chapter  8
22 Pages

Representations of Sophiatown in Kwaito Music: Mafi kizolo and Musical Memory


Within months of the fi rst democratic elections in South Africa, media and cultural critics began to notice kwaito music as a new popular musical form that was taking the black townships by storm and causing much controversy in its wake. Perhaps, if it had appeared a decade earlier, it might have gone relatively unnoticed outside of black communities. However, kwaito arrived on the scene just as South Africa was undergoing its transformation from apartheid. Within the nation-state of South Africa, socio-cultural developments, which in the past might have been confi ned to township space, were like black people themselves, moving into other spaces.1 Kwaito, therefore, has become much more than just a musical genre created by young black South Africans in the wake of apartheid’s collapse. Instead, it has become a prolifi c site for contemporary South African cultural politics, and one barometer of black progress. These public culture debates surrounding kwaito demarcate a set of productive negotiations about the constitution of post-apartheid South Africa, particularly in relationship to shifting class, racial, ethnic, and gendered politics of black South African communities. In particular, kwaito serves as a site of cultural politics that brokers the constant interrogation and remaking of black subjectivities.