Kulani Nkuna
3 minute read
6 Nov 2013
6:00 am

Re-writing the rules

Kulani Nkuna

It is imperative for an artist to pave his own path amid the trends currently at play in the South African music industry.

Zakes Bantwini. Picture supplied.

When the economics of demand stipulate that a certain sound is what is holding sway in the market, it takes a true virtuoso to go against the grain and prescribe to the public what sound he feels they should hear.

It is easier, perhaps, for a musician who came into the industry on a ticket that accentuated his personal flamboyance and artistry and not riding on the crest of a wave. Such success can also afford the artist a brief dalliance with what others may perceive as arrogance, but it can also earn an artist a credible audience to whom he can express his views freely.

Zakes Bantwini (real name Zakhele Madida) is a bit annoyed that his new album, My Music Bible: The Fake Book & Real Book, has been released at a time when a flurry of new music is put out onto the market in order to capitalise on the free-spending festive season. However, Madida says this is merely coincidental, as he does things his own way.

“I don’t follow what’s going on,” says Madida.

“Most of the sound that is coming out right now is laced with East African influences, which seems to be the dominant trend right now. I do what I feel people need to hear. Most musicians are about the bottom line, but music has to be about talent, not just selling copies. When you are chasing numbers you can get lost in the creative process because you are looking for that hit.

So you will listen to what is going on and then do something similar, trying to create a hit. You end up making music that people want to hear, instead of making music that you think people should hear. I would like to be in a space where I allow people to know what is good for them and their ears.”

An integral part of Madida’s philosophy rests on combining his music with compelling dance sequences. It is hard to imagine Madida without the trademark moves that make his every show a must see. Part of his artistry on stage lies in his keenness for dance, which he acquired as a youth, when he was active in various styles including pantsula, gumboot dancing, contemporary dance and ballet.

SERIOUS STUFF. Zakes Bantwini has released a multi-layered album that includes jazz influences.

SERIOUS STUFF. Zakes Bantwini has released a multi-layered album that includes jazz influences.


Madida has not released a new album in three years, having been busy on the performance circuit.”I have not released an album in a while, but it does not seem like I was gone because I was performing regularly,” Madida confirms.

“I have been performing all over due to the fact that I could rearrange my songs. I have about 26 arrangements of Wasting My Time, so that a person that has seen me is still excited every time he sees me on stage.

“My dancing and music are spontaneous on stage and that is the reason why I don’t have dancers, as I feel like I would be confined by choreography. Music is spiritual and sometimes I go into a zone where it feels like a melody world with beautiful music sometimes I forget that I am on stage. Sometimes I will combine a ballet move with pantsula on stage without even realising it, which is part of the magic of performing live.”

Academics are also an integral cog in Madida’s approach to his music that he cites as the reason for being able to sustain one album for such a long time. He believes that talent must blend with musical education to effect a rich musical output. He has delved into a more jazzy language on his new offering, meaning he had to lean on academics to produce something interesting.

“It’s a good time for house music,” Madida says of the new collection.

“It’s a great day for the genre when jazz pianist Themba Mkhize makes a contribution. “