Writer: Xolani Tembu
Photograph: Musa N Nxumalo
Listening to Sabelo Soko’s second offering, Umkhondo, one can almost hear echoes of Sipho Mabuse’s Thaba Bosiu, those of the iconic Madala Kunene’s Ubombo and even Hugh Masekela’s Stimela. Needless to say, this album sets Soko hills apart from his compeers, certainly earning him the esteemed title ‘Bra’ Sabza.
A proud Pan African and co-founder of the Mpumalanga Poetry Slam League(MPSL), Soko is also an accomplished writer and performer having plied his trade alongside Hip Hop pioneers Teargas. His debut EP titled 2380 was nominated for a SATMA award in the Best Poet category in 2015.With fierce and no holds barring tracks such as Eziko Lamaphupho and Zithande, this second album is a rare force to be reckoned with in its genre.
UMkhondo is a conscious and conscientising offering peddling notions of blackness within the black power realm. It speaks to ideals born of movements such as Biko’s BCM and the recent Radical Economic Transformation Movement (RETM), an offspring of the ‘Economic Freedom in Our Lifetime’ movement. Soko unapologetically tackles issues of racially structured and propagated poverty and the effects thereof, most notably the September 2012 Marikana Massacre. Delivering his offerings in IsiZulu, he pulls no punches as he goes for the jugular in the interlude Njengabo that addresses the long standing burning issue of land and its expropriation without compensation from the so-called white monopoly. While the realism of politics and its socio-cultural effects are the crux of human existence as equally addressed in this album, Soko intermittently ventures into sexual metaphors against stone cold realities of township survival and is drawn back into politics of race, gender and blackness by ironies of pain.
It is very easy to imagine Soko a typical Pan Afrikanist affected by delusions of grandeur in this enduring black fight for all sorts of freedoms, presumably compromised by the then liberation seeking African National Congress; but in fact, it is voices like his that awaken fires and the Davids of Goliath fame within us. Umkhondo celebrates the struggle of the black child without glorifying it, but also pierces at the heart of the issues that need to be dealt with.
*Sabelo Soko will launch his album, Umkhondo, at the Jo’burg Theatre on June 2 at 8pm.
You can purchase the album on iTunes: https://itun.es/za/hxUyjb
The album is also available on all major online stores.