Has kwaito music lost its grip and relevance?

September 16 2016 Mapaputsi and S'bu at the Strictly Kwaito Tour build up media launch. Desoufeng, Soweto PHOTO: Mdu Ndzingi
September 16 2016 Mapaputsi and S'bu at the Strictly Kwaito Tour build up media launch. Desoufeng, Soweto PHOTO: Mdu Ndzingi

The death knell may have just been rung on kwaito.

The SA Music Awards (Samas) have for the first time in its history made public the complete list of entries and it does not look encouraging for the local genre.

The entries have been vetted and are for nominations that will be announced on April 20 ahead of the ceremony scheduled for Sun City on May 25.

The best kwaito album category is languishing at a measly six albums while best dance album thrives with 27 and best rap boasts an impressive 25.

Mdu Masilela, one of the pioneers of kwaito, insisted that the genre was not dying but admitted it looked gloomy.

"The numbers are disappointing. I don't know what to say, but kwaito is not dying. Maybe they are not recording it anymore and instead changing to hip-hop with a touch of kwaito. We need more releases of the original sound," he said.

Kwaito veteran, Arthur Mafokate, had a different view. He believes that the problem dates back to past Samas.

"This category was manipulated by the major recording companies in the past. It did not reflect what was happening in the streets, and that was de-motivating. So the legends told others that there was no point in entering the awards.

"Now that things have changed, we need to send the message for more artists to enter. I'm the chairman of independent record labels at RiSA (Recording Industry of South Africa). Kwaito will never die, it doesn't depend on awards to survive.

"It's a poor man's genre, the voice of the voiceless, unlike hip-hop where your rich father gives you money to record a demo. It's harder in kwaito," Mafokate said.

Kwaito artist Danger, real name Mzi Tshomela, of Big Nuz which was crowned best kwaito group at the Samas, said the entertainment industry did not invest in young kwaito artists anymore.

"The industry is going to face a problem because recording labels don't give young artists who send their demos a chance."

He said although other categories were gaining momentum, artists like L'vovo and Professor were flying the kwaito flag high.

Overall, the RiSA - who are the organisers of the Samas - said entries for the 23rd edition of the annual event have shown a significant increase this year.

The submissions were made from November 1 2016 to January 30 2017.

Leading the pack with most entries is the best collaboration category with 106. The best produced album category received 72 entries in diverse genres such as dance, gospel, gqom, rap, jazz and R&B while the best engineered album has 46. The best jazz album has 15 projects, best maskandi album is sitting at 13, while the best traditional music album has 15. The best African artist category received six entries from Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Botswana.

RiSA CEO Nhlanhla Sibisi said: "We have decided that this year we would reveal the entire list of artists who have entered the Samas to avoid surprising fans in the next few weeks."