Guardian journalist, Melissa Bradshaw’s article titled, “How Kwaito became a global force” has been the subject of dissent amongst South African’s on twitter, since it was published on Thursday 11th of Aug 2011. The shortcoming of the article is that musician, Spoek Mathambo is used as the main subject of the piece on kwaito, yet in a tweet two days after the article was published, Mathambo announces ” I did the interview without knowing that the piece would have a kwaito focus. I was doing an interview about my work, which is very much not”.
The consensus in South Africa is that Mathambo cannot be classified as Kwaito. The Fader magazine’s understanding of Mathambo’s music is consistent with this as they describe Mshini Wami (Mathambo’s debut album) not as kwaito but as “gleaming electronic rap tracks”.
There is no doubt that Mathambo has a connection with kwaito. Gwababa (Don’t Be Scared) – the first track on Mshini Wami can easily be labeled a kwaito track but to caption an image of Mathambo with the words, “King of Kwaito” is misinformed. Most pioneers of kwaito are still actively involved in the industry, producing music and selling records. M’du Masilela, the man considered as the “godfather of kwaito” was one of many pivotal characters that were not mentioned in Bradshaw’s article.
The article did however touch on the significant debate on what kwaito is? and what characterizes kwaito as a genre? These questions arose when Big Nuz introduced their brand of “Durban Kwaito” in 2007. The trio presented a more energetic, up-tempo style of kwaito, which was extremely popular and influential around the country.
The debate remains somewhat unresolved as the definition of Kwaito remains a bit blurred. With this being said, there is still a clear distinction between Spoek Mathambo and the evolved kwaito produced by Big Nuz, L’vovo Derango, Dj Clock, Fisherman and Professor.