Stealing the limelight
10 July 2012 | KULANI NKUNA
Tokollo “Magesh” Tshabalala – once part of that great kwaito group TKZee, is back on the scene.
In those days, schedules were geared around kwaito music or parties.
Saturdays meant the enterprising would rustle a few rands together in the morning with a view to having a good time at the local tavern in the late afternoon.
Others would don their finest threads, shirts tucked in and shoes in immaculate condition, for a jaunt at their favourite watering holes.
These holes were just that, as grime, dirty water and cracks on the concrete patches between four-roomed houses and garage structures greeted revellers at the taverns.
Or you would be met by a cussing woman displaying marks of wear and tear on her face.
Often women at these joints were few and far between, as these haunts were unofficial gentleman’s clubs for the youth. Cold beverages were on offer and the latest music blasted through the speakers.
Tshabalala and TKZee held sway for some time during kwaito’s boom period.
These days, things are not quite the same.
The taverns have become pristine, cosmopolitan crowds have taken over in the townships and cover charges are the norm. As a result, kwaito is on the ropes as a genre relegated to “old school” parties at clubs.
Tshabalala is in fighting mood, though, with the release of his latest solo album, Heist.
“I was going for that real and authentic vibe and sound of kwaito,” Tshabalala offers.
“This album as a whole was put together with maturity, as I was in a clearer space to address the needs of the genre to return to its former glory.”
Change is inevitable in any genre, so the guys who used to be decked out in Converse All Stars, Dickies pants and folded hats are now in skinny jeans or pointed shoes. Others have remained stubborn and steadfast in their kwaito convictions.
Zwai Bala, another former member of TKZee, recently commented that kwaito is not dead, but said that “it is only alive in the people”, not necessarily as a genre.
What Tshabalala does on Heist is to reach out to those people who have kept kwaito in their hearts. As early as the first track, Sgidi, Tshabalala takes the listener back to the taverns of yesteryear where youths huddled in a circle with the best dancers doing wonders with their limbs on centre stage.
As a relative elder in the industry, Tshabalala is not just holding on to an era gone by, but embracing the changes that have taken root.
“Some of the songs on this album are on a more modern tip but they still retain that kwaito signature,” Tshabalala says.
“Music evolves, and kwaito is no different.
The older guys were concerned with the new stuff that is out there today. But I have no problem with these new kwaito sounds and that is why I incorporated other sounds into my album.
Actually, this album is a ‘music heist’.
I am taking everything back.”
It remains to be seen whether or not the masses will be receptive, but according to Tshabalala, things are on the right track with his album.
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