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Ndlulamthi. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

Watch Cape Town Lyricist Ndlulamthi Perform Songs From His Stellar Sophomore Album ‘Hard Livings’

Ndlulamthi performs and breaks down some songs from his album 'Hard Livings.'

Cape Town rapper and poet Ndlulamthi recently performed a few songs from his sophomore album, the masterpiece he released last year titled Hard Livings. The MC is one of several artists who have performed in the YouTube series, Smile Sessions. The show takes the same format as similar ones, such as JR's Feel Good Live Sessions and NPR Tiny Desktop Concert, where an artist performs a selection of songs in front of an intimate audience.


Read: Ndlulamthi Offers A Screenshot of Life in Cape Town's Black Townships in His New Album 'Hard Livings'

Ndlulamthi gets to break down some of the songs from Hard Livings: "Gun Dubula," "Abahlali," "Late Bels Ngomgqibelo," "Diary," "Usengu Tatam." He opens the set with his niche classic "Andivoti," featuring close friend, producer and collaborator FiveSix, and closes it with the personal tune "Usengu Tatam," which is about his father.

Ndlulamthi's style of writing is layered, and the explanations he gives between songs during the set will help shed some light and give context especially to those who don't have the lived experience of being black and living in the hood in Cape Town, which is the focal point of Hard Livings. If you are educated enough to understand IsiXhosa, don't miss out on some serious food for thought.

Watch the whole performance below, and be sure to download Hard Livings here or stream it below:

Smile Sessions - Episode 7 [Season Finale] - Ndlulamthi www.youtube.com



Read: How IsiXhosa Became The Official Language of Wakanda on 'Black Panther'

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This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

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In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

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