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Foosball with Mandoza

2008-11-19 12:09
In between slapshots from deep defence, we’ve been discussing recent happenings in Mandozaland, which let’s face it, is a pretty big place.

A new album is out soon, and the man from Jozi believes in his product. “It’s tops man, you can’t go wrong,” he says of Ingwenya, his seventh full-length recording. Showing love for just one genre is just “selfish”, so with new producers, collaborators and post-millennium attitude, he’s turned his game up a notch in dance, kwaito and even J-pop, thanks to Asian bubblegum princess Baby M.

Watch video
- Foosball interview

This is the original crossover artist, after all. Play kwaito superstar Mzekezeke in your average lily-white household and no one knows what’s up. Does Julius Malema listen to Valiant Swart? Don’t answer that. But almost every South African has heard “Nkalakatha” and tried to dance like a tsotsi on Friday. We’re talking Shaun Pollock’s musical send off before going in to bat against the Aussies. It doesn’t get more Mzansi than that. “My fans are young, they are old, they are black and white”… sounds like money to be made. How does he split open a universal fanbase? “That’s a bonus, my man, if you work hard. It’s not something you have to think about, it comes with sweat.”

And blood and tears, if you’ve been reading the news. A tough year is behind Mandoza, in which two people died in a motor accident involving the Jozi hitmaker. We push for the magic words, the ‘Ja, I wrote this song for them the next day’ that journalists love to hear, but it isn’t forthcoming. A respectful note in his album sleeve is all the attention he’s prepared to bring to the matter.
All the while, balls have been ricocheting off the sides of the foosball table. Mandoza is what you might call a “wrist ninja”, employing a style that squeezes maximum power with a minimum of fuss. The score goes one way, then the other, then draws level. If you walk & talk like a “Champion” in the studio, you’ve got to play foosball like one too…

On the settled side of thirty, even kwaito stars begin to figure out what’s important. “I don’t think of myself as a family man, I am a family man,” he says. With two boys eager to grow up and sing daddy out of business, he knows where needs to be when the tour bus stops rolling. “That’s where I get most of my dances from for the stage,” he half-jokes, evidently a happy customer when his family, his comfy slippers and his favourite mug are nearby.

Elections are around the corner, but “Politics is not for me,” he explains gruffly. Sure, a cause close to his heart might be worth a song but the man or woman who whispers agendas into his ear is bound to be disappointed. “This is art, and art, you have to do it with feeling, you know what I’m saying?” he challenges. “The struggle is kind of over” and the music will continue, always, but this is an artist fighting for the musical revolution.

Kwaito can grow up with dignity. Kabelo (or is that Bouga Luv?) has mellowed out while maintaining his flow, and maybe after so many headlines, Mandoza is ready for the same. The real test, as ever, is in the music. Will Ingwenya sink or swim? With six chart successes behind him, we wouldn’t bet against one of the wiliest survivors of the Seffrican spotlight. Now, what was the score again?

-Niel Bekker
A contest of wits. A fiercely matched back-and-forth in which only one can be the chief Ingwenya. No, Mandoza isn’t doing rap battles today, he’s giving Channel24 a go at foosball.

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