/ 17 March 2023

Friday is a Feeling | Celebrating 30 years of Boom Shaka and choosing love

Gloria Bossman2
Songstress: Gloria Bosman

I write this the night after hearing of Gloria Bosman’s death at the unbelievable age of 50. Just a couple of days before, AKA’s protege and upcoming amapiano star Costa Titch died shortly after collapsing on stage during a performance at the Ultra Music Festival in Joburg. 

This is only a couple of weeks after we had to adjust to the unfathomable reality of losing AKA, one of the best rappers to ever walk this land. And these are just a few of the people who’ve died this year. It’s become increasingly difficult to deal with the grief and incessant loss. As they say on Twitter, “Kuningi” (It’s a lot). 

Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of watching the incomparable Simphiwe Dana in her Mpumi Ntintili-Sinxoto-styled and Gregory Maqoma-choreographed uMoya performance at the Joburg Theatre. 

Getting into the spirit: Simphiwe Dana performs in ‘Moya’, which the singer-songwriter describes as a ‘healing circle’. Photos: Arthur Dlamini

During the performance, dedicated to the memory of her mom, Dana sang with a grief so deep that when she performed iNkwenkwezi, a woman started sobbing so audibly that singer Zoe Modiga had to reach out and comfort her. 

Hearing her cry reminded me of how Dana’s music had helped me work through my own grief. Her last song of the performance, Mayine, broke me open when it first came out. I remember nights, days, holidays, birthdays and many other special days when I cried, wishing my dad was still alive. I was glad to release those emotions but I was reminded of how short life is through the music. 

Today, I’m alive. I have a mother, a brother, a sister and a niece; I have friends who love me from New York to Namibia. But tomorrow, all that could be gone. Even one special person being taken away from me could shatter my world into a thousand little pieces but I believe that’s the trade-off we make when we decide to choose life. 

Because choosing life, invariably means choosing love. And choosing love means choosing one of the scariest things to human beings, vulnerability. Love leaves us vulnerable to disappointment, pain, grief, embarrassment, shame, emotional exposure and the worst — rejection. 

But love also opens us to joy, happiness, adventure, freedom, peace, connection and intimacy. As Denzel Washington once said: “You pray for rain, you gotta deal with the mud too. That’s a part of it.”

I have loved and lost throughout the years and I can guarantee you more grief will visit me and stay with me for as long as I choose to love. Whether that’s loving an artist like I adored Kiernan Forbes or my friend Fikile Mntambo, who died after suffering a severe bout of postpartum depression, love is a dangerous undertaking. 

Rapper Kiernan Jarryd Forbes, popularly known as AKA. was killed last month. Photo: Supplied

But the risk of losing someone is not nearly as high as the risk of not loving. Because, let me tell you something, love has given me some of the best moments of my life, moments where I’ve been so happy that I felt like my heart would combust. 

Love made me wait for hours outside Standard Bank Arena with my friend Maria Tilly so we could watch Tevin Campbell, our strict parents having indulged our teenage crush. I will never — and I mean never, ever — forget the day I first saw Boom Shaka at Moretele Park back in 1998. TKZee had already hit the stage, Trompies, Thebe and other kwaito legends had performed that night, but just as folks used to wait for Brenda Fassie in the 1980s, we were waiting for these four incredible people. 

They were two males — one who made us expand our minds before we even knew what a transgender man was (questions about whether Theo Nhlengethwa was or wasn’t circulated for years) — and two black girls with short shorts, long brown braids, Dr. Martens and white socks. 

We were at the bar getting a drink when, as though a siren had gone off, folks literally started running to the stage as soon as they heard Theo’s voice harmonise over Lebo Mathosa’s voice singing: “It’s about time you listen to Boom Shaka!” 

I had only seen them on television and, being the pipsqueak I am, I could feel my eyes well up, knowing the tall people would steal my once-in-a-lifetime chance to see my favourite SA group. But my boyfriend at the time put me on his shoulders — a stunt I would not let any man attempt now.

As I watched them perform, my love for Junior Sokhela, Thembi Seete, Lebo and Theo grew deeper. I was transfixed as Thembi and Lebo gyrated upside to their ragga-kwaito bangers and I knew I had found the band of my generation. Inclusive, talented, daring, smart and damn sexy. 

I’d first heard about Boom Shaka in 1994 coming back after school holidays to listen to my friend Thuso Motsepe singing: “It’s about time  you listen to Boom Shaka!” while walking around the quad. 

We asked him who he was talking about, what song he was singing, but as soon as we heard their debut album, we knew American hip-hop was in trouble because Mzansi — particularly Kalawa Jazmee Records — had found its kwaito bag. Their sophomore album It’s Our Game didn’t disappoint either. I cannot tell you how many dope nights I’ve had these past three decades, with total strangers, dancing to Thobela. 

Losing Lebo in 2006 was heartbreaking and as harsh as the realisation the only time we’ll hear Kiernan rap Mbuzi again is on his final album Mass Country. But trust and believe, as much as it hurts to lose those we love, there’s nothing more enduring than love. It traverses borders, time and space. It is the ultimate symbol of everything eternal about life. 

So, as we celebrate 30 years of Boom Shaka and remember those we’ve loved and lost, let’s not forget love is forever, love is worth every tear. Love is worth the risk.