Working at crossing musical borders

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TO Okmalumkoolkat2

It started as a song, but became a mantra – and a Twitter hashtag – quicker than one could say “work”. The “it” in question is a simple lyric: Sebenza, only rest in December.

The rhyme master? Smiso Zwane (pictured), more popularly known as Okmalumkoolkat (pronounced ok-maloom-cool-cat). The rapper- singer and one half of a township tech duo called Dirty Paraffin, Okmalumkoolkat is the voice you hear on LV’s Sebenza, a song that shares the title of the album released by the European producers, LV. Sebenza is the Zulu word for “work.”

As legend has it, for the South London production trio of Will Horrocks, Simon Williams and Gerv Gordo, who go by the name LV, this Sebenza album happened almost by chance.

After being linked up by a friend, LV came to Joburg to work with the poster-child of township tech, Spoek Mathambo, about two years ago.

Mathambo consistently speaks very highly of Okmalumkoolkat and Dirty Paraffin. Upon the release of his Nombolo One compilation, Mathambo told me that “Smiso and Zamani, who make up Dirty Paraffin, are an encyclopaedia of that age of South African music – that early kwaito.

“Their Nombolo One would have been more sick.”

Okmalumkoolkat uses his kwaito influences as a springboard to a weird brand of nu-age kwaito that is nostalgic and refreshing at the same time.

Mathambo introduced LV to Okmalumkoolkat and a zany song called Boomslang was born and then came Sebenza. Ironically, Okmalumkoolkat is doing everything, but resting this December.

A graphic designer by day, Okmalumkoolkat has been on a three-city tour with Mathambo and the kids who’ve got next, Big Fkn Gun and DJ-ing at clubs around Joburg.

It’s hard to pin the rapper-singer down, but as LV have realised, once you do, it’s well worth it. Sebenza isn’t the only song Okmalumkoolkat has contributed to this album.

Others include International Pansula, the hit single Spitting Cobra and the infectious Zulu Compura where Okmalumkoolkat mouths off about being a Zulu computer. Last name Macintosh, everything’s super and four more songs.

But he’s not the only one who collaborated with LV on this cool album.

The Cape Town-based kwaito duo Ruffest also do the most, while you can hear Mathambo on a couple of tracks, too.

What’s weird is that despite the disc being readily available, schedules and other things meant the trio of LV didn’t meet all of their collaborators, even though you’d never know it from listening to Sebenza.

LV member Williams told Dummy Magazine: “Will and I haven’t even met Smiso, worked in a studio with him, or got to chat with him in person, but we’ve managed to do this whole project, basically, with only Gerv having met three of the four vocalists.”

No matter, the point was to sebenza and sebenza they did.

Just last month, Okmalumkoolkat told One Small Seed that LV “respect my song- writing skills and my music direction” so it’s safe to say that in the future, you may hear way more than Sebenza from their collaborations. But for now, dig into Sebenza.

• LV’s Sebenza is in stores.


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