Kwaito is a music genre that emerged in Johannesburg, South Africa in the early 1990s. It is based on house music beats, but typically at a slower tempo and containing melodic and percussive African samples which are looped, deep basslines and often vocals, generally male, shouted or chanted rather than sung or rapped. DJ Diplo described kwaito as " [poor South African kids'] form of slowed-down garage music." cite web|url= |title=New World Music: Raw Earth| author=Host, Vivian |accessdate=2007-12-05 |work=XLR8R | ] More recently, kwaito artists like Zola have rapped their lyrics in a hip-hop style, while others such as BOP and Oskido have sped up their beats and toned down the male chants to create a softer form of kwaito or african house. Other prominent kwaito artists include Arthur, Mandoza and Mzekezeke. Kwaito's lyrics are usually in indigenous South African languages or in English, although several languages can be found in the same song. The name "kwaito" itself is derived from the Afrikaans word "Kwaai", meaning "angry". This Afrikaans word is derived from the Isicamtho, South African township slang, word "amakwaitosi", meaning "gangster". Arthur Mafokate, one of the founding fathers of kwaito describes the relationship between kwaito and "gangster" being because it is "all about the ghetto music". Kwaito was born in Soweto, one of the townships where blacks were forced to live during the time of apartheid. [ The Kwaito Generation : Inside Out :: A production of 90.9 WBUR Boston, MA ] ] Similarly, kwaito has been referred to as the "sound of the ghetto", and emerged from the most economically depressed areas of South Africa. [Magubane, Zine. “Globalization and Gangster R
] Therefore, kwaito "opened up an economic avenue for a lot of young people as well as a creative avenue".Robinson, Simon. "That's Kwaito Style." Time Magazine, 11 April 2004.] Older musicians looked down upon this new music, calling it the music of gangsters, while current kwaito musicians tended to interpret this relationship of the word "gangster" to their music as it being "hot and kicking". [Mhlambi, Thokozani. "'Kwaitofabulous': The study of a South African urban genre." Journal of the Musical Arts in Africa, vol 1 (2004): 116-27. ] Other listeners describe kwaito as “a mixture of all that 1990’s South African youth grew up on: South African disco music, hip hop, R&B, Ragga, and a heavy, heavy dose of American and British house music.” [ Kwaito: much more than music - ] ]

One of the first Kwaito singles to become a hit in South Africa was the song "Kaffir." According to an article by Thokozani Mhlambi. The lyrics are a perfect illustration of the freedom of expression that developed as a result of the political change. Mafokate is protesting against the white people’s use of the word kaffir to address black people. The subject is treated in a burlesque manner, but this only heightens the discontent against the atrocities of the past. ["‘Kwaitofabulous’:1 The study of a South African urban genre"] Kaffir also made Arthur as a kwaito originator and it encouraged him to take on more projects for future success. He found New School and Abashante, which are groups that Arthur produced and wrote material for to show his range of talents. [ [ South African Music ] ]

The Word 'Kwaito'

Kwaito is the music associated with the black youth of post-apartheid South Africa. Essentially a form of dance music, in its most common form kwaito is intentionally apolitical and represents music "after the struggle". However, the term "kwaito" also refers to a whole youth culture complete with the vernacular and fashion norms. Various competing opinions debate the origin of the word Kwaito. from Isicamtho; the South African township slang, composed of different indigenous languages integrated with the languages of colonial English and Afrikaans, comes the word amakwaitosi, meaning ‘gangster’, driven from Afrikaans‘ ’kwaai’, which means strict or angry. The word has been interpreted as an umbrella term, encompassing styles that range from guz, d'gong, and isgubhu to swaito. [ Impey, Angela. "Resurrecting the Flesh: Reflections on Women in Kwaito." Agenda 49 (2001): 44-50.] Despite the fact that Afrikaans language is associated with oppression and long generations of apartheid, when an Afrikaan word inters the Isicamtho vocabulary, it is reshaped into a context that confronts the original meaning of it. [ Mhlambi, Thokozani. "'Kwaitofabulous': The study of a South African urban genre." Journal of the Musical Arts in Africa, vol 1 (2004): 116-27. ] M’du, one of the pioneering Kwaito artists says the word derived from the Afrikaans slang word ‘kwaai’ which is parallel to our slang English words "cool" or "hot." He says: "When house music got popular, people from the ghetto called it kwaito after the Afrikaans slang word kwai [sic] meaning those house tracks were hot, that they were kicking". [ South African music after Apartheid: kwaito, the "party politic," and the appropriation of gold as a sign of success | Popular Music and Society | Find Articles at ] ] Although Kwaito is often linked with street culture, its songs are listened to, and affect young members of the poor, middle, and elite classes in South Africa. ] ]


House music arrived in Cape Town in the early 1990s at raves like the World Peace Party and in the original venue Club Eden, and later Uforia and DV8. This spread northward where, in the mid 1990s, Chicago house was becoming a popular genre in Johannesburg clubs such as 4th World, and local artists fused its sound with that of South African music. Arthur Mafokate, Makhendlas (Arthur's brother), Oskido, Boom Shaka and Mdu Masilela were the first artists to produce a huge kwaito hit and popularise it in and outside the black townships, starting with Arthur's track "Kaffir." However, it was only after 2001 that kwaito artists and music have found their way to Europe and the United States.

Kwaito is a term taken from the "isicamtho" word "amakwaitosi," which means 'gangster.' The subject of kwaito is a relatively new topic of study in academic circles because until just recently, most ethnomusicological studies done in Africa focused on traditional music, not urban. Mhlambi, Thokozani.'Kwaitofabulous': The Study of a South African urban genre. Journal of the Musical Arts in Africa. volume 1 116-127. University of Cape Town. 2004 ] The term "kwaito" has also been linked to the word in Afrikaans for "angry," the same word that has become a slang term for "hot" and "happening." [ TIMEeurope Magazine | Viewpoint ] ]

Kwaito developed in South Africa in the 1990s at a time of major change. The emergence of kwaito coincided with the election of Nelson Mandela, the first president to be democratically elected in South Africa. The removal of the political and economic sanctions greatly transformed the music industry. [] Newfound freedom gave South African musicians easier access to international works and a greater ability to freely express themselves. As a result, kwaito has also been known as the expression of this new freedom, and many anti-apartheid chants have been used as lyrics for kwaito songs.Mhlambi, Thokozani. "'Kwaitofabulous': The study of a South African urban genre." Journal of the Musical Arts in Africa, vol 1 (2004): 116-27.] Kwaito has been called "the music that defines the generation who came of age after apartheid".

