Photo by Rufaro Samanga

Lesego Tlhabi is Coconut Kelz: "We need to keep the Blacks away from our suburbs."

Coconut Kelz is the hilarious political satirist shaking up all things to do with race in South Africa.

Three years ago, Black students at the Pretoria Girls' High protested after they were told that their natural hair was not in line with the school's obviously racist hair codes.

Thirty-year-old Lesego Tlhabi, whose day job was a television script writer at the time, found herself seeing the same old tired comments on social media, especially from white people. She posted her own long rants hoping that people would see why the high school was being racist. It wasn't until she created the over-the-top character that is Coconut Kelz that she started gaining traction.

If you haven't come across one of Coconut Kelz's videos on social media yet, you're missing out on South African political comedy and satire at its very best. The wig-wearing, white-people-can't-do-no wrong Coconut Kelz is the poster child for the White political party, the Democratic Alliance (DA).

Once you get over the ridiculousness of Coconut Kelz, you begin to see how she attempts to highlight a variety of South Africa's social and political issues in a way that people can easily understand. For those who find themselves scoffing at her comedy, it's usually because she's white (I mean right) and has probably hit a nerve.

We ventured to the suburb of Sandton to catch up with both Lesego and Coconut Kelz.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How would you as Lesego describe Coconut Kelz? Give me just three words.

She's passionate, ill-informed but likable.

I think South Africans and Africans in general are familiar with the concept of a coconut. For everyone else, what is a coconut, especially with reference to Coconut Kelz?

Coconut Kelz is Black but her political affiliation and standard for herself is all Caucasian-inspired. It's all to do with White people. She thinks how they vote, how they speak, how they think and what they say is the best. She just doesn't identify with anything to do with Blackness. I went to school with a lot of Black people like this.

Coconut Kelz x H&Mwww.youtube.com

What was that one thing you wanted to become and is it in contrast to Coconut Kelz?

From the jump, I knew I wanted to be on stage, I just didn't know how. When I was six, I used to make my parents sit down and watch me do a show at home for the family and when my grandmother would come visit. Everything that has led up to this moment has been in my dream journal, in the bucket list, in my vision board—everything. I just think it's weird because I didn't think my career would be in a character.

You were told to rather stay behind the scenes and yet you're so insanely talented. Where do you think the industry is getting it wrong?

In South Africa, it's really about the looks which is also not to say that people in the industry don't have talent. I automatically get the role of someone's funny or sassy best friend. I think that they get it wrong in terms of plus size women can't be lead roles. And so many comedians will have a set that sounds self-deprecating because it's a defense mechanism in a way and I get it.

But personally, none of my jokes are about weight or size. I won't allow myself to be a punchline.

Tonight with Jane Dutton | Coconut Kelz discusses the state of the nation | 18 March 2019www.youtube.com

Usually when South Africans think of political satire, Zapiro and his racist cartoons come to mind first. Do you think you have peers in the political satire game?

If I were to say I have a peer, I would say it's more something like Chester Missing, I guess, although he's a puppet and Kelz is a real human being. I think Evita Bezuidenhout passed the baton to the two of us in a sense. And maybe even Trevor Noah now that he's doing The Daily Show.

I didn't set out to be a comedian and I think that's okay. I just wanted to comment on politics but in a satirical way.

Our national election is on the 8th of May. We all know who Coconut Kelz will vote for. What about Lesego?

I just think we need to shake up the majority shareholding, if you will. When I look at Ramaphosa and the ANC, I feel like there's something suspicious if White people like you a lot. Who is he protecting? I think even though Zuma was as corrupt as he was and I really didn't enjoy his time in power, his Blackness really irritated White people.

I kind of had positive things about the EFF when they first came out. But for me, a party that starts from a jilted ex-member doesn't really bode well. Same with Patricia de Lille and the DA.

I'll never, ever, ever vote for the DA. That just will never happen. I think my vote is leaning somewhere at the United Democratic Front. I just don't want to waste my vote.

Coconut Kelz x #PresidentsKeeperwww.youtube.com

As Lesego, do you think that Apartheid would come back under the DA as some Black South Africans fear?

