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Various Artists - Kwaito Classics Vol One and Two

2006-08-30 09:52
Unfortunately, many people reading this will never have gotten round to undoing the damage our South African education (or lack thereof) has done to us culturally. What does this mean? Well, if you didn't learn Afrikaans at school, you'll never understand the brilliant ironies of alternatiewe Afrikaans icons and perhaps you won't enjoy Valiant, and Koos Kombuis. Which is a terrible shame.

Likewise, if you never learned Xhosa or Zulu or Sotho at school, you're cut off from a major cultural factor in South Africa. Because Kwaito - though the lyrics are used sparingly in much of it - is at least half about the lyrics, and half about the driving dance beat.

It's a musical movement that grew out of freedom - Kwaito is only about 13 years old - so those whose freedom was restricted and who never got round to taking that language course might feel that it's not worth trying. Except it is worth trying, and many of the songs on this particular collection really are classics. Many of them are decipherable even if you don't speak the language, as bits of Afrikaans and English are liberally scattered throughout, providing clues. As serious Kwaito fans won't need to buy this compilation, that's fortunate.

The two CDs (sold separately) and 24 tracks give you a quick potted history of some major Kwaito hits from one label. It's far from complete (only going up to 2000) so you'll have to fill in the gaps on your iPod yourself, but you will get some idea how the sound changed and grew from the early 1990s on the EMI, CCP, Phat and Sounds Good labels.

They've kicked the compilation off with Brenda Fassie, who some would argue isn't really kwaito. Not true - her brand of afro-pop, with it's almost tinny rhythmic backing, fused with house beats, is the basis of much Kwaito (there are three tracks of hers on the two albums.) Mdu blends in more hip hop sounds (Kwaito is sometimes called African hip hop, which is misleading). Arthur's real classics "Kaffir" and "Die Poppe Sal Dans" stand out as truly culture-bending works. Boom Shaka also stretch the definition of what Kwaito means. What's quickly clear from this compilation is that it's not easily defined simply as house music with "shouted lyrics" as it so often has been.

Unfortunately, some of the tracks won't speak to people who don't already like Kwaito. Joe Nina's stuff, is for want of a better word, harsh.

There's also far too much missing - the 2000s was when Kwaito grew up and went pop, but also took a serious musical and poetic turn with certain key artists. Zola more than anyone but also Mzekezeke, Mandoza and many others deserve to be on any collection that claims to feature the classics from a decade of music.

- Jean Barker
Those of you who think the words "Kwaito" and "Classics" don't belong in the same sentence have two choices: one - go back to the radio and listen to James Blunt, or whichever bland pop comes on next; Or two - acknowledge that you might be missing something, and stop losing out. Because help has arrived.

Ellen 2007-05-06 01:21 PM
why Arthur What is Arthur doing in this compliation he is horrible and is NOT THE KING OF KWAITO...HE NEEDS HELP IN DISSAPPERING FROM THE MUSIC..SOMEONE ANYONE PLEASE DO US THE HONORS.

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