South Africa

#SAMA24: Balance me, please. How did Busiswa win Best Kwaito Album?

In a time where music in South Africa has become so diverse, it’s time event organisers of music awards such as the South African Music Awards (SAMAs) improved the definitions of genres — especially when it comes to gqom and kwaito. 

Firstly, we just need to establish this: gqom isn’t kwaito, and it never will be.

If anything kwaito is more relative to hip hop than gqom music, and even gqom itself has seen artists such as Okmalumkoolkat and Maphorisa embrace it in a cross-genre type vibe with rap.

When I saw the nominations for Best Kwaito Album I couldn’t help but question Busiswa’s name appearing there. 

I love Busiswa and some of her music, but it isn’t kwaito. She’s a great artist with many hits on her own and others where she’s featured on, but let’s be honest and not sugarcoat it; her music isn’t kwaito. 

Having listened to her album, Highly Flavored, the only two songs that have a case for sounding ‘kwaito’ inspired are Ingqondo and Bad Galz featuring Moozlie. The rest of the songs are anything but kwaito. 

Her main single from the album, Bazoyenza featuring Maphorisa, is a gqom track. The two songs that follow after this intro track are also gqom inspired.

Ironically, Busiswa is signed under a label one would consider the headquarters of kwaito music back in the day, Kalawa Jazzme. 

The record label was founded by then kwaito producer Oskido, Don Laka and Christos Katsaitis. Oskido and other artists such as Arthur Mofokate were among the first artists to produce Kwaito songs by adding vocals to the slow tempo house beats. Key words: slow tempo. 

Kalawa would later on join forces with Jazzme, a record company that owned trompies, a powerhouse in kwaito music at that time. So her bosses know kwaito. 

Last year at the SAMA23 the Award for Best Kwaito Album was won by Dr. Malinga. Yes. Dr. Malinga. 

Mind you, Babes Wodumo, the Queen of Gqom (self-titled album) was nominated under the kwaito genre, too. Other nominees were Trademark & Zinhle Ngidi and Bullistic — who actually does real kwaito). 

My question is how can all these musicians be grouped under one genre when even a kid would tell you Bullistic and Babes Wodumo make completely different types of music.

While there’s a huge lack of original sounding kwaito music, the genre shouldn’t be diluted by being filled up with other genres. 

The country still has a lot of kwaito music, at least in the undiscovered field, and it’s up to music compilers to be able to pick out that sound and include it on radio stations and TV music channels. 

Kwaito, fortunately, is a huge genre in some parts of Europe, and so is gqom, and event organisers there know how to differentiate the two, so why can’t we? 

Can we place some value on kwaito please, or at least establish gqom as a stand-alone genre at such awards ceremonies? 

This article first appeared on Organic Mag.

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