Kwaito is definitely the sound of a new generation in South Africa. It dominates the nation's airwaves. Its pulsing dance beat evolved from such styles as mbaqanga and dancehall, as well as house and disco. Kwaito has also brought live music back to the townships where posses of dancing young generation now attend concerts to dance and socialize. Older South Africans hear this music as another step away from the roots of South African music.

Kwaito flourished due to its accessible nature. The Urban communities in which Kwaito emerged suffered from overcrowded living quarters and from a lack of communal recreation space. Furthermore, schools in these economically depressed areas were unable to fund programs (such as music class) to enhance the learning experience of their students. As kwaito did not require a formal knowledge of music, large spaces to rehearse, and expensive instruments, it was easily accessible to individuals in these downtrodden communities.Magubane, Zine. “Globalization and Gangster R

As kwaito became increasingly mainstream in South Africa, collaborations, such as that between South African R&B artists Danny K and Mandoza, have become more common. Kwaito hits often attract a bit of media attention, as Arthur's August 2005 release "Sika Lekhekhe" (a Zulu phrase literally meaning "Cut the cake" and figuratively "Have sex with me") did. The song was banned by a SABC radio station and Arthur had to reshoot the video after several complaints from viewers offended by its sexually suggestive content. Similarly, kwaito band Boom Shaka was widely criticised by the political establishment for its rendition of the national anthem to a kwaito beat. [ cite web|url= |title=Amuzine - Beatspeak - May 22, 1998 |accessdate=2008-02-21]

Kwaito as a genre of music is not considered to be protest music. In comparison to the hip hop movement which was also developing in South Africa during that time Kwaito was a happier, more positive genre. Many musicians said "...'Let's create a much happier type of vibe.' It was all about going out to parties, meeting girls and having fun." The post Apartheid era in South African was very liberating for young people. The could now go out to clubs and enjoy themselves, and out of that developed the need for dance music, which could also be considered as a celebratory genre. In an interview with aryan kaganof the Kwaito aritist Arthur says that African people are a forgiving people and that Kwaito, as a genre Kwaito, and as a people the Kwaito Generation, the goal is to unify through their positive music instead of alienating with down-trodden sorrowful music. Its about being comfortable with who you are, and inviting people to share that with you. [ kagablog » the kwaito story: arthur mafokate interviewed by aryan kaganof ] ]

The kwaito industry is growing fast and there is more competition between the kwaito stars, old and new. Popular artists include Zola, Mandoza, Mzekezeke, Brown Dash, Mahoota, Spikiri, Mzambiya, Chippa, Msawawa, Mshoza, Thembi Seite, Thandiswa Mazwai, Brikz, TKZee, Unathi, and the late African pop and kwaito star Brenda Fassie. The kwaito stars in South Africa are seen as celebrities who influence the culture, language, and economy of the nation in ways that were impossible during the years of governmentally imposed segregation [ [ The Kwaito Generation : Inside Out :: A production of 90.9 WBUR Boston, MA ] ]

TS, Ghetto Ruff, Kalawa Jazmee and Bulldogs are the main recording companies that have discovered kwaito musicians. Jam Alley is a South African talent show that has been a venue for many young kwaito artists like Mandoza, Mzambiya, and Zola, as well as other pop stars. Some kwaito artists have even transcended a musical career. Zola, for instance, now hosts a talk show called "Zola 7" on SABC1.

It is important not to overlook the role of globalization and imperialism in shaping economic and political conditions as well as cultural norms that are key to understanding the localization of kwaito in South Africa. WIth the lifting of sanctions after apartheid in South Africa it became easier for musicians to obtain international tracts. Without a doubt, hip hop trickled in from the United States and the UK that influenced the music scene in South Africa, particularly amongst the "coloured" people of Cape Town who began to identify with an American constructed identity of blackness.A dilapidated economic situation in the poor neighborhoods of South Africa as well as a strong recent history of oppression, parallels the conditions that American hip hop grew out of, yet because of this contexualizes kwaito specifically to the history of South Africa. Rather than mimicking American hip hop, which found its way into the townships because of globalization, the artists gave it a local flavor. One of the ways this can be understood is in the strong commitment South Africans have to locally produced music and distribution trends of kwaito. For example, one of the ANC's first legislative acts was to dramatically increase the amount of private radio stations in South Africa and impose 'local music quotas' of 20-40 percent. [Arthur Goldstruck, "They Can See Clearly Now.'Billboard, Vol 269, No. 18 (November 29, 1999 pp.60-5)] Because of this local Black artist music sales rose giving local people access to the local music scenes. It is precisely because the local people of South Africa loved kwaito so much, yet couldn't afford to purchase the music, that global media corporations own the distribution rights to much of the music in South Africa, yet market it specifically to the local youth. Ironically enough, kwaito has remained a local scene because of abroad interests. South African hip-hop is directly connected to the globalization of the "gangster image" as described by Zine Magubane. In majorly black areas in South Africa Hollywood's influence gave the South Africans a style that was in fact "indigenous."Kwaito's rappers portray this supposed gangster image, that is the style of Kwaito. []

Kwaito in Namibia

"see Namibian kwaito"
"see Music of Namibia"

For now, kwaito's appeal remains largely a South African phenomenon and it has not yet generated the kind of interest that other South African musicians have created for the country's music in the rest of the world. Kwaito has expanded to the neighbouring country of Namibia, with artists like The Dogg, Gazza, Matongo Family EeS, Sunny Boy and Qonja experimenting with it. Namibian kwaito artists are determined to take kwaito to a new level. However, Namibia lacks distributing and publishing companies. Hopes are high that Sony-BMG, EMI and other companies will spot this new, profitable venture. GMP and Mshasho are the two biggest kwaito promoting labels in Namibia. There are no major collaborations between artists of the two countries but B.O.G has featured on a bonus track that was recently added to Zola's Umdlwembe, a track that was produced by Elias Newton of Namibia. Gazza is one of the first from Namibia to collaborate with South African counterparts. He has worked with DJ Cleo, Mshoza, Zola, Brown Dash, Vambos, and Bleksem. The Dogg has been on shows in South Africa during the past years and has also worked with former TKZee producer Mlakisto.


