Kwaito in general
Produced by Kutloano Skosana and directed by John Barker, The Kwaito Generals profiles industry giants and pioneers Arthur Mafokate, M’du Masilela and Oscar Mdlongwa. It examines the many lives these pioneers have touched — trying to look at them as both performers and, with varying degrees of detail and thoroughness, as family and businessmen. The documentary is also peppered with subtleties.
The Kwaito Generals makes no claim of seeking to be exhaustive; after all there are many ways and many people to tell the kwaito story.
Instead it chooses to focus on what the producers consider the three pillars of the house that is kwaito.
Mafokate, Masilela and Mdlongwa all burst on to the then undefined kwaito scene at the same time, either as artists, producers, or both. They then combined the artistry with entrepreneurship.
This approach has thus cut two crucial institutions in the evolution of kwaito out of the loop.
The first is Ghetto Ruff, the label that gave us Skeem and Ishmael, because its founder, Lance Stehr, is not a performer.
The scant unintentional representation it receives here is through its kingpin, Zola, who contributes by giving the perspective of growing up in Zola, Soweto, and the privilege of watching Masilela evolve from a local boy to an icon.
The other omitted institution is TKZee, whose 1998 album Halloween defined a new phase in the development of kwaito.
They were probably left out because they came much later. Their place in history is only acknowledged by featuring Kabelo, who also speaks of his inimitable awe of Masilela, and has the diplomacy to sidestep the courses of tension that once defined their relationship.
The three moguls who are represented in The Kwaito Generals though are given a treatment that is rich in style, with a script that probes without penetrating.
Analysis comes from journalists Thami Masemola, Bulelwa Mtsali and Bongani Madondo. The piece has been skilfully edited, held together with slick memorable video shots the artists and their various bands have given us over the years.
The documentary also subtly confirms that Mdlongwa, the maverick, is top of the pile. He delayed his entry into the performance arena to produce acts like Boom Shaka and Bongo Maffin. He has now added Brothers of Peace — of which he is a member — and Mafikizolo as successful products of his Kalawa Jazmee stable.
Not only has Mdlongwa produced the highest proportion of successful kwaito acts, these also enjoy longevity above competitors.
Finally, The Kwaito Generals pays tribute to the media outfits that took over from African language stations as custodians and repositories of this raging phenomenon.
You will have to watch it yourself to find out how.
The Kwaito Generals airs on SABC1 on November 10 at 10pm