“Every sound in the world evolves. There is no sound that remains stagnant and survives.”
With these words, the king of kwaito, Arthur Mafokate, sought to put the relentless question “Is kwaito dead?” to bed.
The maestro, who has been a part of this genre for more than two decades, says it only seems “dead” because of how oppressed the artists are.
“It’s not left out, they are trying to crush it,” he says.
“Remember that the mindset of a kwaito artist is independent. This is the ‘I can do it on my own, I come from the ghetto’ mindset, which is a language that major record companies didn’t want to hear.”
Over the years, kwaito has not had many entries in most music awards, notably the South African Music Awards (Sama), because of the hardline stance that the industry took.
“We ended up boycotting awards. We had a lot of artists producing kwaito but if you (the media) are sending out messages that it is dead, how will we be motivated to enter?” he asks. “If we are made to believe kwaito is dead, then, yes, it will die.”
But with the growing production of kwaito in the past year, Mafokate believes there will be more entries in the Samas.
“I think this year we will have a lot of entries in the kwaito category. It’s going to be the most exciting section because a lot of albums were released and there is no other category to put them under.
“It’s exciting. I just hope they (artists) do go out there and enter for the awards,” he says.
“It is one genre we can be proud of because we created it in our country. It talks the language of the street, the language that me and you understand. It can tell a better South African story than any other genre because it is who we are.
“Even our hip hop is adopting the kwaito approach because it’s the only thing that is authentically us.”Whether we like it or not, wherever the kwaito beat plays, it’ll remind you of home.”
RiSA chief executive Nhlanhla Sibisi echoed Mafokate’s sentiments on kwaito. As an organisation, they have plans to support artists and ensure that entries increase for the Samas.
“We have engaged with record companies that they need to start investing more in the genre. There needs to be an open discussion on what we are missing as an industry in terms of making it (kwaito) a timeless genre that is not associated with a specific youth period.
“It is a heritage genre that we cannot afford to lose,” says Sibisi.
Not only are the Samas going down to the grassroots level and encouraging more entries, but they are negotiating with relevant decision-makers in the industry on how they can support artists.
Among the options being considered is an increase in the entry period from one month to three.
Last year, the total entries for the Best Kwaito Album was six, a slight increase over the past years.