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There is a greatness in being black, loud and proud

Thango Ntwasa Columnist
R&B sensation Tamia takes South Africans down memory lane, performing her classics in Pretoria. / Thulani Mbele
R&B sensation Tamia takes South Africans down memory lane, performing her classics in Pretoria. / Thulani Mbele

This week marks a monumental moment in the love story of American R&B star Tamia.

While she might be celebrating 20 years of marriage, in 1999 we were blessed with an album that has come to define Sunday chores like no other in this universe.

Tamia's self-titled debut album is now something of a meme.

Whether you had an elder sibling or Wilson B Nkosi, R&B was vital to the playlist of kasi streets through the 90s and noughties.

Tamia, the Beyoncé of Stoep FM artists, could be heard down the winding, dusty streets of any kasi I set foot in.

The power of Tamia and other 90s R&B artists was so formidable it played out like a Rorschach test, depending on which song they had on repeat you could get a glimpse into the psyche of your neighbour and whatever they were hiding, behind the Sunbeam or Cobra that made their red stoep sparkle that day.

Owing to a nomadic life, I grew up in a variety of communities, and Tamia's loud music was not unheard of even in the coloured spaces I got to call home.

Our love of loud music not only transcends cultural groups but this continent as well.

While watching a US-based hip-hop documentary, I recall a term referred to as the ghetto radio.

As a means of promoting their music, producers would have their bops played out loud in their local communities.

The song would become so familiar that the very mention of it would create an immediate interest, making it easy not only to sell from their trunks but to local radio stations as well.

Playing music aloud has always been a means of communication in black communities, a playground for genres like rap and even our very own kwaito.

The ghetto radio became a way of lifting up a culture that did not quite earn its chops in mainstream spaces, whether as a minority group or in the media we consumes.

It is with the same ferocity that we have managed to birth genres like trap or amapiano. It is music you just can't not play out loud.

In a world where blackness, for centuries, sought respect through quiet conformity, we unshackle the binds that tie us in the subtlety of loud music, a celebration that should never be contained.

I always found it quite discouraging when neighbours in majority white suburbs would complain about the noise of cultural ceremonies (having been warned well in advance)... but it was no surprise.

Like any other racial group, black men and women are loud, however our noise comes with irrational fears.

There is no menace to society in the loudness of black trap, rap, house, gqom, amapiano or even Tamia.

It is when it is most misunderstood that many wish our blackness were quiet.

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