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Move over you moribund writers and publishers and let MCs and hip hoppers fly indigenous language flag

By unknown | Jun 05, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

In terms of promoting indigenous languages, a revolution of sorts in the music industry has been unleashed from unexpected quarters - poets-cum-MCs and hip-hoppers.

In terms of promoting indigenous languages, a revolution of sorts in the music industry has been unleashed from unexpected quarters - poets-cum-MCs and hip-hoppers.

At a time when kwaito music has reached its sell-by date, innovative and creative young artists have found new ways of expressing themselves, putting their feelings, aspirations, observations and issues to the public through the medium of hip-hop.

And, unlike their US counterparts, they have done this through the use of local languages, selling albums by the bucket and filling performance halls as fans embrace this new phenomenon.

Hip-hoppers have made indigenous languages such as isiZulu, Setswana and even Xitsonga sexy by rapping in them and doing what writers have failed to do.

When Gheto Ruff artist Amukhelani 'Mshangaan' Nwankoti released his debut album, So Shangaan, in 2006 he surprised everyone when the lyrics were flawlessly delivered mainly in his mother tongue, Xitsonga.

His debut album made the Tsonga proud when it was nominated in the Munghana Lonene Music Awards' rap category this year.

HHP, who made a good showing and a stunning impression at this year's South African Music Awards (Samas), is distinctly a Setswana rapper, and so is Tuks Sengana who was voted the best rapper at this year's Metro FM Awards.

Jub Jub, whose gospel song was tipped to clinch the Best Song of the Year at the Samas, has endeared himself to many music lovers especially because of the rap lines that he delivers in funk, feel-good, flawless Setswana.

When he failed to take home the statuette, understandably an air of disappointment assailed the Superbowl.

One also remembers Bongo Maffin at the height of their success in the late 1990s.

Though each of the members contributed to the success of the band, it was mainly the voice of Stoan Seate who rapped in Setswana, the first Mzansi youngster to do so successfully in the genre, that made all the difference.

To cap it all, the lyrical content of the new crop of indigenous music rappers is rich in meaning and metaphor - they think before they put pen to paper and deal head-on with social issues confronting them and society.

HHP, in his brand of hip-hop called motswako, tackles issues of love and instilling pride and an identity consciousness among the youth, particularly in his latest album, Acceptance Speech.

All this is done through Setswana lyrics that would put members of the Pan African Language Board to shame.

Tuks also beats the drum of love and at the same time blows his own trumpet about having arrived big time on the local music scene against the wishes of his detractors.

Jub Jub also deals with social-conscience issues that resonate with many people, particularly Christians, because his lyrics are religiously inspired.

Zulu Boy's lyrics touch on Zulu cultural heritage.

In his debut album, Masihambisane, released in 2006 he tells of the wars that have been fought and continue to be fought, from Isandlwane in 1879 to the war against Aids and HIV.

Maybe, just maybe, Minister of Arts and Culture Pallo Jordan should divert his gaze from the comatose writers and hesitant publishers if he wants to raise the status of indigenous languages.

Mshangaan, Tuks, Jub Jub, Zulu Boy and HHP are probably the answer to this vexing issue of the salvation of indigenous languages.

lSee comment on page 14.


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