the a-z of south african music by faka
Stars of i-D’s new Mykki Blanco documentary, FAKA are musicians, performance artists, and activists who are helping to re-shape South African culture and identity. We got their unique insight into the essential elements of their nation’s music.
Johannesburg duo Thato and Buyani -- otherwise known as Fela Gucci and Desire Marea -- do their thing under the collective name FAKA. The brilliant best friends have been busy subverting the cis-hetero gaze ever since they started performing. On a mission to make positive change in South Africa through their art; the defenders of black queer culture share gqom-inspired songs that you'll struggle to sit still to. The accompanying lo-fi visuals are full of looks and moves that belong on a runway, with a general aesthetic that makes us wish they'd direct whole films. When they're not making music, the dream team can also be found behind the decks at their well-named club night, Cunty Power, which, like BBZ of London, prides itself on being a safe and empowering space for queer, trans and nonbinary people of colour.
Fresh from appearing in i-D's Out Of This World documentary series with Mykki Blanco, we asked FAKA to talk us through the music of their country, their memories of it and how it has inspired them. From Angel Ho to Zoe Modiga, this is FAKA's A-Z of South African music. And this is a mix they made to accompany it. You're welcome.
"I was in my hometown, a village called Amandawe in the South coast of KZN, a few days ago. Like most times, a familiar sense of sadness provided the potent undertone to the little joys that made my visit worthwhile. It's not easy to see beauty in the face of poverty and hardship and many of us waste a lot of time looking for beauty, or rather a misconstrued idea of it, in the borrowed artefacts linked to realities outside of our own. But on my most recent visit, I found beauty in the most clichéd element in my village -- nature. There was this sound of a bug that reverberated like a heavy-duty road breaker, and above it birds chirped violently. It was a sophisticated arrangement. I then remembered that Fela and I were both here when we produced and recorded our first song in my mother's old bedroom, and I was made aware of all the textural connections between our music and the environments we find ourselves in, from the sparse minimalism that is reflective of rural soundscapes, to the grotesque noise that mirrors the sounds of the cities we now occupy.
I thought about what makes music music. But more specifically, what makes South African music great. I thought about the conditions that inspired artists like Miriam Makeba, Letta Mbulu and Bra Hugh Masekela to resist and transcend the oppression that affected many for centuries. I thought about the dialogues of freedom that were at their prime during the inception of Kwaito -- the cultural checkpoint for Post-Apartheid South Africa. I mused deeply about how Fela and I both grew up in the Church, a space of collective grieving, singing songs that healed our grandparents in trying times. I wondered if the HIV/AIDS epidemic that put women's bodies at the epicenter of stigma and shame had anything to do with ideas of respectability that slowly imposed themselves on female artists of the millennium. Facets of the Black experience are written into every note in our lives and, like blackness itself, we could go on forever. Or at least, from A to Z."
A is for Angel-Ho
"The alpha of experimentation and the omega to end any bitch who tries it."
B is for Brenda Fassie
"A South African queer icon. Invented aesthetics and 'distancing' -- a term we use to describe any raw display of power. Watch this breathtaking performance of From a Distance and you'll understand why."
C is for Culoe De Song
"Mentored by the legendary Black Coffee, Culoe has managed to carve a unique place for himself in international dance music. His sound evolves with every hit but the celebration of African culture and spirituality is a constant."
D is for Dzebetse
"From eMalahleni, this heavily slept on genius has a sound that feels like a 'hey stranger' text from a guy you actually want to fuck."
E is for Emtee
"We really want to suck his dick. Plus he made this ode to one of the most talented female artists in South Africa."
F is for FAKA
"Because self love, honey."
G is for Gqom
"A designated wig and moral cemetery needs to be built for all the times gqom de-wigged us on the dancefloor to the sound of collapsing morals."
H is for Hlasko
I is for Izingane Zoma
"The queens of social commentary. Watch this video for their song about unprotected sex."
J is for Jakinda
"Mshindi is just unreal, okay. Travel with him."
K is for K.O
"We also just wanna eat his booty tbh. Also, this is one of the biggest era-defining songs of our generation."
L is for Lundi
"A performance artist. A gospel star. May his soul rest in power."
M is for Madosini
"A sound that carries centuries of wisdom and power."
N is for Nonku Phiri
"With her sound that's so beautifully crafted, Nonku reminds us of the boundless possibilities of South African music."
O is for Oskido
"Founder of the cultural institution named Kalawa that has been shaping culture for decades."
P is for Prie Nkosazana
"Prie represents the underrepresented world of femme-led Gqom and that's important."
Q is for Qness
"The 00s were for house music and Qness was the darling uncle of that era."
R is for Rebecca Malope
"When Rebecca goes down on her knees… to sing praises to the lawd… our wigs part with our scalps like the red sea."
S is for Simphiwe Dana
"Simphiwe Dana changed our lives with her music. Her debut album was released when we were teenagers and that inspired us to embrace parts of ourselves that we never knew existed."
T is for Thandiswa Mazwai
"A living legend. Our favourite top. A consistent voice that always speaks the truths of the times, with the power of Gods."
U is for Uhuru
"One of the few black male bands that still remain true to the culture of Is'bhujwa."
V is for Vusi Mahlasela
"The quintessential whiskey dad aesthetic. Perfect for sucking dick in a Cressida."
W is for West ink
"They gave us Babes Wodumo and Distruction Boyz and that's enough."
X is for all the kisses we're sending FAKA's way
Y is for Y didn't FAKA come up with anything for this letter?
Z is for Zoe Modiga
"She had us at yellow."