Literature
Photo courtesy of Abantu Book Festival.

A Controversy Followed Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to Abantu Book Fest—How Did it Turn Out?

Attendees of the book festival had mixed reactions to her interview with Prof. Pumla Gqola.

All eyes are on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Those without seats in the noisy tent are seated at her feet. Everyone is listening intently. Cameras go off trying to catch her at her every angle. Our beloved Prof. Pumla Gqola, asks Adichie what exactly she intended with her comments on trans-women. Adichie responds: "When the trans noise began."


Some in the audience shake their heads in what may be disappointment, a few nod and the rest appear to be enraptured by Adichie. But no-one seems visibly distressed by her comments. No-one gets up and leaves. After Adichie is finished speaking, the hall erupts into applause.

Last week, the beloved annual Abantu Book Festival took place in Soweto, Johannesburg. This year's marquee guest was acclaimed Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She was received by a somewhat divided community due to her controversial comments last year about trans-folk during an interview with Britain's Channel 4 News last year.

The Abantu Book Festival is an annual event that celebrates the culture of reading and writing in a safe and inclusive space for black people. In its third year now, it has come to be one of the most highly anticipated literary events on the calendars of black South Africans and black folk in general.

Being this safe space, why did the organisers of the festival then invite Adichie given her past comments, comments she then rehashed?

Unsurprisingly, many who came to see Adichie speak were either unphased by the writer's reputation or defended her point.

Johannesburg writer Nobantu Shabangu, who identifies as non-binary and trans, expressed indifference to Adichie's presence at the festival citing that "womanhood and manhood are tenuous issues.''

Another attendee, Boitshepo Mvulane, was in vehement support of Adichie, her main argument being that "we need to have a better manner of debating so that there is enlightenment for both parties". She added that "many of us are ignorant about LGBT issues and it comes out in our nakedness at the dinner table".

Another attendee, Sixo Geilishe, asserted that "as a human rights activist, Adichie was simply a victim of the trap that one is intentionally being exclusive" and that "it was never her intention to do so."

Continuing her response, Adichie felt that she was in the beginning, on the defensive because she had been misunderstood. She asserted that she was on the side of trans-women and not against them, even going as far as saying that trans-women actually made the best case for feminism. In addition, she said that she refused to conform to the use of certain language which she claimed was an orthodoxy with which she was not going to align herself.

Listen to her full response below.



Twitter user @divanificent expressed how Adichie was not a victim of the culture of 'cancelling' she spoke of and how her transphobic views were dangerous given her standing and various platforms.


A troubling aspect of the controversy is how Abantu has not directly responded to any of the concerns of both attendees and those who did not attend. They could not be reached for comment at the time of publication. Several prominent South African writers who attended Abantu, feminists in their own right, have not publicly condemned Adichie's comments. Perhaps the excitement of bagging an internationally revered author prevents people from being willing to rock the boat? Abantu has established itself as a community that seeks to hold others accountable and yet, it has a hard time doing the same.

Another twitter user @leighratoh spoke to how she felt that it was uncanny how many had attended Abantu solely to see Adichie and then proceeded to tweet their fake outrage about her comments, triggering trans-women who didn't even attend the event in the first place.


Following Adichie's infamous interview with Channel 4 News, Editor of Out Magazine Raquel Willis, a transgender woman herself, articulated quite well: "Chimamanda being asked about trans women is like Lena Dunham being asked about Black women. It doesn't work. We can speak for ourselves."

Music
Image courtesy of the artists.

Kwesta and Kabza De Small Return to Kwaito In Their New Collaborative Album

The South African hip-hop and amapiano stars revert to kwaito in Speak N Vrostaan.

Over the last few years, South African hip-hop’s overall prominence has slowed down — mostly because of amapiano’s tight grip on the market. As a result, most mainstream rappers have had to be innovative and incorporate the log drum into their tracks. One hip-hop artist who exemplifies and has executed this approach without neglecting his core artistry is Kwesta. The MC, who for a large part of the 2010s dubbed himself “Da King of African Rap,” has kept up with the times and his recent team up with Kabza De Small is a testament to this. As a rapper, who often dovetails into authentic, South African-birthed sounds, his decision to join forces with Kabza is not much of an anomaly.

