STUCK in traffic in a taxi on my way to work one day, the driver presses play and Mgarimbe’s voice yells: “Sista Bethina, in the meantime… oh sh*t.”
“ The driver looks at me and says: “I heard this boy’s new song, Thenga, on Ukhozi FM the other day, but it doesn’t even come close to this.” With that he twists the volume knob to maximum and navigates his way through the morning rush.
With that in mind I scheduled a meeting with the kwaito singer and he picked a snug coffee spot in Florida Road. After a 20-minute wait Mgarimbe (pictured) called to say he will be late and sent his friend Hlathi to keep me company. Forty-five minutes later Mgarimbe strolled into the café and apologised profusely for being late.
“I am sorry I am late my sister, I just got held up in a meeting, but at least I sent you the next big thing in Durban kwaito to keep you entertained,” he said with a gesture to Hlathi.
It was 2006 when Mgarimbe and his late friend Jabu Mngeni introduced the world to the hit Sista Bethina. It was a song many people loved to hate because of its vulgar and explicit lyrical content as well as its catchy beat.
“The funny thing about Sister Bethina is that it was never meant to be a song. It was just a joke I recorded with my friend Jabu and played in clubs. The next thing we know it’s playing in taxis and gathering fame before it was even released. Then we got to record it formally with Ghetto Ruff because there were other versions of the song cropping up. Regardless of the song getting pirated and the issues around it, Sista Bethina is one of my best-selling songs,” said Mgarimbe.
After the controversy surrounding the song, Mgarimbe decided it was time to leave the limelight and gather some perspective.
“I needed space, I had to sort my personal life out and I couldn’t do that alongside my music life. Having a blow-by-blow account of your personal life splashed on the front pages of the newspapers really dented my reputation. In the headlines I was abusing my child because of a nosy neighbour who heard me discipline my child and reported it to the police. I depended on the law to prove my innocence and it did. Next, it was Mgarimbe arrives at friend’s (Jabu) funeral sloshed, showing off his new BMW. I decided that was the final straw, no one is putting a gun to my head to release an album annually. So, I relocated to Durban and reconnected with my family and figured out where my life was going,” he said, shaking his head at the memory of that part of his life.
Last year Mgarimbe decided he was ready to get his music career back on track and released the album Grand Entrance. The 12- track offering is a collection of kwaito dance tracks which people have come to expect from Durban, which leaves the question, what’s new?
“I tried to be myself as much as I can on this album. I think those who are disappointed with the sound are people who expected me to sound like Sister Bethina, but that can’t be because I have changed. I do not sound like Big Nuz, but people have their own views and I respect that. At least I have proved that I am not a one-hit wonder and I know some people like the new sound and I am doing this for them,” said Mgarimbe.