While many assert Kwaito's apolitical character it is worthwhile to note that a refusal to deal in the contemporary realm of politics is an extremely political statement denouncing the political status quo. In the words of renown Rastafarian teacher Leachim Tufani Semaj, “Whether you deal with politics or not, politics will deal with you. The statement that one does not deal in politics is in effect a political statement”. [ Semaj, Leahcim T. "Rastafari: From Religion to Social Theory." Caribbean Quarterly. 1985 ] While a notion in reference to a Jamaican cultural context, this concept remains true throughout a world of oppression and responsive conscientious objection. Kwaito is often thought of as a means of recreation and escapism as a genre which looks to the future instead of the past. While apartheid is no longer in place, South Africa continues to be riddled with social problems which demand to be addressed in the realm of culture creation. HIV/AIDS and the increase in violent crimes since the end of Apartheid are amongst the problems facing the youth of South Africa. In other words, the absence of Apartheid related subject material in Kwaito songs should not be seen as an absence of a political awareness and activism but rather as a shift in socio-political focus. Kwaito artist OscarwaRona recalls, "We used to do tracks where we would ask why is the divorce rate so high? Why are little children being found in shabeens drinking?". [ BBC World Service | Rhythms of the Continent ] ] The aftermath of a system of racial subjugation which has been in place for centuries is equally as demanding of attention as the atrocities which occurred during apartheid.

Is Kwaito Apolitical?

Many have noted that the lyrics of Kwaito songs are apolitical because it mostly helps to create dance-oriented music. The listeners had pointed out that in many cases kwaito uses catchy phrases. Gavin Steingo gave an example in his article, “South African music after Apartheid: kwaito, the “party politic,” and the appropriation of gold as a sign of success”, by saying that the there was not political view in the first song of Mandoza's album because Godoba kept repeating “Cyborg/Move Your Skeleton” throughout the whole song. Gavin Steingo, "South African music after Apartheid: kwaito, the 'party politic,' and the appropriation of gold as a sign of success."] On the other hand, according to Simone Swink's article “Kwaito: much more than music”, it is impossible to talk about kwaito music without the reference to political history of South Africa. He notes that kwaito music started off with the first democratic president, Nelson Mandela, of South Africa. He continues saying that it was very hard for South African black artist to get signed in the music business before.Swink, Simone. "Kwaito: Much More Than Music." South Africa. 7 Jan 2003. .] Gavon Steingo did state that most kwaito is overtly political, even if it seems like “apolitical.” He said that it was more of “anti-political” situation for the artist than “apolitical” because the youth of South African “desire to disengage from the long years of oppression and political protest of the apartheid era.” Therefore, the kwaito music represents the refusal of politics. It is also been noted that there are some kwaito songs that reflects to artist’s “political” view because there are some artists that “rap, chant, or sing about explicitly political and ideological issues.” However, there are cases when people say “kwaito”; they refer only to the “apolitical” variety.


The Kwaito sound originated from the use of European instruments which black African laborers had at their disposal after gold was found in Johannesburg. Another common characteristic is the dialogue between a man and a woman with the woman largely repeating the man's lines. It is predominantly dance music with light subject matter. Kwaito is also usually not sung, but is usually rhythmic speech. [ a link to an editorial on 'Sharp Sharp,' a documentary on Kwaito.]

Kwaito performances require the audience to interact through verbal responses. This is done in a call and answer manner. The artist engages the listener who in turn listens attentively and responds when required. [ Thokozani, Mhlambi. “Kwaitofabulous; The study of a South African urban genre”. Journal of the Musical Arts in Africa Volume 1 2004, 116-127. ] It is also sung in one of South Africa’s dialects including Afrikaans, Zulu, and English. This makes it even more popular with it’s audience. [ Swink, Simone. Kwaito: Much more than Music. January 7, 2003. ]

Instrumentally, Kwaito music is easily recognized for it's use of "slowed-down" house beats, with the kick drum emphasizing each beat in the 4/4 time signature, which is commonly called "four to the floor." Although it draws its most noticeable characteristics from house, Kwaito also draws upon the musical landscape that was popular in South Africa during the early 1990s, including disco, hip-hop, and R&B, among other genres.

One characteristic that still is up for debate is whether or not to consider kwaito a mainly South African production. While many believe that it is "a distinctly home-grown style of popular dance music that is rooted in Johannesburg urban culture and features rhythmically recited vocals over an instrumental backing with strong bass lines", it is still argued whether or not this is actually true because of how recently the music has hit the scene and some of the inspirations it is gathered from. [ [ Official TSOTSI Film Site ] ] The debate is that it is largely influenced by music types from the United States. Therefore, some people believe, even though the roots of it are based in the movements by Mandela and the upheaval at the time, that it is not fully of South African origin. We can see the influence that American Hip Hop music has had on Kwaito most visibly in the use of gold as a symbol of power. Kwaito artists will wear gold and diamonds, completely ignoring its gruesome history and connection to South Africa, in order to portray a "rags to riches" story like many hip hop artists do. Consumption of gold and diamonds,while at the same time saying you represent your people is very similar to the problematic rhymes of many American hip hop artist who glorify the drug trade but claim they want to improve the living standards in their communities. Furthermore, many Kwaito artists would sell their records out of the trunk of their cars; a long honored underground hip hop form of selling records. [ BBC, "Kwaito: The Voice of the Youth" ]

It is also important to incorporate the attitude that Kwaito musicians have. Many critics have a very biased and "Western" point of view on Kwaito music. Kwaito rose from a ghetto culture and most critics always look at Kwaito in a cultural studies instead than looking at the ethno-musicology side. [ Mhlambi, Thokozani. "'Kwaitofabulous': The study of a South African urban genre." Journal of the Musical Arts in Africa, vol 1 (2004): 116-27.] What makes Kwaito stick out is the fact that the music is always associated with a cultural context that brings out some extra meanings and messages. Furthermore, Kwaito is considered by some critics as the Billboard magazine; “aggressive township music”. [] In South African some Kwaito music producers say that Kwaito is comparable to Hip hop; it is only comparable because it has become more than just a genre of music but rather a movement where the youth can create their own identities with their own values.

