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Meet Sands, the Swazi Singer Making SiSwati Fashionable

With his hit single "Tigi," Swazi musician Sands has achieved what no other Swazi has done before.

In December, there was no escaping “Tigi,” the catchy single by the Swazi musician Sands.


It was the 2016 crossover song on Swazi radio, and also in some stations in the Mpumalanga province in South Africa, where the SiSwati language—which Sands sings in—is spoken. The single hasn’t lost its tang, especially after the release of its video. It premiered on Live Amp, the biggest music show on South African television—a first for a Swazi musician.

“Tigi” kicks off with an airy sinewy synth enhanced with a little reverb, before the drums kick in, forcing you to bob your head. It’s not clear what will happen before Sands starts humming and, eventually, crooning effortlessly. It’s when the single's hook comes in that it becomes impossible to not move at least one part of your body. It’s clear why "Tigi" became a hit.

“It’s a surprise,” is the answer Sands gives when I ask if he expected the song to be this big, especially considering he’s an afro-soul artist known for laid-back music. “But also when you write a song, you always give it your all. I am diverse, and it will be clear as my career progresses, but yes I do specialize in afro-soul.”

His previous single, “Vuma,” didn’t do bad either. It was the quintessential soulful Sands: a beautiful love song that was essentially a marriage proposal. It’s a minimalist work of art—he sings over mellow keys, subtle hi-hats and a pulsating kick, displaying all dynamics of his voice. Towards the end of the song, he hits the high notes like there’s no tomorrow.

Sands and I are sitting in a restaurant in the heart of Mbabane, the capital city of Swaziland, and he's telling me about his relationship with his producer, SubJamz, when our conversation is interrupted by a man who could be in his early thirties.

“I want you to know that I didn’t burn it, I bought the album,” says the man, who stretches his hand out to shake the singer’s hand. “My favourite track is 'Kuba Nawe,'” the man continues. “I play it on my way to and from work. Well done. Congratulations.” Sands replies with a resounding “thanks” and a light smile.

Scenarios like this aren’t new to Sands anymore. “I’ve received great feedback on the album. I’m actually speechless,” he says. “What I like is that people have their own favorite songs apart from 'Tigi' and 'Vuma.'”

“Tigi” isn’t the man’s first hit. In 2014, he teamed up with renowned Swazi poet and rapper Qibho Intalektual. The duo released an EP, which had a successful single, “Ntfombatane Lenhle,” that was almost as infectious as “Tigi.”

“It took some time to lure him to get into studio with me,” he says when I ask him how the collaboration came about. Sands had just finished studying music, which he did concurrently with his PR degree at the University of Swaziland, where Intalektual was also studying.

Sands was still performing under his birth name Sandziso, with the same four-piece band he plays with. “We’ve been together for seven years,” he says.

Sands' journey as an artist began in high school when his brother-in-law bought him a guitar and taught him a few chords. He taught himself from then on and got a confidence boost from studying music. He performed around campus until he met Intalektual, and they started recording with the producer Sub Jamz, who's highly respected in the kingdom.

What “Tigi” achieved is a first for a Swazi song. The hip-hop duo Siyinqaba, in 2010, had a song, “Gwayimane,” that was almost as big (they performed it on Big Brother Africa at a point in time), but Sands’s level is of a height no Swazi artist has ever reached. “Tigi” is playing on national South African stations like Ukhozi FM, Metro FM and Umhlobo Wenene FM.

The natural question is: how did he do it? Well, it was a combination of many things.

“Mostly it’s because it was a SiSwati song,” says Sands. He goes on to state that because not many songs in the language are released, it sets him apart, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s good at what he does either. “Two, the backing came from home,” he continues. “Thirdly, it’s a danceable song. Four, it’s a love song. It’s got all the elements and many genres in one—jazz, kwaito, house, it has everything.”

Sands. Photography by Sabelo Mkhabela.

What Sands and his team also did was invest in the promotion of the song. “[We went] on a radio tour in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Mozambique, because we felt it had potential. Everyone who had heard it had said it was nice,” he says.

December was a busy month, the busiest of his life, he says. He was performing every week, sometimes even on weekdays. He performed in corporate functions and South African festivals such as Midmar and Groundzero.