Like Kwesta with South African hip-hop, Kabza is a towering and key figure within amapiano. For the past three years, the pioneering producer/DJ has remained a stalwart and has been one of the most streamed South African artists across all genres. As a solo act or together withDJ Maphorisa as Scorpion Kings, he has released genre-defining chart-topping amapiano tracks and projects. Through his label, Piano Hub, Kabza has also been instrumental in the careers of other artists including Kelvin Momo, Young Stunna and Mdu aka TRP.

The timely creative union of Kwesta and Kabza De Small dates back to 2020, amidst the peak of the pandemic when they had an encounter during a shoot for Channel 0’s Lockdown House Party show. As Kwesta tells it, Kabza was the one that initially suggested that they work together. At the time, the super producer had put out the first instalment of his Pretty Girls Love Amapiano album series and was gearing up for the release of the groundbreaking, I Am the King Of Amapiano: Sweet and Dust. From then, both their individual careers went on in their own unrelated ways: Kwesta released g.o.d Guluva in 2021 and Kabza put out multiple projects like 2021’s Rumble in the Jungle,Pretty Girls Love Amapiano 3 and 2022’s Scorpion Kings Live Sun Arena and KOA II Part 1, until they hit each other up via DMs on social media.

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Music
Image courtesy of the artist.

Vigro Deep’s Experimental Strain of Amapiano Is Boundless

A look at the South African producer's inventive amapiano style in his latest albums, Far Away From Home and My House My Rules.

In a recent clip posted on Pharrell William's Instagram and Twitter feeds, the American star producer and musician shares kind words about his experience at Chanel’s Senegal-hosted fashion show backed by the sounds of Vigro Deep’s “Africa Rise,” an unlikely, boundary-crossing amapiano hit by the 21-year-old South African-born producer/DJ.

Since his thrilling emergence in 2018, Vigro Deep has remained imaginative. His unique use of the log drum — characterised by its thundering, rolling effect, and the pause-and-trickling bass of earlier hits like “Black Power” and “Untold Stories,” caught the masses' attention. While he became a household name for this distinctive and easily recognized sound between then and 2020’s Rise Of A Baby Boy, Vigro has since revamped it and created a mosaic by pairing contemporary electro and techno elements and sensibilities with amapiano. He started toying with this composite style on the last installment of his Baby Boy album series, Baby Boy 4, which came out in May 2021.

Far Away From Home

In an interview published in August 2021, the inventive, Pitori-hailing producer was reluctant to describe his sound as just amapiano. “I’ll say it’s more like electro-house music,” he revealed. “You know, I’m making music for the world, not just for Africa, not just for South Africa. I’m making music out of the box, that’s why I’m very creative when I make my music. I make motion tracks where there’s a whole lot of things in there.”

One of the first few instances where Vigro fully exhibited the compositions that he had been working on was in London on August 27th, 2021. During his Keep Hush and Bone Soda Carnival Special live set, he premiered tracks that would end up on his double album, Far Away From Home, which arrived in the last days of November that same year. The title of the project implied Vigro’s intentions of steering away from his usual sound and South Africa. The artwork is also a testament to this notion; a boarding pass, passport, bank cards, and banknotes, are displayed from inside an aircraft. Outside the window you can see the UK flag and London Bridge—where Vigro has his eyes set on.

Far Away From Home’s pre-released lead single, “I Am Vigro Deep” also offered a sneak peek of what was to come. Dark, hollow, and thunderous instrumentation underpin a vigorous poem that wonders what would happen if Vigro Deep went deep. The lines, “If I go deep / Will people pray for my downfall /Or just wait to see / If I go bleak?” instantly stand out. Going deep for Vigro meant going against the grain or what had become a norm, stylistically, to mainstream Amapiano in 2021. “If I go deep/ Will people realise that I just do beats / And I don't speak? / If I go deep / Will people know that, I'm just Vigro deep?” Uncredited and euphoric vocal/vox samples that he says he got from Skrillex, who has since become his acquaintance/collaborator, fuel the album along with heavy bass-driven percussions.

