I happen to have the number of a Durban-based producer named Luvas. On his Whatsapp, flyers for shows, new singles and collaborations he is working on make for a constant stream of notifications.
Among Durban music circles, Luvas is something of a household name with his song Gandaganda, featuring a guy named Pluto being reprised rather inanely by self-styled gqom queen Babes Wodumo. The scandalous occurrence didn’t do much for Babes’ credibility and failed to provide any mainstream push for Luvas, who often works from a cluttered home studio in Chatsworth.
In July, an apocalyptic piece of “cover art” featuring President Cyril Ramaphosa’s smiling head surfaced on my WhatsApp. His visage was between the letters “H” and “S”, so that it formed part of the block letters spelling his name. The last two letters, the “S” and the “A”were the abbreviated reference to South Africa, coloured in green and gold, while the rest of his name was in black letters, suggesting this to be at least a pro-ANC if not a pro-Ramaphosa song.
If one listens superficially, it is hard to tell whether Ramaphosa is a plug or a diss. Featuring the likes of Corruption Boys, Pearl, MJ Shezi and Luvas, it has a playful approach, turning the seriousness of the Thuma Mina premise on its head. As one listens carefully, one realises that instead of supporters, we may be in the company of sceptics, who may or may not be drawing clues to Ramaphosa’s booby-trapped path to presidency.
“Ramaphosa ung’ funantoni? Ramaphosa ung’ thanda ntoni?” sings Pearl in the song’s opening bars.
It’s a question that goes unanswered until we hear from Luvas: “Ramaphosa, nasi isinkwa posha, mus’ ukufosa, kwaZuma sizokuxosha. Musa ukugoqa. Mufasa sizokunyomfa wena, bapho sisi, bapho lova? Musa ukuphosa, Ramaphosa…”
It’s a warning for Ramaphosa not too get to comfortable in his seat, but certain scenes evoke the tossing of bread to the needy.
The song then leads to what sounds like a mockery of Thuma Mina, punctuating each shout of the phrase with the phonetic sounds of vowels: “Thuma Mina, a, Thuma Mina, e, Thuma Mina i…” and on it goes.
As an expression of political dissidence masquerading as indifference, Ramaphosa strikes a perfect tone, something its creator was at pains to mask when I spoke to him.
“The song is straightforward,” claims Luvas. “Like how Ramaphosa is now the president, he has his term, called Thuma Mina, so it’s like we are schooling people about it, so we are saying people must avail themselves no matter where they may be. A lot of people haven’t figured out what Thuma Mina is about so we display that we are teaching by using what you call onkamisa in isiZulu, those vowel sounds a, e, i, o, u. The title could have been Thuma Mina, but it doesn’t have that hype, you see. So it helps if you title it right so that it catches the people’s attention.”
Asked about his verse, Luvas kind of admits the song’s partisan bent: “As you can hear the song, it says in Zuma’s house we will kick you out. We take part in party politics because, as you know, we are comrades. But the song is two-fold: it’s a fun, party song documenting the hype of Ramaphosa whereas at the same time, if you listen deeper, the song tells you what our sentiment is, but the sentiment could not be too prominent as to overshadow the song’s hype and energy.”
Ramaphosa has been lampooned in song before, perhaps to more blistering results at the time of the Marikana massacre. In 2013, performance artist Masello Motana, going as Cyrilina Ramaposer, put out a satirical song called Makarena on Marikana, complete with imagery declaring “lala ngoxolo wildcat”, a reference to unapproved strikes.
Motana’s tone, firmly in that tongue-in-cheek mould of satire, probably rested on the fact that in 2013, the idea that Ramaphosa would be a no-brainer for president was laughable.
What Luvas, Pearl, MJ Shezi and the Corruption Boys show us is that the idea now is way past the levels of a dismissable joke. It’s funny but only in so far as one can laugh at a cold, cold fact. No longer a publicly contestable idea, it is now one whose contradictions lie deep in ANC machinations.
Ramaphosa is available on iTunes.