Koša Ke Nnete: A Genealogy of South African Musical Practices


Text: BLK Thought Music

Photograph: BLK Thought Music

Introducing a method of conceptual sonicity.

Black Thought Symposium is a collective of artists, scholars and members of the community who are interested in using aesthetics as a theoretical site for understanding and giving account to the world we live in. The collective is committed to the development of arts and politics in a way that will translate into material change in our society. Black Thought Symposium understands the importance of conversation, but we are not just a talk shop, we are interested in ensuring that our abstractions find expression in the concrete. The history of South Africa is one of exclusion and this history still permeates our present. Throughout the years, we have strived to create a space where the expression of thought and ideas is not based on class, race, sexuality and other societal stratifications. We are also interested in the interrogation and sustenance of black artistic practices which have not been adequately theorized and given attention. This is to say we want to redefine what the university is and by implication what study and learning ought to look like. Black Thought Symposium seeks to reimagine what we know as the classroom, gallery, theatre and stage. At its core it is to find new languages and vocabularies to express and articulate the black experience without completely dispensing the old ones.

BLK Thought Music organizes with and forms part of the Black Thought Symposium.

In the past years, the collective has organised, curated and participated in events which include but not limited to: (a) post-traumatic music therapy sessions for children with Childline – Soul Buddies; (b) a musical symposium titled ‘Discourses from the Margins’ in partnership with UCT SRC, which sought to interrogate intersectionality and how it is negotiated in spaces of marginality vis a vis dominant public/popular spaces; and (c) a musical research project and symposium titled ‘Ingomayomzabalazo: song as struggle and resistance’ in partnership with the University of Stellenbosch, iPhuphoL’kaBiko and WSOA, which sought to interrogate the significance and meaning of struggle songs in relation to the act of resistance and/or struggle.

We are undertaking the process of documenting our findings from these projects through a soon to be released docu-film and publication.

Our forthcoming event which will be hosted on Thursday 26th of April 2018 at Drama for Life Emakhaya Theatre, Wits University is titled Koša Ke Nnete: A Genealogy of South African Musical Practices. This project is an inquiry on the historical concerns of South African social, political and aesthetic struggles as expressed in music. We seek to explore the temporal movements of discourse on race, colonialism, class, gender and sexuality in different musical genres.

This project is part of a series of artistic explorations which seek to interrogate the historical expressions of black social life in various South African musical genres. We do not think of music as merely a means of entertainment, we think of music as a conceptual field of knowledge and practices.


Deluge in Swarga

Wazi M Kunene Deluge in Swarga

Writer: Andisiwe Nakani

Photographs: Supplied

The captivating images, imagery, colours, sound and textures in the opening of Deluge in Swarga set Wazi Kunene apart and certainly compel one to calm down, shut down, listen up and be completely present.

’s haunting and potent performance is a remarkable portrayal of artistry. She brings her entire self to the stage and still leaves room for the audience. She takes you on a journey and leaves you to float between knowing and having absolutely no idea of anything besides the well of emotion and forgotten remembrance that her colourful and powerful vocabulary evokes.

Wazi M Kunene Deluge in Swarga Culture review magazine

Carrying the performance ever so effortlessly Kunene, ‘the chameleon’ as she has been called by others, gently oscillates between pieces like Baptism Water, Holocaust, Shrouds and Elusive. The poems sound like an embroidery of story stitched together by themes of poverty, love, pain, religion, death, blackness and a fierce will to live out loud.

Between the flimsy swirling and twirling of stage smoke, her words and her voice seem to seduce your imagination with their almost lazy rhythm drawing from a depth of an ‘insatiable blaze’ just to borrow some of her words. With words like ‘furnace’, ‘inferno’, ‘blaze’ and ‘smouldering’ she paints wild and vivid images that resonate with the audience. One almost feels like they are privy to some sacred ritual that is at once extremely personal and a shared experience.

Wazi M Kunene Deluge in Swarga Culture review magazine

Deluge in Swarga is not simply poetry or spoken word, it is an entire theatrical performance weaving story-telling, poetry and music into a moving ensemble. It is a reflection and a tale of grave and brave lived realities that are the golden thread to the shared experiences of blackness. It is a beckoning to interrogate the identities and behaviours we assume and justify.

Embedded in rich textures and emotions some of the most poignant pieces have to be “Holocaust” and “Baptism Water” delivered in that eerie and ‘other worldly’ fashion that has come to characterize Kunene’s work.

“When did you learn to hide the ashes of a holocaust in your hair?

A shadow of a blaze clings onto your curls.

You have made too many friends now.

You have called the wind on yourself.

Everybody will see the roaring smoke now.


Where did you learn to soak in the echoes with your eyes?

Having seen the fierce chance of a fire storm stifle the air.

You did not survive that day.