As Thokozani Mhlambi states in his article Kwaitofabulous "In kwaito music the emphasis lies not in the poetic essence of the lyrics but rather in the instrumental arrangement and the ‘danceability’ of the composition. Therefore I disagree with writers such as Maria McCloy, the author of ‘Kwaito: Its history and where it’s at now’, who criticise kwaito, claiming that very little time and effort is put into kwaito production,...This criticism overlooks the music’s multiple social contexts such as parties, street bashes and clubs. These are social venues where people are more in pursuit of leisure than engaging in intellectual discourse." Ironically, not only does Kwaito resist a sense of Western based oppression by remaining apolitical, but also resists trends and Western influence in and of itself, via mode of production. Kwaito, as Mhlambi affrirms, has remained the music of its people , which is the music of the South African youth, "after the struggle" who wish to pursue R&R as opposed to dwelling on the past. The term Kwaito is a clear sign that oppression is not something to be, or that will be forgotten. The danceability and poetry inherent to Kwaito, however, shows a reversion to better times;to cultural integrity. Through Kwaito artists and youths colloborate to create, through music and dance, a realm where "the stuggle" does not exist.

Impact and Cultural Significance

Kwaito is a form of self-expression and a way of life - it is the way many South Africans dress, speak, and dance. It is a street style as lifestyle, where the music reflects life in the townships, much the same way hip hop reflects life in the American ghetto. [ Swink, Simone. Kwaito: much more than music. 7 January 2003. ] As a result, the growth of kwaito in post-Apartheid South Africa has changed not only the music scene but many urban cultural aspects as well. The fashion industry has boomed all over the country, with urban apparel designers such as Stoned Cherrie, "Loxion Kulca," and Sun Godd'ess setting trends based on those trends emphasized by kwaito artists. YFM, a youth radio station launched in Gauteng in 1997, has become the most widely listened to urban youth radio station in the country, adhering to the principle "of giving the youth the license to create its own identity." Mhlambi, Thokozani. Kwaitofabulous: The study of a South African urban genre. Journal of the Musical Arts in Africa Volume 1, 116–127. University of Cape Town. 2004. ] After having been rejected by major record labels of the apartheid era, many independent kwaito labels emerged such as Kalawa, Triple 9, and Mdu Music. These labels produced myriad employment opportunities for young black producers, engineers, and attorneys in the music industry and, more importantly, has provided young blacks with a source of financial gain and dignity. Furthermore, kwaito has strengthened social integration. While promoting South Africa internationally through successful overseas tours by artists like Bongo Maffin, Tkzee, and Boomshaka, kwaito has gained a huge following with older blacks who grew up on protest songs, as demonstrated by President Thabo Mbeki when he performed the "S'guqa" dance with kwaito artist Mzekezeke during his song "S’guqa ngamadolo" at the 2003 Freedom day celebrations. This marked a huge change in the way people envisioned kwaito, engendering a more widespread commercial audience.

There has been ongoing debate as to whether kwaito is a form of South African hip hop, or if the music is in its own unique category. There are many ways to evaluate this according to researcher Sharlene Swartz who says that in addition to the musical attributes of kwaito, it is important to look at production, consumption and culture. While some say that kwaito is a form of hip hop, Schwartz (and many native South Africans) argue that instead, kwaito is to black South Africans as hip hop has been to African Americans. In her article "Is Kwaito South African Hip Hop?" Schwartz clarifies that “kwaito, like hip hop has become more than music…it provides youth with the means for creating an identity, establishing new societal norms and economic opportunities.” [ Is Kwaito South African Hip Hop? Why the answer matters and who it matters to, Sharlene Swartz The Youth Institute 14 May 2003 ] Additionally, the kwaito artist Zola alludes to the idea that kwaito is a native South African genre in the documentary Sharp Sharp! when he explains how kwaito is a combination of music that comes from ancient Nigerian drumming patterns and poetry that comes from the streets of the township. He ultimately parallels the kwaito movement to the hip hop movement and others by saying “I’m fighting the same struggle my brothers in the states and all over the world are fighting.” [ Sharp Sharp! - the kwaito story (25min, DVCam, South Africa-Netherlands), Aryan Kaganof, 2003. featuring Zola, TKZee, Oskido, Mzambiya, Don Laka and Mandoza ]

Mhlambi's "Kwaitofabulous" highlights that hip hop and kwaito are both genres of the African Diaspora, yet he points out their similarities do not provide a causal relationship between the two. Yes, both cultures grew out of black oppression by whites, and in a world where consumer culture has reached a global level, kwaito cannot claim to be completely free of hip hop's influence. On the other hand, kwaito is unique due to its integration of African language and instruments, and most importantly because of the distinctly South African political, social and economic conditions in which kwaito was born. [Mhlambi, Thokozani. 'Kwaitofabulous’: The study of a South African urban genre. Journal of the Musical Arts in Africa, vol. 1, 2004: 116-27.] A Newsweek report claims kwaito is South Africa's answer to hip hop music, and is different for it incorporates a slowed down house beat with jazz, blues, R&B and reggae. [ [ Kwaito Blows Up | Newsweek International | ] ] Even the very title of a report on, 'Kwaito: South Africa's hip-hop?' calls a relationship between the two genres into question, and only likens them because both music styles have their own subcultures. [ [ CNN - WorldBeat Spotlight - Kwaito: South Africa's hip-hop? - June 9, 1999 ] ]

The development of Kwaito has had a significant impact on South African culture and economy. It has become mainstreamed and features in everything from television and radio to fashion. Half of the South African population is under 21 years of age; therefore, youth culture is very important to the nation’s economic prosperity. Kwaito provides an opportunity for the nation’s youth to produce and sell something they enjoy all the meanwhile making a profit. [ Swink, Simone. Kwaito: Much More Than Music. December 22, 2005. February 28, 2008. ] . This can especially be seen in the fashion industry where several Kwaito clothing lines have emerged including Stoned Cherrie and Black Coffee Label. When Kwaito first emerged in the early 1990s, “the look” was based around street threads and floppy Kangol hats. Today it is a blend of black urban style and modern influences. [ Robinson, Simon. "That's Kwaito Style." Time Magazine, 11 April 2004.] Though there is a fear of gimmicky marketing and loss of authenticity in the Kwaito music industry, this will not occur so long as the industry remains controlled by the South African youth. Kwaito did come from the first black owned record companies in South Africa. [ Gavin Steingo, "South African music after Apartheid: kwaito, the 'party politic,' and the appropriation of gold as a sign of success." ] The music will continue to be profitable to the country as a whole as well as the people as long as it remains a voice for the emerging middle class.

