Derived from the Afrikaans word ‘kwai’ literally translating to angry, kwaito is the heavy, house music pumping out of modern South Africa. Kwaito was formed South Africa’s Soweto township, drawing on several South African genres such as kwela, marabi and bubblegum music, the thriving afro pop scene of the 80’s.
Very much rooted in youth culture, kwaito remixes South African house, adding African melodies and slowed down tempos with deep, hard hitting basslines. Lyrically, themes tend to range from politics liberation such as Arthur Mafokates ‘Kaffir’ through to more provocative material such Arthurs Sika Lekheke which wasn’t quite as well received, having been banned on radio for its sexualised content. South Africas youth however, soon became tired of political lyricism and took kwaito on for themselves, relaying similar messages through dance culture.
Although not as prominent today as 10 years ago, kwaito is still very much alive in contemporary electronic music, from township producer Spoek Mathambo who infuses kwaito with dubstep, house and hip-hop through to up and coming stars Ruffest, and of course the late Brenda Fassie.
‘Kwaito is about the township, knowing about the township, understanding the township, walking the walk, talking the talk and most importantly, being proud of these things. The township is being celebrated by the youth of South Africa in kwaito music.’
photo © Louis Gee