The Pan African Space Station presents
Thath’i Cover Okestra – a collaborative re-exploration of kwaito
arranged, directed and conducted by Bokani Dyer
4 November 2012 at 2pm
Guga S’thebe Arts & Culture Centre, Washington St., Langa
R50 presold from Chimurenga- Pan African Market, 76 Long Street and Tagores- 42 Trill Road, Observatory. Or call: 021 422 4168
“Waar was Jy?” asked kwaito crew Skeem in their 1996 pumping house, ragga and rap hit with the same title. “Where were you?” they asked, back in the 80s; in the days when Brenda Fassie was running things; the days of Jomo Sono’s Pirates and Spiderman; of Chaklas Chaklas, Skoro-Skoro, Chicco’s Soldier; of perms, pantsulas and breakdance?
For many of the young members of Thath’i Cover Okestra the answer is simple: I was still a kid or I wasn’t even born yet. But that hasn’t stopped the 11-piece ensemble from creating its own rendition of Skeem’s classic. The track is just one of the many kwaito classics recorded between 1994 and 2004 that they have revisioned for the project.
The brainchild of Rangoato Hlasane and Malose Malahlela from Keleketla! Library with support from the Goethe-Institut, Thath’i Cover Okestra invites a crew of young independent Joburg-based musicians to investigate the meaning and importance of kwaito music’s legacy for a new generation.
The project is more than just a nostalgic throwback to the heydays of post-apartheid euphoria. Rather than merely cover tracks such as Thebe’s “Sokoloko”, Thandiswa Mazwai’s “Zabalaza”, TKZee’s “Izinja Zam”, Bongo Maffin’s “Amadlozi”, Lebo’s “Ntozabantu” and more, Thath’i create new renditions.
Channelling kwaito’s urban syncretic electronic energy through swinging big band choirs of horn and vocal harmonies, and audacious rhythmic eruptions, the crew challenges the concept of kwaito music as an abstract entity – singular, insular and removed from community.
The result is a joyous mix of free jazz with wry 50s Sophiatown quotes, Marabi, rhythm and blues, sexy soul and edgy beats that situates kwaito within a long tradition of black music, giving voice to the pains and pleasures of history while also celebrating contemporary urbanity.
Originally put together as part of the Shoe Shop project, an urban art initiative staged in Joburg earlier this year, Thath’i Cover Okestra are now making their Cape Town début as a part of The Pan African Space Station (PASS).
The PASS performance, featuring original and new members of the okestra, will be arranged, directed and conducted by Cape Town jazz pianist Bokani Dyer. Dyer, the 2011 Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner for Jazz, hopes to channel the okestra’s free-wheeling energy and spontaneous creativity into a “new super nostalgic African futuristic spiritual chant non-genre”.
UPDATE: Audio below