Not really, well economically speaking. I do think there'd be a lot of things that would make life super itchy for us though. I know that a lot of people who work at certain companies wouldn't even look at a Black person's CV. I mean most of the Black people I know are twice qualified at the minimum and yet some white people don't even have a Matric and they would still be looked at first.

And as Coconut Kelz?

I don't mind watching it come back. I think it was wonderful actually because it just kept the Black's away from our suburbs. Now look, you just came here with your scary dreads and security didn't even ask me. The DA would clean up the streets and make South Africa great again.

On that note, what are you hoping to achieve with your election special with BET Africa?

First and foremost, I always want to make people laugh. I mainly just went around the different neighborhoods (as Coconut Kelz) and just spoke to mainly young people about who they want to vote for and what is it they want in a government.

There was some playing around with them calling them maids and whatever. Some people knew me before the interview, so it was playful. But, one girl wanted to fight me because I told her we were both wearing wigs because we both wanted to be White.


A number of White people really don't find you funny. Why do you think that is?

I actually deal with more White people who enjoy the content than those who don't. But I think the honest reason why they don't find my content funny is because they may see themselves in it and they don't want to change their thinking and are of course offended by it. Black people also get very offended because they think I'm making fun of Black struggle. And I'm not. I'm actually using Black struggle as the content, but making fun of the White upper-middle class.

What are your big plans for Coconut Kelz right now?

Donovan Goliath was the person on my list and I worked with him this weekend and he was so dope because I've always been such a fan. That was the bucket list moment of my life. Obviously, I'd like to work with more female comedians like Celeste Ntuli and Tumi Morake.

I'd love to do a daily show of sorts on a weekly basis. I would love to interview people as Coconut Kelz because she's a lot more fun. I've also been asked to do this gig in Botswana with SADC region comedians from Zimbabwe, Namibia and Zambia. I want to broaden the audience and maybe even have an American segment and make fun of them too, you know.

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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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.”

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Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images

Listen to Burna Boy Feature On Popcaan's New Song 'Aboboyaa'

Renowned dancehall artist Popcaan has released his album Great Is He, via OVO Sound, and it features none other than Burna Boy.

Jamaica's Popcaanhas shared his anticipated album Great Is He, and the body of work features Nigerian superstar Burna Boy on the track "Aboboyaa."

The album showcases the Jamaican musical giant's signature dancehall sound, while also exploring the depth of genre's versatility. In addition to featuring Burna Boy, Great Is He includes features from OVO Sound's boss Drake, Jamaica's Chronic Law, and Toni-Ann Singh, among others.

On "Aboboyaa," the two musical powerhouses merge their signature rhythmic melodies and intonations in a way that is both compelling to listen to on the first listen, and in turn inspires a second and third listen.

Ever since he released his debut album in 2014, Popcaan has become an international dancehall sensation, and his repertoire includes a list of impressive features.

His album Forever, which was released in 2018, debuted at number two on Billboard’s Top Reggae Albums. Commercially, Popcaan has made a mark on the music scene too. His last project FIXTAPE — which included “Twist & Turn,” the mesmerizing dancehall hit featuring Drake and PARTYNEXTDOOR — has garnered over 191 million streams and continues to receive accolades from outlets like Pitchfork, who described the body of work as “a testament to his place at the forefront of the genre.”

"Aboboyaa" is not Popcaan's first international collaboration. In the past, the Jamaican icon has worked with several international music acts including Davido, Jamie xx, Young Thug, Gorillaz, Kano, Jorja Smith and a host of others. He also founded Jamaica’s annual Unruly Festwhich brings stars across the globe to experience Jamaican culture.

Listen to "Aboboyaa" featuring Burna Boy below.

Listen to Popcaan and Burna Boy's "Aboboyaa"

Photo: Nabil Elderkin.

The Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring Popcaan x Burna Boy, Bongeziwe Mabandla, Mr Eazi, Baaba Maal, Pheelz and more.

Every Friday, we highlight the top releases through our best music of the week column, Songs You Need to Hear. Here's our round-up of the best tracks and music videos that came across our desks.

If you like these music lists, you can also check out our Best Songs of the Month columns following Nigerian, Ghanaian, East African and South African music. If you missed them, check out our music lists for the Best of 2022 here.

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