Music
Zwai Bala produced most of TKZee's hits. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

The 10 Best Kwaito Producers

Get to know the the 10 most notable old school kwaito producers.

"Kwaito will never die," tweeted the rapper Riky Rick about a week ago.

This was after he'd just released a new single called "Stay Shining." The song features fellow rapper Cassper Nyovest, alongside the Durban kwaito artist Professor, Alie Keys and the DJ duo Major League DJz.




"Stay Shining" has a kwaito flavor to it, which is nothing new for Riky Rick, Cassper Nyovest and Major League DJz.

Kwaito, a South African genre that was big in the 90s and early 2000s, lives vicariously through hip-hop in 2017. Artists such as Spoek Mathambo, OkMalumKoolKat, Cassper Nyovest, K.O and many others, have all referenced kwaito in their songs, sparking a hip-hop subgenre called 'new age kwaito.'

Durban kwaito (Big Nuz, DJ Tira, Character, Professor, etc.), which leans more towards house, with a higher tempo than conventional kwaito, is the main reason there's still a kwaito category at the South African Music Awards and Metro FM Awards.

Pure kwaito in 2017 is not as popular as it was in the 90s and early 2000s, when it was the youth genre of choice. Artists such as Trompies, Alaska, Zola, Guffy, TKZee, Boom Shaka, Bongo Maffin, Arthur, Mandoza, and hordes of others have provided the soundtrack to every December without fail every year.

Those artists, however, were nothing without the architects of the kwaito sound. It was the producers who had us gyrating and bobbing our heads to those bass lines and thumping drums while reciting those catchy hooks.

Kwaito started in the late-80s to the early-90s. At the height of bubblegum music (Brenda Fassie, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Chicco etc.), the then-new generation needed its own voice.

Mandla "Spikiri" Mofokeng, who used to be part of bubblegum producer and artist Chicco Twala's ensemble as a dancer, joined forces with Mduduzi "Mdu" Masilela, a seasoned piano player, to form the duo MM Deluxe in the late-80s. They released their debut album Where Were You? in 1988. Those two, with the influence of Chicco, arguably gave birth to kwaito.

By the mid-90s, kwaito was unstoppable (M'du released his hit single "Tsiki Tsiki" in 1994). What set kwaito apart from bubblegum was its slower tempo and that most of the lyrics weren't sung, but chanted–just like in rap.

At the height of Nelson Mandela's release in 1990 and his election as the first democratically elected president of South Africa in 1994, the kids had every reason to celebrate. Apartheid was a thing of the past, and the country was optimistic for a new South Africa (that hasn't gone so well, but that's a story for another day).

Kwaito was playing loud in taxis, shebeens, hair salons, homes and everywhere black people were. The youth radio station YFM is cited as the first to give kwaito a platform.

Sonically, the genre could be, at the time, described as a slowed down version of house music and lyrically as a less dense version of hip-hop, as the lyrics were repetitive and catchy.

While the producers contributed immensely to what kwaito became, just like in every other genre, they're hardly ever part of the conversation. The work that producers, like Spikiri, Oskido and Bruce Sebitlo, have done for artists such as Mafikizolo, Mawillies, and Trompies, doesn't always get mentioned when the artists' names are brought up.

But what is Mandoza's smash hit "Nkalakatha" without Gabi Le Roux's and menacing bass and electric guitar? What's TKZee's "Shibobo" without that sample from the band Europe's "The Final Countdown?" What is any Malaika song without those organ keys and big bass lines by Guffy? What's your favorite kwaito hit without that memorable beat?

In the next 10 pages, we look at the most prolific, consistent and impactful kwaito producers of the yesteryears, in no particular order.

Read: South African Hip-Hop and Kwaito's Long Love-Hate Relationship

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Op-Ed: Kanye West In Africa Is Music Marketing At Its Worst

Scream all you want. Feel the euphoria of Kanye moving to our drums, but don't forget he's here for marketing.

One of the most interesting parts of the music industry is the marketing of an album. In developed music markets, accomplished professionals and creatives sit in a room and decide how best they want to sell the music. It's the norm. Many people deliberate and develop a roll-out plan that is improved until it's perfect for execution.

When JAY-Z rented out billboards for 4:44, with everyone wondering what it meant around the world, that is marketing. Mr Eazi drawing a towering mural of himself and Giggs in London, was another marketing tactic to push his single "London Town." Falz created an entire movement filled with conventionally attractive men, and named it the 'Sweet Boys Association,' because he had a single that needed to be sold to fans. Perhaps, what takes the cake in the world of African music marketing is one crazy move by a little known Nigerian artist named Skibii. You see, this guy died and rose again from the dead, just like sweet biblical adult Jesus. He had a single somewhere that needed the attention. Death and resurrection was his thing.

Kanye West is in Africa for marketing. The US rap superstar is holed up at the Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda, surrounded by his friends, colleagues and family. He is here because he has an album to release named Yandhi, and somehow, he found his way to the Motherland, where's he's built two outdoor domes, as his working studio. He isn't working from inside a house like a mere mortal. He's in the wild, connecting to Mother Nature and nourishing foliage. This is Africa, Kanye West is an African-American. His ancestors came from this part of the world. He has a claim to this soil.

Kanye West was supposed to drop his ninth studio album on Saturday, September 29. After two days of waiting, three Saturday Night Live performances, one tweet from Kim Kardashian-West and an appearance on TMZ Live, Yandhi was pushed back to Black Friday, November 23. West admitted that he "didn't finish" the album in time, and a member of his management staff suggested pushing the release back.