Kwaito music, in its most popular form, has made a statement by expressing the shift in interest by South African Youth taking an apolitical stance in the post-apartheid era. In a sense by rejecting and negating politics, they were making a political statement. However, the overwhelming message that is being expressed in the music and culture surrounding Kwaito is one of just wanting to have fun. This new sentiment portrays the desire of South African youth to diverge from the years of oppression and disempowerment under apartheid laws. [ Steingo (2005-07). South African music after Apartheid: kwaito, the "party politic," and the appropriation of gold as a sign of success. Retrieved on 2008-02-28.] The fading of these apartheid laws permitts them to " spend a night in a club rather than under a curfew". [ [,9171,610043,00.html That's Kwaito Style - TIME ] ] Therefore, the lyrics of many popular kwaito songs focus on dancing and reflect the attitude of having fun for the sake of having fun, rather than engaging in the political issues of the time.

The apolitical stance of kwaito, however, has been seen by older generation South Africans as a sign of South African youth losing touch with important political struggles that have occurred in the country. As a result, these critics of kwaito claim that kwaito is losing its purpose (which is to speak out against the injustices that are occurring South Africa.) Artists of kwaito, however, claim that the time has come to use kwaito as a vehicle to celebrate the freedom South Africans have attained, leaving artists free to sing about other matters that are important to South African youth. [Gavin Steingo, [] "South African music after Apartheid: kwaito, the 'party politic,' and the appropriation of gold as a sign of success."] accessed on 2-29-08 ] Apolitical kwaito in this sense, relates to hip-hop as it is now: a form of entertainment. Though hip-hop from America has enjoyed international success and has been embraced by Africans, kwaito has yet to gain recognition in the U.S., arguably, because of the language. The language of kwaito (a mix of Zulu, Afrikaan, and Xhosa) gives a Kwaito a sound that sounds "messy" or unlike "mainstream party music." As a result, Kwaito remains most likely to be heard in South Africa. [ SANNEH, KELEFA. "Hip-Hop Hybrids That Scramble Traditions." 25 August 2005.]

There are a few problems that can be seen in kwaito. Kwaito has not been very productive in providing gender representation. It seems to be a male dominated field. Another con associated with Kwaito according to Thokozani Mhlambi's article "Kwaitofabulous",is that kwaito has been criticized for its deficiency of "freshness and innovation" as well as too many pre-recorded backup tracks that are used during live concerts.

Kwaito is the seen as the true rap or hip hop of South Africa. The music contains messages of politics and things happening in the world, country or streets. Although some kwaito music talks about just gangters, or violence, it is not depicted as "fake" hip hop. Underground kwaito is seen as fake rap in South Africa, while commercial rap is viewed as the true or real rap and hip hop.

Kwaito record sales

In a country where nearly half the population is under 21, youth culture exerts a major influence on social life. South Africa has a population of over 40 million; 75% are black and many are living in the ghetto. It’s these youths especially who lay claim to kwaito. Their stories sparked it, and the post-apartheid economy gave them the chance to produce and sell it. Kwaito cries out to impoverished youths in the ghetto and has given young black artists a chance to shine. [Mhlambi, Thokozani. "'Kwaitofabulous': The study of a South African urban genre." Journal of the Musical Arts in Africa, vol 1 (2004): 123-124.] Today, South Africans are buying kwaito albums in record numbers. Record numbers is a drop in the bucket compared to the United States record sales. Selling 25,000 CDs in South Africa means an album has gone “gold,” as opposed to the 500,000 record sales it takes to go gold in the United States. Some of the heavy hitters of kwaito have sold over 100,000 records, making them major players in the South African music industry.

DJing in Kwaito

The DJ aspect of Kwaito is extremely popular. Many famous Kwaito DJ's such as DJ waRona, DJ Rudeboy Paul, DJ Mjava, and DJ Cleo are well known for producing many of the big Hip-Hop South African Artists. Many of these DJ's in Kwaito release their own albums after producing other famous musicians in South Africa. The majority of them do not make much money but have very high hopes for the future. DJ Cleo said "All I need is that one chance produce just that one song for any rapper, Jay-Z, Jah Rule, 50 Cents, whatever. And I will kill it. It will become a hit worldwide. Try me. Whoever you're going to play this to, get a hold of me." [ [ The Kwaito Generation : Inside Out :: A production of 90.9 WBUR Boston, MA ] ] Very similar to other genres of music, Kwaito wants to stay original and stick close to the roots. DJ cleo is considered one who try's to stay careful not to abandon his kwaito fan base in a flash because many Kwaito fans take abandoning the original tunes as offensive and turning your back on the Kwaito meaning. [ [ Mzekezeke takes his bow, the cult grows ] ]

One of the most important DJ's in Kwaito music is DJ Rudeboy Paul. Rudeboy Paul, is a famous South African DJ at YFM, a Johannesburg radio station aimed at young listeners. The station mostly plays R&B, hip-hop and kwaito, but also African dance music and Jazz. Rudeboy Paul is one of YFM's most popular DJs. According to Rudeboy Paul, "Kwaito is a platform that serves to drive thoughts, ideas, gives kids from the township a voice in which to speak on what their concerns are, social ills happening around them, the fact that they can’t find jobs out there, HIV and AIDS awareness as well." [ [ kagablog » the kwaito story: rude boy paul interviewed by aryan kaganof ] ] This is why Kwaito is an important part of their culture and thats why he pushes and works so hard to make it successful. He's also responsible for Kwaito exposure. He is one of the most famous DJ's in South Africa and plays a lot of Kwaito music along with hip-hop and R&B to generate more fans to this already popular form of music in Africa.

