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So, kwaito, where to from here?

The last decade has seen golden era kwaito give way to the likes of new age, future and Durban kwaito, as well as a growing number of genre-fluid articulations of the style along with artists who count kwaito as one of their many influences.

These artists are at the forefront of evolving the genre; moving away from the simple, repetitive and hyper-masculine lyrics of old and reshaping it into a nostalgic foundation for contemporary expression of the South African zeitgeist.

The latter half of the previous decade saw a surge in artists who are influenced by kwaito but defy the new age or future label. Stiff Pap’s blend of kwaito, gqom, hip-hop and industrial sounds was never intended to be labelled future kwaito, yet the label has stuck. Bougie Pantsula, who like Stiff Pap met at the University of Cape Town, share a similar narrative.

Queer and femme voices are also incorporating elements of kwaito into their sound such as Mx Blouse’s Thor Rixon-produced Piesang Kop, Moozlie’s S’funukwazi and Doowap’s Xoxa featuring Mr Allofit. Thanks to the context in which kwaito was born, the use of its sound by these artists is as much a disruption of the heteronormative status quo of kwaito as it is a tribute to the sounds of their childhood.

The wide range of music inspired by kwaito speaks to its enduring legacy. Artists ranging from Kwesta, Stilo Magolide, Kid X to Major League Djz, DJ Sliqe, Cassper Nyovest, Riky Rick and AKA come out with heavily kwaito-inspired tracks. Zola7 making a return to the game and being picked up overseas and Swiss producer Dejot’s release of Tooshtoo, featuring Radio 123, indicate how international interest in kwaito has also grown, perhaps in part thanks to the increase in vinyl sales, which led to the reissuing of 1990s kwaito producer Sandy B’s Amajovi Jovi and a new vinyl-only release titled Qhum Qhaks.

As long as the context from which kwaito was created continues to exist, so will the musical art form — although what it will evolve into remains to be seen.

To remain relevant to the current generation, kwaito will need to shape-shift and reinvent itself akin to the evolution of hip-hop. What the old guard call kwaito and what the next generation will call it is bound to differ greatly — yet will remain rooted in the same or similar foundations.

This article was first published on Bubblegum Club, an online magazine

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Themba Kriger
Themba Kriger started writing about music in 2004 when he co-founded the blog Electrotrash.co.za which focused on the then-burgeoning electronic music scene in South Africa. He recently joined Bubblegum Club to highlight overlooked artists, both locally and from abroad.

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