While countless recent amapiano songs and projects are filled with collaborations between vocalists and co-producers, Vigro opted for minimalism. He is the sole contributor on most of the tracks, the majority of them being instrumentals — which in a way is reminiscent of his and the genre’s past. Though rooted in ‘piano, Far Away From Home is forward-looking and Europe-facing, all but one of the vocals and song titles are in English.

“My dream is to get to Spain. [With] the sound that I do, I think of Ibiza type [of places and festivals], Tomorrowland. That’s what I’m looking for, that’s what I’m looking at, that’s what I’m currently working at,” he told CNN, in their January 2022 released mini-documentary on amapiano.

Vigro’s dream would crystallize months later. In July 2022, “Africa Rise,” “Some Attitude,” and “I Am Vigro Deep” blasted through gigantic speakers in Ibiza during a Boiler Room show, where the internationally acclaimed duo, Major League DJz, UK-based DJs Charisse C and Ade Smilez rendered sets. LuuDadeejay, who works closely with the twins, is the project’s sole co-producer on the track “Number,” while Vigro’s frequent collaborators, DJ Bucks, Yashna, and Neo Ndawo make vocal appearances on “In The Dark” and “Fire & Ice,” respectively. Much like his adored, unreleased but leaked remake of Bring Me The Horizon’s “Can You Feel My Heart,” Vigro also put his peculiar spin on Amaarae’s viral track “SAD GIRLZ LUV MONEY,” which he says were both supposed to be on Far Away From Home.

Towards the tail end of the body of work reverberates the cheekily-titled “Some Old Song.” The track borrows the melody of Joakin’s remix of “Camino Del Sol” by French-Belgian trio Antena — which was popular in South Africa in the 2000s and was famously interpolated on rapper Kwesta’s 2016 hit “Ngud.” Vigro’s take on the song gave it a creative and futuristic facelift, contrasting the common direct manipulation of the original. In another interview published on Oct 22, Vigro revealed that 70% of Far Away From Home was done in London. And that he wanted “to create something new, to target the European market.”

When asked in a recent podcast, if he felt that South Africans underappreciated Far Away From Home, Vigro quickly disagreed, detailing that his countrymen were not the primary audience for the effort because of how different it is. He acknowledges how the LP was better received outside of his home country, and that South Africans “got it later.” As he regularly tours Europe, it’s evident that his productions have traveled far away from home, as he initially intended.

Your 'Piano Is Not My 'Piano

In his December 2022-released album, My House My Rules, Vigro Deep welcomes listeners with an anthemic track that contains a computerized voice towards the end. In a bid to trance-induce or prequel what is to come, the voice defines what hypnosis is and describes some of its characteristics.

In many ways, the genre-melding offering follows in the direction of its predecessor with plentiful use of synths, arena-ready build-ups, mega breaks, and drops. These are again accompanied by minimum features and collaborations. Snenaah and M.J lend their vocals on “Ngizokulinda” and “Petori to Ibiza,” while Senjay and Mhaw Keys can be heard chanting on “Shukushuku” and “Desperado.” Freddy K, like LuuDadeejay on Far Away From Home, is the lone co-producer on “No Mercy.” The album’s artwork visually displays Vigro’s solitude (in both his art and sonic direction) as he appears sitting in isolation in the dark.

My House My Rules his first release since he’s been out of his deal with Kalawa Jazmee and Universal Music. The 17-track record was released via Rinse — the label division of the London radio station, Rinse FM, making him the first amapiano act to put out a full project with them. When asked where he sees himself in the next two years, by the station’s on-air host DJ Neptizzle, Vigro confidently shared his ceaseless ambition of performing at the Belgian-birthed dance music festival. “I really see myself playing in Tomorrowland with the new sound that I have,” he declared unwaveringly, in the April-2022-broadcasted interview.

Don't go out too far they said, you haven't got the power / You'll never make it back / You’ve got too much to lose they said, told them they were wrong, and I disappeared into the black,” sings an ethereal voice on the third track, “5am Set.” On a July ‘22 Instagram live, the virtuoso showed his creative process as he put the finishing touches on the song by adding an accompanying bassline and keys.

