They talk about a ‘golden age’ of South African music but if we’re to look closely at who ‘they’ are, it’s those who fall into a generation whose days of youth of long passed. Why can their children then not foster their own golden age? A recent night spent at the quirky and quaint Miao in Cape Town along with six of South Africa’s freshest young talent leads me to believe that maybe we should allow our parents their golden age, for ours has just gone platinum.
In one eclectic show performed over two nights, Kaleido-Media – the record label responsible for unearthing such talents as Chiskop and Mandoza, and working with Lebo Mathosa, Danny K and Brenda Fassie – revealed its newest set of artists. Sakhile Baleni, Bussine, Andrei Damane, Lerammoux, MelFunktion and Jonathan Simons each came armed with three songs they had recorded with the record label and performed them to an incredibly receptive audience.
Sakhile Baleni is the hip hop head of the pack. His sound is rich with Maskandi influences and his flow borrows the best from Nas.
Here is a young man and artist with a highly textured background story – from losing his parents, to joining a Rastafarian-rapper crew, to launching his solo career – and all he wants to do is share it with the world through hip hop. His lyrics are effortlessly bilingual and he has a great sense of breaking the fourth wall in his performances. A track to look out for by the young rapper is a collaboration with another Kaleido artist, Jonathan Simons, which will remind you of Ill Skillz’s sophisticated structure and Eminem’s flow, and the iconic collaborations produced by both.
Bussine is the bombshell from Gabon. What the media have been saying about Ariana Grande’s range is eclipsed by this young diva. She possesses Tamia’s warmth but charges forward with Mariah Carey’s vocal stamina. But she isn’t restricted to ballads alone. She can take you soaring with her voice one moment and then transform into Lebo Mathosa leading Boom Shaka the next – all this in fierce stilettos, might I add. Her stage presence is undeniable, her confidence unavoidable and her energy is enough to get you jumping out of your seat – which she had some audience members doing by the end of her performances.
Andrei Damane is the Southern Comfort smooth R&B crooner whose mission is to melt hearts with his resonant timbre. He had the crowd swaying to his soulful hits and swooning to his Jackson 5 harmonies. He’s everything we hoped Loyiso Bala and Ishmael would be and he’s talent isn’t limited to vocals either. Damane is a lyricist who has perfected the skill of assembling experiences relayed to him by others into beautiful melodies – this might explain the mysticism inherent to his writing. A song called “The Things We Did Together” showcased another, more poised side of Damane and is the kind of song that John Legend would envy.
What happens when you fuse Gcina Mhlophe, Esperanza Spalding and a little bit of funk? A young, fresh new artist by the name of Lerammoux. In an unusual though pleasantly surprising take to the format of live music performance, Lerammoux writes stories which she reads before she performs her songs. By the time you’re half way into shaking what your mama gave ya to the sounds of this muso-storyteller, you realise that the short stories are prequels to the songs themselves. If you appreciate Thandiswa Mazwai’s skill of communicating prose and poetry through song, Lerammoux is your new favourite artist.
MelFunktion’s stagename is the culmination of a portmanteau: her first name Melissa is fused with a term she has become associated with, ‘funky’. And it is precisely this that she brings to her music and live performance. Although you probably wouldn’t say from her offstage demeanour, she is every ounce of bad that Rihanna dreamed of being circa Music of the Sun. She will give Tamara Dey a run for her money with her music that sounds a lot like Die Antwoord but only suitable for the radio. Take a song (and future radio hit) like “Tel My Op” which sounds like the lovechild of Die Antwoord’s “Fatty Boom Boom” and Lady Gaga’s “Paper Gangsta”.
With a James Blunt timbre and enough funkadelic guitar to give Beatenberg a run for their chart success, Jonathan Simons is forging his own path in local folk music. And the only thing more South African than his sound is a braai. Maskandi guitars and harmonicas colour his music with every hue of the South African flag. The crowd could barely get enough of his quirky demeanour and the way he kept in conversation with them. “If there was ever a clapping song, this is it,” he said, as he strummed away at his guitar and even got a toddler in the front row clapping.
If anything was learned from the evening’s performances it’s that our country is still the very same beaming rainbow that it has been for the past 20 years. These six young artists are set to indelibly contribute to our local music canon and you’d be wise to keep an eye open for each of them.
Kaleido-Media has compiled all 18 songs performed during its artist showcase into a compilation album which is available for order by contacting 021 418 0980 or by visiting Kaleido-Media.com