King of Kwaito

There are two artists who claim to be the Kwaito originators.. One is M'du who claims he was the first to mix BubbleGum with House from the UK and the US back in the 1980s. The other is Arthur Mafokate who is also credited by some as the king of Kwaito, including himself as he wrote in a two page piece called "Am I the king of Kwaito?" Mafokate's claim to fame is due to importance of his 1993 song "Don't call me Kaffir" which put the Kwaito genre on the charts. First official Kwaito song played in South Africa, done by Arthur, with the usage of one of the most degrading words that white colonialists would call black Africans, Kaffir is the Arabic word for ‘non-believer’ or a ‘heathen’ which is the word that Afrikaans described the natives with. In his song, Arthur demands the Boss, ‘Nee baas’ (No Boss), ‘don’t call me a Kaffir…;The song, written in several forms, talked about how apartheid will not just go away over night but change is coming. His groundwork has created an avenue for South African youth to channel their anger, talent and their voice, an outlet that they can call their own.Through this music the youth were able to express their feelings of oppression. One of the originators of Kwaito, DJ and Producer Oscar waRona of Boom Shaka has said that it started out as house with small additions to that genre such as congas and other instruments. Boom Shaka's "major" hit "Don't call me a Kaffir," was about white people in South Africa using that word to refer to the black people. This song was made possible because of the post-apartheid system, but never would've have been recognized or accepted in the apartheid times.

Female Kwaito artists

Kwaito is a largely male-dominated genre, in regards to the artists as well as the management. [ Mhlambi, Thokozani. “Kwaitofabulous’: The study of a South African urban genre.” Journal of the Musical Arts in Africa, vol 1 (2004): 116-27. ] But there are a number of female artists that have managed to become quite successful. In the following, I will mention only a handful. Brenda Fassie, long time South African pop superstar, quickly adopted a Kwaito style as it surged to popularity in the 1990s. According to Time, she was known both for her diva attitude and scandals involving sex and drugs, but also for lyrics that dealt with complex issues of African culture and life. [ Philadelphia, Desa. “The Madonna of the Townships.” Time. Accessed February 29, 2008. ] . Lebo Mathosa rose to fame as part of the group Boom Shaka, and later became a solo artist. Despite (or perhaps because of) being sometimes called South Africa’s ‘wild child’ because of her sexually explicit lyrics and dance moves, she gained widespread popularity. She even performed at Nelson Mandela’s 85th birthday celebration! According to FHM magazine Lebo Mathosa has also performed alongside superstar performers Will Smith and Missy Elliot and has also recorded a duet with R&B star Keith Sweat. In 2004, she was killed in a car crash. [ Remembering South Africa’s ‘wild child’. BBC News. Accessed February 29, 2008. ] Iyaya, formerly of group Abashante, is known for her powerful voice as well as “taking raw, street sexuality to the stage.”. Levin, Adam. “Girlz in the mood.” Posted July 30, 1998. Accessed February 29, 2008. ] Goddess, Venus, Chocolate and Rasta Queen are the four members of the all-female kwaito group Ghetto Luv. They have also adopted an “in your face” sexual style; the cover of their first album You Ain’t Gonna Get None displays all four members completely naked..During the emergence of Kwito Boom Shaka emerged as a voice for young women and a symbol of empowerment. They also use sexuality as an expression and celebration of black female bodies and the natural female sexual desires. Therefore Boom Shaka is also politically involved by trying to get women voices heard through recording a new South African anthem that simply says women have the power to change the society. “Kwaito has offered women a new kind of agency in self-representation in post-apartheid South Africa.” [ Magubane, Zine. “Globalization and Gangster R
] CNN article considered Boom Shaka, and TKZee the most influential Kwaito groups in South African music. [ Wright, Steve. "Kwaito:South Africa's hip-hop?." Posted June 9, 1999. Accessed February 29, 2008. ] Boom Shaka music is not only poplar in South Africa but all around Africa, and they are expanding music to the global market as a way of reaching a larger audience.

Criticism of Kwaito

Despite what it has brought to the country, kwaito faces critics. The kwaito music industry is viewed as male-dominated, especially in management.cite journal | last = Mhlambi | first = Thokozani | title = ‘Kwaitofabulous’: The study of a South African urban genre | journal = Journal of the Musical Arts in Africa | volume = 1 | pages = 122 | date = 1999-06-25 | accessdate = 2008-02-27 ] There are few successful female artists. Lebo Mathosa, who was one of kwaito’s most famous female artists and a member of Boom Shaka, noted that it is “difficult because every producer that you meet in our country is male there isn’t even one female producer that you could say ok I like that record that is produced by so and so.” [cite web | title = The Kwaito Story: Lebo Mathosa Interviewed by Aryan Kaganof | date = 2006-09-24 | url = | accessdate = 2008-02-27] Others accuse kwaito as being talentless, commercialized and mass-produced, consisting of sexually-driven lyrics and dances. [cite web | last = McCloy | first = Maria | title = Fast Cars and Death Threats | date = 1997-01-24 | url = | accessdate = 2008-02-27] . Being male-dominated, kwaito tends to misrepresent women in their lyrics by referencing the body and sexual images. On the other hand, some kwaito groups like Trompies are using the image of the woman to make a social and political statement. In one of their music videos, there is a beauty contest and the women that win and get all the male attention are all on the heavier side. The group is trying to say that today’s perception and definition of beauty does not have to adhere to other cultures’ societal standards.Stanley-Niaah, Sonjah. "Mapping of Black Atlantic Performance Geographies: From Slave Ship to Ghetto." In Black Geographies and the Politics of Place, ed. by Katherine McKittrick and Clyde Woods, 194. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2007 ] Furthermore, more women are entering the kwaito music scene like artist Lesego Bile. She has claimed she enjoys the challenge of entered a male dominated music genre and uses her struggles from her past to help her stay true. She refuses to never exploit her body and dance sexually to please the crowd, like other female artists. She plans on making a strong statement for female artists, while commenting on social issues. [ Queen of Kwaito Singing a in Tune: ]

