A trip down Kwaito lane

Book documents the history of post apartheid pop music and culture


Born To Kwaito: Reflections on the Kwaito Generation, is a book by South African authors Esinako Ndabeni and Sihle Mthembu that revisits South Africa’s history through Kwaito music, a genre that was birthed in post-apartheid South Africa. Born to Kwaito comes at an important time in Mzanzi’s history when the country’s younger generation grapples with the disillusionment of post apartheid promises and hankers for the common identity born of the liberation struggle.
In an exclusive interview with Time Out co-writer , Sihle Mthembu said the book is an intergenerational conversation between people who lived through the kwaito era and those who followed it, as well as an attempt at creating a common language of understanding.
“The book was initially meant to be a podcast but during the research phase I found out that there weren’t any books written about kwaito from a black perspective. That’s where the initial impulse for this work came from. We interviewed a lot of kwaito musicians for this book but we also spoke to other contributors such as producers, journalists and fans because the story of kwaito does not belong only to the musicians,” the award winning author said.
The book features candid interviews from the genre’s torchbearers and those who bore witness to the Kwaito revolution such as Oskido, Arthur Mafokate and Mandla Spikiri among others who share their unparalleled stories and perspectives. Even though Kwaito originates from South Africa, the genre made its way across borders and influenced other African nations including Botswana. Mthembu added that the genre provided a template for how black music expression can be converted into popular culture as Kwaito extended beyond the sound and influenced fashion and film among other forms of expression.
When asked if the music genre had any influences from and relevant to Botswana, Mthembu said, “I think it’s very relevant because it provides a lot of context through which people can understand how South Africa has become such a dominant force and creator of cultural products in the region.”
He goes on to explain that the most important conversation that Born to Kwaito opens up is the one about the role and contributions of women in the genre. “Women have been written out of the history of this music,” he said. In their research the authors pay tribute to a time when Brenda Fassie, Lebo Mathosa, Thembi Seete, Nomasonto ‘Mshoza’ Maswanganyi, Zanele ‘Nestum’ Nyakale, Queen ‘Iyaya’ Sesoko, Sharon Dee and Thandiswa Mazwai made dance anthems, created movements, disrupted patriarchy and paved the way for South Africa’s female artists.
The book’s synopsis on Kindle via Amazon reads, “Born to Kwaito takes us through the tsiki tsiki yho’s of our South African narrative, cementing a culture of living, dancing and human relation unique to Kwaito and unique to eKasi. Trail blazed by likes of Oskido, Kwaito created a whole new and vibrant way of being for the Black person in South Africa’s newly found democracy.”
Born To Kwaito was released this year June by BlackBird Books.