Throughout the project, Vigro’s vision remains outward. The second track “Gran Turismo,” is named after the popular car racing video game, while curtain closer “Desperado,” lifts its name from the Antonio Banderas 1995-released Western blockbuster, and also references the melody of “Alma de Guitarra,” which the movie star infamously debuts during the opening scene of the action-packed film. In the boldly-titled “Petori to Ibiza,” the masterful producer invites vocalist M.J to manifest and verbalise his aspiration of playing at the world’s most desired nightclub destination hotspot on wax. “Pitori to Ibiza, re tsena ka Sgida,” M.J expresses in the track's refrain.

Vigro often shares how an encounter with Skrillex in a London studio made him fine-tune his current style. “I explained to him where I wanted to go, and he understood and told me I had to change this and that. He told me that he knew what I wanted and that I should just be me. ‘If you wanna mix it with dubstep, do you, be you,’” he revealed.

It’s clear that Vigro Deep is equally radical and intentional with his newest stylistic approach. He has willingly chosen to make Amapiano which leans towards the sonics of global electronic dance music because that’s the space he's been playing in and wants to pursue further. He is a well-traveled DJ/producer that soaks up the different sounds of the countries and places he frequents like the UK or the Netherlands. Vigro creates from an adventurous place of no restriction or consideration of what his peers are currently doing. He has pushed himself artistically to unfamiliar terrains, and exists in his own world but is kind enough to let listeners in from time to time. As YouTube user @nyati86 commented under one of his live-recorded DJ sets, “Vigro deserves a set at Tomorrowland and gigs in Ibiza… this is the bridge for Amapiano to the world.”

Photo: The Sundance Institute

In his Imaginative Debut Feature, Walé Oyéjidé Brings Together Elements of His Life’s Work

The Nigerian American director has long used the tools of his multi-hyphenate trade to expand the ways Africans are seen. Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, 'Bravo, Burkina!' gives him a larger canvas on which to paint.

Whether it’s employing asylum seekers to model his designs or adding his flair to a piece of pivotal clothing that the late Chadwick Boseman wore in Black Panther, Walé Oyéjidé has always been about using whatever elements he can to push the ways Africans have traditionally been portrayed. What he hinted at in his short film After Migration: Calabria (available on the Criterion Channel), which tells the story of two refugees settling in Italy, he now gets to explore further in the feature debut, Bravo, Burkina!

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News Brief
Photo by C Brandon/Redferns/Getty Images

Baaba Maal Releases New Single 'Agreement'

Senegal's Baaba Maal shares a new song ahead of his upcoming album, Being.


Renowned Senegalese singer and guitaristBaaba Maalhas shared a new single called "Agreement." The song is the fourth track on his upcoming album Being, which is slated to be released on March 31st, 2023.

"Agreement," a percussion-heavy record produced by Johan Hugo, fuses both ancient and modern rhythms, and continues Baaba Maal's ongoing musical quest to connect the past and the present, while making lasting cultural and emotional connections through music.

While discussing the record, Baaba Maal dissects the meaning of the song and explains that it draws inspiration from day-to-day relationships.

“Agreement is about the relationships you make in your life, whether they are with friends, musicians, neighbors, people you love,” says Baaba Maal. ”When you say to people, we are going on this journey through life together, through good times and bad, you should be very sure that you mean it.”

The Senegalese legend continues breaking down the meaning of the song by explaining it through a cultural lens.

“It’s based on a proverb from my community — to say no at the beginning to the idea that we will always be together is much stronger and more noble that beginning a relationship and then cutting it short later, maybe forty years later. Be mature enough to take seriously an agreement you make with someone about the future, about your souls being connected,” says Maal.

After a seven-year music hiatus, "Agreement" is one of Maal's new releases, and he will continue to share his music in the coming months with fans. In addition to releasing his upcoming album, the Poor-born icon will be performing at the Barbican in London, for the first time in 20 years on May 30th, 2023.

Maal'sBeing is a riveting extension of his pioneering, transcendent, and inspiring four-decade legacy that has blended the traditional and the innovative, the acoustic and the electronic over the years. For being, Maal reportedly partnered with long-time producer Johan Hugo, and recorded the body of work in Brooklyn, London and Senegal. Watch the visualizer for "Agreement" below.

Listen to Baaba Maal "Agreement" below.

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