Born To Kwaito Sihle Mthembu and Esinako Ndabeni

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“By unflinchingly depicting people in a township getting on with the everyday business of being themselves without the overarching gaze of whiteness, Yizo Yizo showcased that we were and are not as integrated as those Castle adverts had been leading us to believe. To say that Yizo Yizo is the greatest TV series of all time would sound hyperbolic to some, but what is certain is that in South Africa, the show provided a much-needed departure from the drib-drab, pedestrian television that had taken over in the ‘reconciliation’-fuelled 1990s. It served as a marquee for teaching audiences how entertaining self-reflection could be. A marquee that was later occupied by the likes of Gazlam, Tsha-Tsha, and, to a lesser extent, The Lab and Home Affairs.” – Sihle Mthembu

Born to Kwaito is the first of its kind. This book is written by young Black South Africans reflecting on Kwaito as a uniquely South African created culture. The book is not only about the music, it is also about the people, the style that emerged and all the politics that it represents.

Dr Alma-Nalisha Cele and Letlhogonolo Mokgoorane sat down to have a conversation with the wonderful Sihle Mthembu as we discussed the debut collection of essays he and Esinako Ndabeni wrote using Kwaito as a lens for the exploration of such a powerful moment in South Africa.

The juxtaposition between the anthropological insights and musical history of some of the music that formed the soundtrack of young Black South Africans is a marvel.

There is a beautiful contrast between Sihle and Esinako’s views bringing to the fore a trans-generational view of a genre that shaped the musical lives of so many young Black South Africans.

The Cheeky Natives sat in a wonderful conversation with Sihle to discuss what it means for a ‘genre to die’. The conversation would be incomplete if we didn’t discuss the humanity and challenges of some of the genre’s biggest artist. As Esinako said at Abanu Book Festival: “I feel uncomfortable when we talk about the death of genres because how can we kill something that still exists? I have a Kwaito playlist on my phone.”

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