Venda to kwaito/house with Banane Mavoko and Tsa Mandebele. Out with kasi taal and in with lesser-spoken languages.
Late last year, hanging out at their Gallo Manor studio, Oskido said: “Therese, my baby, you gotta interview Uhuru.” Why, Oskido?
“Because they are the next big thing. They are brilliant, rocking producers.” Hmmm, whatever.
Come the Metro FM Awards weekend in Durban in February.
On the Friday night, Kalawa Jazmee took the opportunity to introduce the media to the come-back album of Mafikizolo called Re-United. It was held at Tira’s restaurant, Uberzulu, and besides the media, celebs like Lucia Mthiyane and 5FM’s Thomas Msengana were there. It was the first time we had been introduced to this new sound.
It was a mix of South African house and West African rhythms. Yes, there was that romantic Afro- pop that made Mafikizolo who they were. But, those two tracks changed the musical landscape. Yet again, Kalawa Jazmee were ahead of the game. And, seven months later, Khona and Happiness are this year’s national anthems.
Theo Kgosinkwe and Nhlanhla Nciza do a sterling effort on the vocals. They prove one more time that they are two of the best singers in Africa.
But who were the producers? None other than Uhuru. So, was Oskido right? Are Uhuru the next Spikiri?
A few weeks before the release of their debut album, I decided to find out.
After an hour-and-a-half of waiting and impatiently calling Kalawa peeps including Mahoota and Spikiri, three of the four producers finally arrive. The dreadlocked Mapiano, apparently, was unavailable.
The larger-than-life Maphorisa and the smaller DJ Clap strolled in, as did Xeli. Xelimpilo is that voice in Khona. I must admit, I was a little in awe. It felt like meeting Trompies for the first time and their unpunctuality was instantly forgiven.
However, that soon changed. Kalawa artists are not known for their arrogance or egos. Think Dr Malinga. He is is probably the most in-demand artist in the country, yet his exuberance and his cue from the five directors will not allow him to be a total tjop in the same vein as Kelly Khumalo and her jailbird boyfriend, Jub Jub.
But these three boys! Yoh! Claims of having produced all the big songs all on their lonesome for Kalawa Jazmee flew around the table. It was as if they, and they alone, had saved the independent record company from certain death.
I didn’t bother asking Maphorisa about the rumours implying that he was the first artist to be suspended from the label as allegedly he had sneakily sold one of his productions to another label.
The fact that they claimed to have produced all the big hits from the label, and not actually co-produced them was perhaps a bit off the mark. But then again, who’s counting when your name is on hits like Professor’s Jezebel and Mahoota vs Vetkuk’s Stokvel?
“We’re both good producers,” said Maphorisa, referring to his relationship with DJ Clap.
“We looked at the industry and found a hole and we both found a formula. There is a difference that we want to make.”
It was the lesser-known Kalawa director Mjokes who scouted them and put Uhuru together.
“He changed our lives three years ago,” said DJ Clap.
“We are actually keyboard players. We decided to work together and change everything.”
During the interview, Maphorisa tries to tell me what to write, and like a gentle Rottweiler I tell him to back off. Why this arrogance?
Yes, my young man, your album will be the hottest release of the year. Their single, Y Tjukutja featuring the rather troublesome Professor, Oskido and DJ Bucks, is blowing up as fast as Khona did and, perhaps will be the single of the year.
Yes, Uhuru are, as Oskido predicted, the best producers in a long, long while. And, again, yes, they have enormous talent and changed the game in terms of not only South African music, but Pan-African music.
However, unless their egos are controlled, just like Zola and Thandiswa Mazwai, they will rise and fall pretty quickly into obscurity. Longevity has been proved in people like Oskido and Mahoota because they are in the business of music and creativity, not in the business of egos.
Kalawa Jazmee turn 20 next year. Their knack for spotting talent and game-changing is legendary. Let’s hope Uhuru will do the same. Down, boys, down!