Your grandmother thinks the three of you survived that day.

The inferno does not forget.

You cannot outlive your roast…

The holocaust cannot survive itself either

Where did you learn to eat yourself?

-excerpt from “Holocaust”

With her bold and beautiful voice, she chants right through the performance weaving the gentle and gruesome with the skill of a wordsmith and brilliant story teller.

Beyond being quite magical the treasure in Kunene’s words and expression is how real it is. It’s not fictional, the imagery is striking and colourful with truths that moved some audience members to tears with pieces like “Baptism Water”:

“Things we thought would drown in our baptism water.

Memory. Poverty has returned to stretch its arms on your night.

It says you have never seen me yawn now you will know that I have no flaw.

Feel your every bone turn to ash, first your knees. I do not fear prayer. Remember crumbling…

You will remember children you have killed,

stuffing scripture in their noses.

They are trees now. “

-excerpt from “Baptism Water”

Kunene’s poetry and stage presence is enchanting and absolutely unforgettable. The depth of her expression and play between the gentle and brutal beckons one to not only listen but meditate on the stories she tells.

Review – The Suitcase


Text: Xolani Tembu

Photographs: Iris Parker

It is the 1950s, a docile, recently married young couple from rural Natal, evocative of Gaz’lam’s Khethiwe and Sifiso, has resolved to pack the little they own and leave their agonizingly unbearable families for greener pastures. Timi Ngobese (Siyabonga Thwala) had heard of a place called Umkhumbane that was apparently overrun with mushrooms of rooms to rent. As he and his buoyant young bride Namhla Ngobese (Masasa Mbangeni) journeyed to the big city aboard a South African Railway Services locomotive, they arrive to a flurry of human bodies and mystifying stench that is characteristic of cities. Carrying an antique traveler’s suitcase and roll of sponge mattress remnant of enterprising township-street-pounding Zimbabwean and Mozambican merchants, the Ngobeses rest as they attempt to figure out how they would get to Umkhumbane. While they wait, enters Mlotshwa (Desmond Dube), a former rural Natal cum streetwise Umkhumbane denizen who after a short exchange with the Ngobeses, offers them a room in his yard. What follows is a rollercoaster of a life half lived burdened by the pressures of city life and shattered dreams. A true reminder that life is indeed what happens while we make plans.

Adapted from Es’kia Mphahlele’s 1954 short story, The Suitcase features an all-star cast in Siyabonga Thwala, Masasa Mbangeni, Desmond Dube and John Lata to name a few. Under the incredible direction of veteran actor and director James Ngcobo, the cast moves in mesmerizing fashion as it delivers the narrative. A combination of well-timed transitions and apposite supporting music through the voices of Gugu Shezi, Ndoh Dlamini and Nokukhanya Dlamini backed by well-known left handed guitarist Bheki Khoza, effortlessly transported the agreeable audience back to the 1950s when pinstriped suits, two-toned shoes and a selection of Dobbs and Stetson hats were the order of the day. The Suitcase is an indispensable reminder of the pureness of black love; simple, uncluttered and unadulterated. It is also a reminder of how precarious such love can be when left to its own devices.

While a much welcomed breakage of the fourth wall by the two narrators in Desmond Dube and John Lata takes place every so often, it also took away the momentum of the show, a rather rude reminder of the days when SABC channels would go on ad breaks in the middle of a feature film. Some would liken this feeling to an almost sneeze; truly, nothing could be more frustrating. The show could have certainly done well without the narration. With its talented cast, remarkable direction and well thought out set and lighting, it stands well on its own and carries the story with very little need for elucidation.

Congratulations must however, go out to the team, particularly Ngcobo for his refusal to render this show prosaic and pedestrian since its inception in 2006. Returning to The Market Theatre for a 6 week season, it would truly be unpatriotic to miss it after its critically acclaimed sold out season in the United Kingdom. Tickets are available from The Market Theatre Box Office at R90.00 for Tuesdays- Thursdays, R150.00 for Fridays-Saturdays and R130.00 for Sundays. For this season, the curtain will drop on the 26 November 2017.

Twitter: @skrufu

Ankobia – Essential Theatre

Blacks should flock en masse to see Ankobia, a labour of black love written by Monageng “Vice” Motshabi and Omphile Molusi. Motshabi also donned the directorial hat on this production that wrestles violently with the psyche of an assimilated, indoctrinated and ultimately, a dominated people. This is honest theatre that conceals nothing, forcing the audience to deal with their continued complicity in their dispossession. The production equally forces the oppressor to see their sustained privilege play out on stage as they continue to hold onto the levers of power through a puppet government. Tis dem forces of evil (“white-supremacist-capitalist-patriarchy”) that attempts to suppress what seems to be a perpetual state of rebellion for black folks in this play set in 2041. The play will leave you shook, discombobulated and feeling some typa way. – Kulani Nkuna. Continue reading “Ankobia – Essential Theatre”

Ode To Black

ode to black -culture review magazine
Black is the colour of mourning and melancholy. Black epitomises stealth; it is
central to clandestine ventures and cool lonesomeness. Black is the colour of
executive cars, gadgets, accessories and clothing. Eternally beautiful, Black is the
colour of the universe, the infinite deep dark unknown abyss. Black is a wormhole,
mysterious and ever-receding, absorbing everything around it and revealing
nothing. Black is all colours mixed together, perhaps the sum of the visible. Black is
the only colour without light, though full and empty.