Kwaito has also been criticized in that it has been labeled as the African version of Hip Hop or an "imitator". In Thokozani Mhlambi's article named "Kwaitofabulous", he points out various European scholars who have disclaimed the authenticity of hip hop as they believe it to undermine the cultural and historical struggles of the South African people because of Kwaito's similarity with American Hip Hop. Mhlambi however, disclaims by pointing out that the black youth of America and South Africa have faced similar oppressive histories by the White population, and thus makes sense to have their music similar as well. He also points out that the criticism from onlookers from other cultures do not realize how both Kwaito and Hip Hop require performances and music making to be a group process and thus requires collaboration. He believes Kwaito and Hip Hop to have many similarities due to both genre's origins, however he does not believe kwaito to be, "a direct descendant of hip-hop". Furthermore, many scholars and researchers of Kwaito, inclding Gavin Steingo, agree with Mhlambi in that they disclaim the idea that Kwaito is purely "South African Hip Hop". Steingo writes in an article entitled "South African music after Apartheid: kwaito, the "party politic," and the appropriation of gold as a sign of success" that Kwaito has been influenced by both House and American Hip Hop while also drawing on inspiration from ancient African Music. Therefore, Kwaito cannot be simply the South African version of Hip Hop. Also, Steingo writes that a version of Hip Hop does already exist in the country, and it is not Kwaito: "Because of seemingly obvious parallels between African-American youth culture and the new black South African youth culture, people have been inclined to think of kwaito as "South African hip hop," or a South African version of hip-hop. (In 2000, Sterns/Earthworks released a kwaito compilation CD in the UK called Kwaito--South African Hip Hop.) It would seem that this perceived familiarity is based primarily on the shared characteristic of "rapping" in verse. And, though this is not totally invalid, it should be stated that there is a "South African version of hip hop" in South Africa and it is not (and has even come into conflict with) kwaito". Additionally, it is difficult to define Kwaito as a type of South African hip-hop, as there is an actual emergent Hip-hop scene. As Kwaito, for the most part, remains apolitical, the hip-hop scene, although less popular, generates a more political and gangster-esque style. This difference is described by the South African hip hop group Godessa, "hip-hop is universal. We were excluded from Kwaito because we cannot understand it. To us, music is not just about dancing, it is a vehicle for us to speak to the masses." Similarly, hip-hop is gaining popularity in Johannesburg, Kwaito's stomping ground, and its emergence is fostering a rivalry of sorts, further separating the two genres. As Kwaito is more of a mixture of hip-hop, disco, and house, the hip-hop scene mirrors a more American style of hip-hop. [ [ "Jozi's Hip Hop Revolution", 20 May 2003 accessed on 2-29-08] ]

Regardless of criticism, kwaito music now plays an important and prominent role in South African youth culture.

Cultural context and implications

Kwaito is viewed as a cultural product of the societal norms and historical context of the townships of South Africa . It is both affected by Black South African society and influences the popular culture of Johannesburg, Cape Town, and their surrounding suburbs. Kwaito serves a transmitter of popular fashion, language, and attitude. Kwaito has also been adopted by mainstream advertisers and production companies as a means of addressing the masses and selling products. A combination of the popularity of Kwaito music and the search by transnational marketers for a means of addressing Soweto youth (considered to be popular cultures’ trendsetters) has led to the use of Kwaito music as a method for advertising mainstream North American products. [Magubane, Zine. “Globalization and Gangster R

Kwaito acts as a reference point for understanding the social situation and cultural norms of Soweto society. Many songs such as Bantwan by Bob Mabena, “whose lyrics marry consumerism and female objectification” or Isigaga by Prophets of Da City which “expresses the same negative and misogynistic attitudes.”. [ Magubane, Zine. “Globalization and Gangster R
] Kwaito also addresses the oppression of black people and the context of colonialism in which they still live. Songs such as Arthur Mafokate’s song ‘Kaffir’ addresses the prevalence of direct racism and Zola’s song Mblwembe (problem child) reflects the prevalence of crime in the townships serve as a means of social dialogue. [ ‘Kwaitofabulous: The Study of a South African Urban Genre by Thokozani Mhlambi, Published in the Journal of The Musical Arts in Africa Volume 1 2004,116-127] A third way in which a specific aspect black South African Society is reflected by Kwaito is in the dancehall nature of it’s origins and rhythms. It shows the prevalence of the dancehall in the impoverished townships and flat lands and illustrates the importance of the dancehall as a cultural meeting place. South African Kwaito enthusiast Nhlanhla Sibongile Mafu best articulated the balance between social commentary and recreation when he said, “dancing itself becomes the site for a radical rejection of the traditional struggle lyrics in favour of the liberation of pleasure, while at the same time attempting to use the language of the street to grapple with and articulate the present reality for the man and woman in the streets of the ghetto”. [ Kagablog, posted December 18, 2007 by Nhlanhla Sibongile Mafu, johannesburg, 2002 ]

It is said that " …a repressive society would result in a creative art…it is an ingredient, it acts as a catalyst to a man who is committed.” In 1994 apartheid ended in South Africa. Kwaito music in South Africa became a symbol of the new generation of youth; furthermore it was not just music, but it stood for a way of life and associated with it was a way of talk, dance, and dress. [*Swink, Simone. [ "Kwaito: much more than music"] , “South Africa”, January, 2003. Accessed February 28, 2008. ] Kwaito reflects life for the South African youth in the townships, much in the same manner that American hip hop portrays life in the American ghetto. This type of music seems to be the newly unsilenced voice of the people speaking out freely in their society.

Critics have compared Kwaito to other international subgenres such as Jamaica’s Dancehall and the UK’s Grime. Dancehall was founded in the 1950’s and 60’s right when Jamaicans were trying to gain independence from the British. Similarly Kwaito was formed right after the Apartheid was lifted in South Africa, both by young members of the lower class. Additionally both have “taken cues from the trends of new governments that supposedly gave rise to the advancement of personal wealth, and glamorized lifestyles.”fact They also share a number of themes in common including commentary on violence and crime, AIDS awareness, and women’s safety.The commonalities between dancehall and Kwaito are in fact rooted in a deeper relationship between South Africa and Jamaican music. African Reggae artists like the Ivory Coast's Alpha Blondy and South Africa's own Lucky Dube were deeply popular throughout the continent when Apartheid was still going strong, and Alpha helped shed a negative light on the oppressive regime when he compared Apartheid to nazism [* Asiedu, William. [ "African youth turn up the volume on hip hop, reggae"] , "Jamaica Gleaner", February 3, 2008. ] Many currently renowned Kwaito musicians grew up listening to Jamaican music, and Stoan, a member of Bongo Maffin, explained in an interview just how necessary an outlet this kind of music was: the representations of black people imported into the country during apartheid were singularly negative ones, and Jamaican music was one of the "only" imported forms that celebrated blackness and gave ghettoized black youth in South Africa something to embrace and identify with. As he describes it,

"If we had to look at any other example of black people off the continent who have found their essence, it's Jamaicans. For us, for South Africans after the curtain was lifted, after we could see other things besides what was presented to us on television which was blacksploitation [sic.] movies and stuff like that, buffoons, you know the picture of us. Any other picture of a successful black man was him behaving like a caricature of himself. Jamaicans brought another element to a picture we had of us as an out of body experience. Yeah, so I think you'll find that a lot of people, you know, have been touched by the culture, in South Africa, within 10 years."

