Nandipha Pantsi
3 minute read
8 Feb 2014
7:00 am

Soulful pop vs African dance music

Nandipha Pantsi

Groups have always managed to have a strong presence in the SA music scene. And judging from the nominations for the Metro FM Awards, this year is going to be no different.

SOULFUL.Muzart performing at the J&B Met this year. Picture: Supplied.

From the legendary Mafikizolo, who reunited to bring us one of the best albums of last year, to Big Nuz, who continues to dominate with fresh dance music, collectives remain popular. But what is perhaps most interesting about the groups nominated in this year’s Best Group category is the presence of newcomers – soulful pop band Muzart and house music group Uhuru. These two outfits have very little in common except for the fact that just over a year ago nobody knew who they were.

“We’ve always considered our music to be more underground,” said Muzart member and founder Tshegofatso “Tazzy” Lehutso.

“So getting nominated for a Metro FM award showed that we had actually been able to create a radio friendly album – something which we were struggling with at first.”

Muzart’s After Party first received recognition at the UK Soul Survivor awards, where they were nominated for Best Newcomer last year. While the band’s music was being increasingly well received in the UK, it proved a lot more difficult for the group to break into the home market.

“House music is currently the ‘it’ thing in SA,” said Lehutso.

“The idea of a live instrumental band is not as appealing to some young people as house music.”

Lehutso admits that staying true to the group’s soulful jazzy sound while making the album was difficult.

“There was definitely pressure for us to make our music more commercial at the beginning,” said Lehutso.

“But now we’ve established who we are and we want to stay true to that.”

With inspiration from musicians like Jabu Khanyile, Lira, Thandiswa Mazwai and Louis Vega, the group aims to send positive messages about life and love.

“We’re not the kind of musicians who make music about living a flashy lifestyle and superficial things,” said Lehutso.

Despite being youthful and upbeat, Muzart aims to create music that displays maturity and touches people from all walks of life.

“We’re about making classics, because classics last forever,” Lehutso said.

Muzart’s competition in the category, Uhuru, dominated the airwaves in December with the house hit Y Tjukutja and is also up for Best Dance Album and Best Collaboration. But their biggest nomination is in the Song Of The Year category. Uhuru was formed when producers Maphorisa and Clap decided to join forces with DJ Xelimpilo and pianist Mapiano. After signing with Kalawa Jazmee, the group was on the road to becoming a household name.

NEWCOMERS. Soulful pop group Muzart could walk away with their first Metro FM Award this year. Picture: Supplied.

NEWCOMERS. Soulful pop group Muzart could walk away with their first Metro FM Award this year. Picture: Supplied.


Interestingly though, they have been in existence for the past six years but have spent most of that time doing remixes for artists. Their work includes Professor’s Jezebel, DJ Zinhle’s My Name Is and Mafikizolo’s Khona.

While establishing themselves as top remixers, the group also introduced a very upbeat house sound that incorporates the djembe and conga drums. About a year ago, Uhuru decided to focus on releasing the much anticipated album Our Father.

“Things have been getting better for us as a group. We are getting more gigs and more great artists keep approaching us for collaborations,” says Maphorisa. They have also succeeded in breaking into the Nigerian market, with their music sharing the airwaves with artists like D’Banj and P-Squared in Lagos. They have also gained a strong fanbase in Mozambique and Angola.

After a very succesful 2013, Uhuru is looking forward to great collaborations with more African artists and “doing bigger things,” explains Maphorisa.

At the end of the day, public votes will determine who wins the Metro FM award. If voters appreciate timeless soul with an inspirational message, then Muzart will win this award. But if the love for original dance music dominates then Uhuru will be victors.