Continue reading “Ode To Black”

A Beautiful Struggle

Text: Flo Foundation

Photography: Flo Mokale

Thabo “Flo” Mokale, father and founder of the Flo Foundation has always been a lover of images. Whether it’s through his poetry or performances, he always strives to capture the mind with the magic of his visual and spoken imagery. Continue reading “A Beautiful Struggle”

Review – The Suit

Writer: Sibusiso Mkwanazi

Photographs: Supplied

“Umtsetse”. That is one of those words that seems not to exist in the English language. It is the “fold” that is ironed into a pair of pants. This line separates the men from the boys and the girls from the ladies. Can Themba’s The Suit does this with surgical precision as it clearly differentiates right from wrong, no matter the justification. Continue reading “Review – The Suit”

Sabelo Soko – Umkhondo

Poet Sabelo Soko Umkhondo. Culture Review

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. Continue reading “Sabelo Soko – Umkhondo”

Umzi Watsha – The Politics of (im)patience


Photography: Ayabonga Cawe

Text: Ciko Story Concepts

We live in compelling times. South Africa’s trajectory is shifting and its custodians are growing in consciousness – and in action. The times call for deep, meaningful and honest reflection and conversation. This is needed in order for us to enjoy a fruitful translation of those convictions in the immediate spaces we occupy. ‘UmziWatsha- The politics of (im) patience’ puts this under the spotlight. Continue reading “Umzi Watsha – The Politics of (im)patience”

Marat/Sade: A View From The Colony

Writer: Ziyana Lategan
Photographs: Oscar O’ryan

The Baxter Theatre’s 2017 staging of Peter Weiss’ The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of Marquis de Sade or Marat/Sade is without doubt, superbly performed. The stage, made to look like the inside of an asylum, made to look like a stage, was perfectly Brechtian in its effect. The audience, functioning as the actual audience in the asylum, was constantly made complicit in the spectacle of the performance Continue reading “Marat/Sade: A View From The Colony”

Celibacy Blues

InGlorious_Home_Emdeni_Soweto__0008 (1)

Writer: Ms Doo-Wop
Photograph: Musa N. Nxumalo

I had a conversation with a friend of mine the other night. Both of us are new in America, five months into our ‘international degrees’ and already feeling the emptiness of the promise of awayness.

We have both left lovers back home.

It is not that he does not have the opportunity to cheat or that he doesn’t want to. What he is afraid of is the freedom that comes with being anonymous. Continue reading “Celibacy Blues”

Ke e rekilemachina-eng

Writer: Blackhouse Kollective
Photography: Blackhouse Kollective

the blackhouse kollective educational exhibition at bree taxi-rank,during december 2016, publicly defied the rainbow reconciliation farce. displaying work titled sankofa – lest we forget, our exposition was greeted by police bullying. shabbily donned street-vendors poised helplessly at the receiving end of that police violence.

Continue reading “Ke e rekilemachina-eng”

Feta Kgomo O Tshware Motho

Busiswe Seabi Fees Must Fall confronting security force at Wits University

Writer: Mogobe Ramose
Photograph: Makgotso Nkosi

In his De Legibus, book III, part III, sub. VIII Cicero wrote that “saluspopulisupremalexesto”. The various translations of this maxim do not deviate from the basic insight that the health of the people shall be the supreme law. It is significant that Cicero makes this jussive declaration under the important title, “On laws”. Whatever laws there may be in a given human community, they ought to recognise, respect, protect and promote the foundation upon which they are built, namely, the health or well-being of all the individuals constituting the community. Continue reading “Feta Kgomo O Tshware Motho”

Cultural Confusion in Post-Colonial Countries

Kasi Mlungu Cultural Appropriation

Writer: Yannisha Yalla

Photograph: Fizz Designs (Twitter)

So many questions need to be asked about identities and cultures in post-colonial countries. Post-colonial countries are flooded with people who have been uprooted and then forced to adapt to a mainstream culture. This mainstream culture is usually white. The dispossessed are then taught to be grateful that their minds have been colonized.

Continue reading “Cultural Confusion in Post-Colonial Countries”