Maraza brings new flavour to SA hip hop

South African rappers are increasingly getting creative with their lyrics.

You look at 'Roll Up' hitmaker Emtee who has taken trap music and is running with it. Then you have N'gud hitmaker Kwesta who is using his unique deep voice to give his fans exciting music, both these rappers are making strides in the hip hop industry.

Not to be outshined, Maraza, real name Sphamandla Mhlongo, is using 'Fanagalo', a language popular in the mines, to enhance his sound.

'Fanagalo' is a language spoken by people who either do not fully understand Zulu, Tswana and Tsonga and are therefore mixing the three languages. Popular in the mines because of the diversity that exists in the industry.

Maraza, a hip hop artist that has been in the industry for almost 10 years but is only getting his big break now is taking advantage of the language. He has coined his type of music 'Sfanaflow'.

"I was at home a couple of times and noticed my grandfather and old teachers speaking Fanagalo. When I go to the shops some of the Indian guys from my neighbourhood have seen me on TV would [say] 'wena mfana la Mhlongo [hey you Mhlongo boy], mina bona wena lapha TV Gheleza Nathi yini wena yenza?  [I saw you on TV show Geleza Nathi what are you doing?]'. I would respond: 'mina presenter, yenza Geleza Nathi, yenza TV' [I'm a presenter on Geleza Nathi]".

"And that is a huge part of who I am, I grew up being spoken to like that and at some point I used to think that was so patronising, 'why are you speaking to me in that language, you assume that I don't know English?' Instead of embracing that this is the way of my people. I don't need to show these people that I know English, I need to tell these people my story in whatever language it will take for them to understand it best.

So I took Fanagalo and put it in song and when I dropped that song it happened the exact way I had dreamt of it so many years ago," said Maraza.

Prior to realising where his powers lied, Maraza was stagnant in the hip hop industry because it has been changing so much and in order to survive, he had to adapt. He had to learn what people liked and go back to the drawing board to see how he could bring his own flavour into the current hip hop.

"I started questioning the artist I am. I started questioning the music I make because I had been making music for so damn long and I still wasn't as big as Cassper [Nyovest] and AKA.

"I decided to treat it like a science rather than a passion. I started treating it like an exercise rather than a lifestyle, I started studying the game seeing what other people are making and then trying to emulate, obviously with my own flavour and my own flare but for the songs that I thought would break me out. "

This also failed.

He was forced to go back home to try find himself again. He corrected his wrongs by doing all the cultural rituals that he skipped including paying damages for his two children and lobola for his fiance.

Actions he believes gave rise to the rejuvinated Maraza who has a hit song, Gwan which is taking over the airwaves and seeing him getting bookings all over the country.

Watch: Maraza's Gwan music video

He is currently married, living with his wife and two children. Although he is doing all he can to ensure a happy life for his children, he believes it will take a long time for him to become an adequate father.

"Being a self taught musician is okay, a self taught chef is okay and those are the thing I am, but being a self taught father, a self taught parent is a very different thing because we are meant to learn parenting from our parents and I spent so much time living without parents."

 

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