Phunyuka Bamphethe is Mandoza's second album and it's packed with proof that he deserves his place in Kwaito's top three with Zola, and the controversial Arthur. On its August 15 release, the day Mandoza was acquitted on a driving under the influence charge, the CD went gold.
And it wasn't just his Jo'burg urban fan base that was buying it, either. Mandoza is a true South African pop star. So his fan base spans cultural divides. Both Yeoville club DJs and Rock DJs like Barney Simon include Mandoza tracks in their club sets, sandwiched between alternative and Afrikaans pop. Soul fans came to know Mandoza for his SAMA award-winning collaboration (Same Difference, 2004) with pretty boy Danny K, who sliced up his gruff punch like a sharp carving knife. The video for his second hit off Mandoza, "Indoda", imposed his image in the logos of familiar South African brands, effectively melding trends, icon-building and satire. You get the picture? He's cool - he's kwaito.
Mandoza's cross cultural appeal has nothing to do with compromise and everything to do with fusion. If you're English speaking, you'll struggle to figure out what he's actually writing about. But though lack of comprehension might make the album seem monotonous at first, it won't matter once you absorb the sound, which is so rhythmically seductive you'll struggle to stand still. You'll also begin to pick up tantalising clues to the points he's making in the odd bit of slang, English or Afrikaans in the songs. So persevere.
The album's title means "The untouchable" or more literally "He who is locked up will escape again." Escaping his own cliches of tough guy and ex-con, Mandoza includes tracks like "Mama", "Hope" and "Amen", that deal with moral issues and spirituality. But he hasn't gone soft, and neither has the hot production - he's still working with both D-Rex and with Kwaito hitmaker Gabi "Sledgehammer" Le Roux.
Arthur Mafokate - who's recent hit "Sika Lekhekhe" was banned from SABC for being too hot to handle - also collaborates, and co-produces a couple of tracks: "Nogonondo" and "Nogonondo II". The style varies from straight hard trad kwaito to deep house infused moments, with a little soul and melody sweetening the mood now and then.
The result is a tour de force packed with both club and radio hits. Get your copy.
- Jean Barker
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