Things are slowly changing, but in the past a lot of Swazi musicians were singing in Zulu, because South African music is just that big in the country, so the influence is inevitable. One artist who made singing in SiSwati cool is the successful soul singer Bholoja.

For Sands, it was a conscious decision to sing in his mother tongue. “I thought I would have more opportunities than any other languages,” he says. “SiSwati is also an official language in South Africa, but it hasn’t been explored much, such that people in Mpumalanga are like, ‘Oh wow, thanks, man, finally we have something in SiSwati, now we can’t be looked down upon.'

Sands’s eponymous album Sands Of Time, which “Tigi” and “Vuma” are on, sounds like money. Save for “Tigi,” most of the songs are slow to mid-tempo. It’s calming music you want to relax to in your room in the evening, the type of music to hear in a jazz club.

Sands is aware that his fan base is mostly young adults who have a refined ear and an understanding of his subject matter, which mostly revolves around relationships, and he’s serving them so well.

He’s looking to drop more singles and perform more in 2017. In the meantime, if you're in Swaziland or South Africa, simply turn on your radio for more.

Stream and purchase Sands' "Tigi" on iTunes and Spotify.

 

Yes, Shaquille O'Neal Dropped A Diss Remix of 'Mans Not Hot'

"The real" Shaq responds to British comedian Big Shaq's viral grime hit. The ting goes skrrraaa.

Today, in things you didn't know you would ever hear (or needed to), NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal has dropped a diss remix to British comedian Michael Dapaah aka Big Shaq aka Roadman Shaq aka MC Quakez's "Mans Not Hot."

The track's a response to Big Shaq's ultra viral freestyle on BBC Radio 1's "Fire in the Booth" segment, where the comedian first dropped his now timeless "the ting goes skrrraaa" lines. Since its release back in August, the clip's gone beyond viral—Michael Dapaah aka Big Shaq's even released an official version of the track.

Fast forward to last week, the NBA's Shaq went on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, in which The Roots played "Mans Not Hot" as his walk-on music.

Well, with all the attention on the track, it seems the OG Shaq's taken notice and, in his own tongue-in-cheek way, has fired off some bars at the comedian taking his name.

To make things even more confusing, he's also joined by Toronto rapper ShaqisDope on the comedic diss track.

"There's only one Big Shaq," the NBA star rhymes.

Check out Shaq's diss and the original video below. skrrraaa pap bap bap.

A Nasty Boy Magazine's 'Creative Class of 2018' Highlights 40 African Creatives Who Are Disrupting the Status Quo

For its inaugural list, the trailblazing Nigerian publication highlights 40 creatives who are disrupting the norm through art, photography, writing and more.

With it's emphasis on unapologetically interrupting the status quo and championing all things striking, artistic and unconventional, A Nasty Boy is the rare and severely necessary publication shaking up Nigeria's conservative media landscape.

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Erykah Badu Curated A New Fela Kuti Box Set

Badu: "Fela Kuti is a Fucking Genius. Please listen to these tracks, preferably with a nice blunt.. with a nice slow burn."

To celebrate Fela Kuti's birthday and the many Felabrations going down across the globe, Knitting Factory Records has announced the upcoming arrival of their new Fela Kuti box set.

The new box set, which will be the fourth installment the label has released from the king of Afrobeat, will be curated by none-other-than Erykah Badu.

"Fela Kuti is a Fucking Genius," Badu writes in a press statement. "Please listen to these tracks, preferably with a nice blunt.. with a nice slow burn."


Erykah Badu's selections include her "favorite Fela Piece of all times," 1980's Coffin For Head of State, alongside Yellow Fever (1976), No Agreement (1977), J.J.D. (Johnny Just Drop) (1977), V.I.P. (1979), Army Arrangement (1984), and Underground System (1992).

The box set will be limited to only 3,000 copies, which come with a 16" x 24" poster designed by Nigerian artist Lemi Ghariokwu, the creative force behind 26 of Fela Kuti's iconic album covers, and a 20-page full-color booklet. The booklet features seven personal essays written by Erykah Badu.

Previous Fela Kuti box sets have been curated by Questlove, Ginger Baker, and Brian Eno for Knitting Factory Records.

Pre-order Erykah Badu's Fela Kuti box set now.

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