Kalawa Jazmee marks 25 and still going strong

By Amanda Maliba Time of article published Jul 1, 2019

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Kalawa Jazmee celebrated 25 years of shaping South Africa’s youth culture and unearthing 67 celebrated music careers.

The record label’s role not only helped shape the face of the local music industry but also served as the backdrop of the country’s transition to democracy.

To celebrate this tremendous feat, the legendary music makers have a bumper packed programme that is spread out over a couple of months and includes a release of a Kalawa Jazmee’s 25 Years Celebration album, the label’s artists headlining the 2019 DStv Delicious International Food and Music Festival, a TV documentary called The Story of Kalawa Jazmee and a Tribute to Kalawa Jazmee Live Festival, planned to cap off 2019.

Formed at the time when Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G had a violent East Coast versus West Coast feud that resulted in the loss of lives, the founders of Kalawa Jazmee started out with bitter rivalries - feuding over the ownership of a song gimmick.

Trompies Jazmee records, co-owned by Mahoota and Spikiri, had a massive brawl with Kalawa records, owned by Oskido in partnership with Don Laka and DJ Christos Katsaitis, over who owned a hit song that took South Africa by storm.

To resolve their ‘beef’, the musicians opted to merge their labels - forming one of SA’s most formidable record companies.

“Oskido and Spikiri (real names Oscar Mdlongwa and Mandla Mofokeng respectively), were key to the peace that was achieved because, even when there were those who didn’t see the bigger vision, they did,” said Zynne “Mahoota” Sibika, who is also one of the six founders alongside Bruce “Dope” Sebitlo, Emmanuel “Mjokes” Matsane and Don Laka.

“Our aim was to shake the industry through merging two powerful houses that came together to make music,” he added.

Harold Rangakane "Speedy" Matlhaku 25th Anniversary Tribute Launch of Kalawa Jazmee in Rosebank. Picture: Itumeleng English/African news Agency(ANA)

Their very first release after the amalgamation was Boom Shaka’s second album, followed by the likes of Thebe, Trompies, Mafikizolo, Bongo Maffin and Alaska - all of whom became ambassadors for township lifestyle. Overtime, the record label catapulted the likes of DJ Tira, Black Coffee, Black Motion and Ihashi Elimhlophe among others - who went on to build their very own legacies.

“The Kalawa Jazmee journey has allowed us to cross paths with so many celebrated names and it is such an honour. When I look at all the work we’ve done, I feel like a fan of all those artists. I was so fortunate to work with great minds like Bra Hugh Masekela. I remember when he came to our studios, he was nervous - meanwhile we were worshipping him and his greatness,” said Mahoota.

Their success also speaks to the power of forming meaningful alliances and recognising individual strengths and abilities, even in the face of tough times, he admits.

“Through music we were also able to change perceptions and influence society by establishing a new pop culture that encouraged the youth of the time to forget the past and focus on where we were headed. Those were the times when people were very angry, violence abounded but we used that opportunity to make a difference,” he said.

Even with so much done, Kalawa Jazmee’s journey is not over yet, as they hope to continue making more moves that will open up the industry, said Mahoota.

The Sunday Independent

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