Similarities have also been raised among Kwaito and Grime. These genres are based out of the local popularity of dance music, in both the UK and Jamaica Furthermore they are both offshoots of popular electronic genres: kwaito being an offshoot of house music and dub being a derivative of drum n bass as well as garage. Both of these genres are also becoming increasingly popular in the U.S.< [*Sanneh, Kelefa. [ "Hip-Hop Hybrids That Scramble Traditions"] , “The New York Times”, August 25, 2005. Accessed February 28, 2008. ]

Kwaito and dancing

Kwaito is more than just a music genre. In fact, an article posted on "" described kwaito as a whole subculture with a swirl of irresistible dance beats. [Wright, Steve. “Kwaito: South Africa’s hip-hop?” June 9, 1999. ] According to Sonjah Stanley-Niaah in his article “Mapping Black Atlantic Performance Geographies: From Slave Ship to Ghetto,” dancing has given kwaito increased appeal. In South Africa, beginning in the 1950s, people go to “shebeens” to listen to music, dance, socialize on the weekends. The dancing girls at these parties, often hosted in houses as opposed to licensed clubs, served as a motivation for men to attend. As kwaito emerged and became the norm of music in the shebeens, its popularity rapidly increased. Boom Shaka, the first kwaito group, was also the first to create and popularize dance moves to accompany kwaito. The steps are said to offer a window into the everyday life of South Africans by building on traditional dance styles from the region. This new dance style has also lead to discussion over gender relations. Kwaito dancing has brought on a new type of female display in South Africa. The fact that women dance independently and draw men to them has been redefining the gender boundaries for propriety, work, ethics and morality for the South African population.

Mapantsula is a male dominated dance that came about in the 1980s representing the lower class culture. This dance includes synchronized movements by large groups of male dancers. Mapantsula was also the title of a 1988 film describing the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. It was the the first anti-apartheid film relating to black South Africans. [ [ California Newsreel - MAPANTSULA ] ]

Kwaito and globalization

The homogenization of Kwaito with American rap music, due to Globalization, is viewed by Kwaito artists as a threat to the preservation of their local South African music credibility. Thus, Kwaito artist focus on maintaining an emotional link between customer and brand. This explains why Transnational corporations are much less interested in homogenizing or Americanizing Kwaito music because true Kwaito represents and dictates South African experience. [ Magubane, Zine.The Vinyl Aint Final "Globalization and Gangster R
] Americanizing Kwaito, as is many artists' opinion, can potentially dilute the substance Kwaito was originally based on. [ Swartz, Sharlene. "Is Kwaito South African Hip Hop? Why the answer matters and who it matters to". May 2003 ]


* []
* [ Makokate interviewed]

External links

* [ The Kwaito Generation] , home page of an in-depth audio documentary (51 minutes, US, 2005).
* [ MWEB Music] , South African Website with Kwaito CD reviews and song clips (Searchable).
* [ South African music (including Kwaito lyrics)]
* [ Is Kwaito South African Hip Hop? Why the answer matters and who it matters to] , Sharlene Swartz "The Youth Institute" 14 May 2003
* [ South African music after Apartheid: kwaito, the "party politic," and the appropriation of gold as a sign of success] , "Popular Music and Society", July, 2005
* [ Kwaito Music Videos]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужно решить контрольную?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Kwaito — ist der Name einer in den 1990er Jahren entstandenen südafrikanischen Musikszene bzw. Stilrichtung. Die Musik basiert auf verlangsamten House Beats und Akkorden, dazu kommt ein Gesang oder Sprechgesang in Zulu, Sotho, Tsotsitaal (bzw. Camtho)… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • kwaito — 7 [ˈkwaɪtəʊ] [ˈkwaɪtoʊ] noun uncountable a type of South African dance music, often with words that are spoken or shouted rather than sung   Word Origin: [kwaito] 1990s: na …   Useful english dictionary

  • Kwaito — El kwaito es un género musical que surgió en Johanesburgo, Sudáfrica, hacia finales de los años 1990. Se trata de música house combinada con sonidos africanos locales. Normalmente utiliza un tempo lento, siendo habitual que el kwaito contenga… …   Wikipedia Español

  • kwaito — noun a) A style of music featuring words chanted over house music Sivuyile is part of the kwaito generation. b) The meme or milieu associated with the music style …   Wiktionary

  • Kwaito cheese — Kwaito is a South African also*List of cheesesExternal links* [ 2005 South African Cheese Festival website] …   Wikipedia

  • kwaito — South African Slang Origin: Kasi / township slang popular genre of music, a mixture of South African disco, hip hop, R&B, ragga, and a heavy dose of house music beats …   English dialects glossary

  • kwaito — [ kwʌɪtəʊ] noun S. African a style of popular music similar to hip hop, featuring vocals recited over an instrumental backing with strong bass lines. Origin 1990s: named after the Amakwaito, a group of 1950s gangsters, from Afrik. kwaai angry,… …   English new terms dictionary

  • Music of Namibia — Music of Southern Africa Botswana Comoros …   Wikipedia

  • Zola (entertainer) — Bonginkosi Dlamini, aka Zola, is a South African musician, actor and presenter. He also presents Zola 7 , a television show named for him, on SABC 1. Cultural InfluencesKwaito is a South African urban genre of music. It emerged post Apartheid and …   Wikipedia

  • The Dogg — Infobox musical artist | Name = The Dogg Img capt = The Dogg performing in Zoo Park 2006 Img size = Landscape = Background = solo singer Birth name = Martine Morocky Alias = The Kwiato Master, Mr. Skeleton, TeeDee Born = birth date and… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”