More than a simple music genre, kwaito turned into a real lifestyle in South Africa where it was born just after the end of Apartheid and Nelson Mandela’s election as president of the country in the early 90’s. Born in townships, kwaito mixes local rythms with house music (a music born from afro influences too). Kwaito’s sound largely changed since and took inspiration in many other genres mixing with other electro music or even jazz developing at the same time an unique type of sound.
The message has changed too. Political message was strong and very essential in many songs in the early days switching to a more positive vibe under the influence of Nelson Mandela himself who gathered main kwaito artists to ask them to put more positivity in their music. Today, if you talk about kwaito, you can’t forget dance and style. Kwaito is a major part of South Africa’s culture.
As much as music, kwaito is known for it original and complex dance choregraphy created by many groups who train hard daily. Most known type of dance is called Panstula and consists of moving legs from left to the right in a syncopated rythm and low to the ground. Many other moves emerged as well and groups creates more and more orginal choregraphy. It attracted Beyoncé‘s attention when she invited Mozambique’s trio Tofo Tofo to dance in her video for smash single “Who Run The World (Girls)”.
This Summer, Major League DJz hit “Slyza Tsotsi” generated a viral movement on social networks with thousands of people showing more and more creative moves. Released in South Africa by the end of 2014, the movie “Hear Me Move” highlights kwaito best dancers in the pure dance movies tradition like “Street Dancers”.
On the musical side, kwaito gets bigger year after year on dancefloors all over the world. Back in 2008, DJ Mujava’s “Township Funk” had a big rotation in clubs in the UK or USA thanks to the support of many international djs such as Diplo. Major League DJz “Slyza Tsotsi” got featured on big american blogs this summer. But don’t think success will change kwaito. To keep their authencity artists keep speaking in tsotsitaal the language you hear in townships. But thanks to the huge growth of African music genres in the world, Kwaito can hope for shiny days beyond South Africa borders!
Listen to a selection of Kwaito songs below.