"I started incorporating sounds that you never heard before and pushing and having concepts that people don't talk about," West said. "We have concepts talking about body-shaming and women being looked down upon for how many people that they slept with. It's just a full Ye album and those five albums I dropped earlier were like superhero rehabilitation and now the alien Ye is fully back in mode… We're going to Africa in two weeks to record. I felt this energy when I was in Chicago. I felt the roots. We have to go to what is known as Africa."

In Africa, Kanye West hasn't laid low. Photos from his arrival hit the internet, and somehow, he was filmed listening, dancing and vibing to African music. Those songs include Mystro's "Immediately," and Burna Boy's "Ye." The videos have gone viral, Africans are wowed by Kanye's interaction with their music, reactions and takes, Africa is moved by Kanye West interacting with our music. Somehow, I used to think we are over this type of event. The event where an an American superstar, who has a huge fan base in Africa, dances to our music, and we lose it. But I was wrong. This content format still has power.

Scream all you want. Feel the euphoria of Kanye moving to our drums, but don't forget he's here for marketing. His album is about to drop, and he's publicly alerted the world that he needs to be in Africa and its strong cultural influence to complete the project. Everyone is watching, the conversation has global traction, and Africans are supporting him. Since Kanye got heat for his infamous "Slavery was a choice," comment, I knew Africa will become a part of that story. The past week has seen him visit President Donald Trump at the white house, and further moved away from the love of his African-American base in the US. Black people are not behind Kanye West right now. The media is tearing him to shreds. Celebrities are in a social media race to dissociate themselves from him. Many fans aren't proud of their icon. But he is in the Motherland, dancing to its native music, and we can all cheer.

"I'm in Africa recording," he says in a 9 minute video on Twitter about mind control free thinking and his greatness. "We just took them to the future with the dome. The music is the best on the planet. I am the best living recording artist. We, rather, because the spirits flow through me. The spirit of Fela, the spirit of Marley, the spirit of Pac flows through me. We know who the best. We know."

On the surface, Africa appears to be a gimmick. A play by a great artist to expand the story of his album for marketing talking points. Yandhi is already anticipated, and generations after us will study his art and point to this project as the one where Africa played a direct role. This black continent is a marketing tool for Kanye. Son of Fela Kuti, Seun Kuti, has already disassociated Fela Kuti's spirit from Kanye's claims. "On behalf of the Kuti family, I want to state that the spirit of Olufela Anikulapo Kuti isn't anywhere near Kanye West," Seun announced on Instagram.

Perhaps marketing isn't Kanye's only reason for his African trip. Maybe, the world is too harsh on Kanye West and his new level of introspective vibrations. Maybe we aren't seeing the bigger picture. Oh gosh! We might all be victims of this grand mind control programme that West talks about! What if Kanye West is on these shores for some actual influence? Africa has a rich spectrum of sounds, laden with enough culture, soul and character to influence any type of music. From Cairo down to Lagos, there's enough music to add colour.

A clear way for justification of his African trip is perhaps for Kanye West to give back. He is connecting to the 'roots' after all. He is soaking in the energy for inspiration. Perhaps he might actually get to work with an African artist while on the continent. Already, Perhaps Africa's contributions to the project will be anchored by an African. Already, in his creative dome, Ugandan producer extraordinaire, Benon Mugumbya, has been pictured. If he gets some of that Yhandi shine, it wouldn't hurt.

Kanye officially has to be the first hip-hop star to make a trip to the continent for direct inspiration since Africa began to hug the spotlight as an interesting market for global music players. Recent years have witnessed the penetration of African music into global pop spaces. Africa has become the new cool. And as her sonic influence grows, more artists would continue to find new ways to interact. Kanye is making a splash with this. Perhaps, he will be the inspiration for more exchange between Africa and Europe.

Perhaps, his music isn't his true reason for this trip. Maybe Ye just wants to get away from the madness from the USA, and go find Wakanda. Maybe he will discover Ye-Kanda. Either way, only the final version of Yhandi will contain the answers that we seek, and Kanye West's true intention. For now, he is already winning. All those marketing points are already helping the project.

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Belgium's First Black Mayor Is a Congolese Immigrant

Pierre Kompany, who came to Belgium from the DRC as a refugee in 1975, was elected mayor of a Brussels borough this week.

Pierre Kompany, a Congolese immigrant and father of professional football players Vincent and Francois Kompany, has been elected mayor of the Ganshoren borough in Brussels, BBC reports.

This is a history-making moment, as this victory makes Kompany Belgium's first black mayor.

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Family of Abducted Tanzanian Billionaire Offers Reward for Information on His Whereabouts

The family of Mohammed Dweji, Africa's youngest billionaire, is offering $437,000 for information that will lead to his safe return.

Latst week, Tanzania's richest man and Africa's youngest billionaire Mohammed Dewji was abducted outside of an upscale hotel in Dar es Salam. His whereabouts still remain unknown, and now his family if offering a hefty financial reward to anyone with information that will help lead to his safe return.

Dweji's family is offering 1 billion Tanzanian shillings (~$437,000) to anyone with information on his whereabouts. reports Forbes.

"We would like to thank God, and applaud the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania and its institutions for the hard work they are currently doing to make sure that our beloved son is found," says Azim Dewji, the family spokesperson. "We urge you to continue keeping MO in your prayers as our nation continues the search for him."

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