Exhibition "Techno Worlds"
Sesasedi sa TsodioiAn essay video by Rangoato Hlasane and contributors
A fugitive runs from both a ghost and “maphodisa a Lebowa”ii (as written by harepaiii-player Johannes Mokgwadi in 1974). Tsodioiv runs to “Gauteng mav phutha ditšhaba” . Before we ask why, what if Tsodio is fleeing from neither the ghost nor the police? Mams, Maftown and Ndofaya narrates...
This essayistic video on the DNA of kwaito music and its multiple umbilical cords searches for and celebrates the musicality of leleme la MaAfrika – sonic and phonetic aesthetics of Black world-making. The character of Tsodio as lyrical fiction/mythology travels through orature and storytelling in Black musical and sonic histories of the past, present and future. Traveling banners, thinking and sounding with three locations – Meadowlands, Mamelodi and Mahikeng – serve as backdrops for oral histories with “people as libraries” on site. These situated, lens-based performative conversations intersect and coalesce with vignettes of an unfolding score grounded in Ndofaya, Mams and Maftownvi
What if street names could chorus? Could sound? A gusheshevii could see? Mountains could witness? Dams could heal? Static and strategic – as situated optic performances – could banners sound out narratives of movement and biographies, conquest and naming, defeat and reclamation, defiance and ancestry? From the ground to the sound, from the song and back to the streets, this essayistic video borrows from the Tsodio narrative to manifest visual musicking objects of mmino wa setšo; music of bothoviii, music of the people, cultural music, Black music, a world-making sound – usually referred to as “traditional music”.
Meadowlands, Mamelodi and Mahikeng coalesce in a temporal proximity in a situated, lens-based performance through Tsodio, a symbolic sonic and visual cartography of Ndofaya, Mams and Maftown. The visuals in this video essay sound kwaito’s foundational signature, along with its influences and conversations with Black family music – mmino wa setšo. Kwaito and techno, or Africa and its diaspora, elucidate the human-object-spirit form in mmino wa setšo and how the collusion creates what we get to call “music”.
Expounding the poetics of the late Keorapetse Kgositsile, Uhuru Phalafala (2016) writes, “...language is an active agent to signal movement and continuity in spatiality, bringing difference in relation through a lively enfolding process interweaving Africa on the continent with Africa in America [...] and past, present and future” (p. 20). Ndofaya, Mams and Maftown are characters in this video for their contributions to a South African sonic history – oralities, linguistics, phonetics, musics – as well as their political narratives and historiographies. Ndofaya, Mams and Maftown share a history of migration through forced removals and defiance that is linked to, but not necessarily the cause of, their various cultural innovations. They also have a relationship with the Southern African region, the rest of the African continent, its diaspora and back to Johannesburg.
i Tsodio’s whirlwind.
ii Refers to the police of former homeland Lebowa, now the Limpopo province of South Africa.
iii Harepa – also known as dipela or the Pedi traditional harp – is an adaptation of the German autoharp, retuned and played by artists descending from the Limpopo province of South Africa including Johannes Mokgwadi, Ernest Rammutla and Elijah Ndlovu in a genre called dipela. Mokgwadi is a first in the genre to mainstream the song “Tsodio”, originally as a theme song for a radio drama for the former Radio Lebowa.
iv Tsodio, a pursued and haunted character who murdered his uncle appears in mmino wa setšo repertoire, and into mainstream circulation through Johannes Mokgwadi (1974), Paulina Mphoka (date unknown), Joe Shirimani (1998) and Lebo Mathosa, (1999). The Tsodio narrative as circulated in song is long and traverses popular and subversive genres (includes the 2012 rendition by Thath’i Cover Okestra Vol. 2, curated by Malose Malahlela and me, performed and recorded at Guga ‘Sthebe, Langa, Cape Town) up to the 2020 amapiano treatment by The Trybe (who write the name as “Tsodiyo”). The lyrics in the version by Penene The Vocalist (2020) locate a “mask-wearing, sanitising” Tsodio in “Pitori” (Pretoria, now Tshwane, the capital city of South Africa located in the province of Gauteng).
v The province of Gauteng – Sesotho for “the place of gold”, and a centre of labour migration – is referred to here as “a refuge for nations”.
vi Referring respectively to Meadowlands, Mamelodi and Mahikeng as renamed by the residents. The practice of renaming – as can be observed in the harp – harepa or Gusheshe (BMW 325i) is critical in sonic and phonetic world-making practices of Southern Africa as not only a mark of resistance but also imagination.
vii Gusheshe is the nickname given to the BMW 325i by Black South Africans.
viii Botho – Sesotho for “African humanness”, popularly known as Ubuntu – is used here interchangeably to refer to music of “the people”, the collective noun for Black people. As such, mmino wa setšo escapes and eschews categories such as “traditional” and “world” or even “indigenous” and “folk”.
BiographyRangoato Hlasane, born in Polokwane, lives and works in Johannesburg. He is co-founder and co-director (2008 to present) of Keleketla! Library (Vera List Prize in Art and Politics, 2014) and lecturer in Fine Art, University of the Witwatersrand, Wits School of Arts (2013 - present).
He has published texts in various journals and books, the most recent being the book chapter ‘Dangerous Combinations and Skeem Sam Foundations: The Most Beautiful Black City in Africa?’ appears in Ten Cities: Clubbing in Nairobi, Cairo, Kyiv, Johannesburg, Berlin, Naples, Luanda, Lagos, Bristol, Lisbon 1960 – March 2020 (Spector Books). In 2018, as part of Keleketla! Library, he co-led a collaborative expansive exhibition, two night concert of Thath’i Cover Okestra Vol. 5, club night seminar, gatefold vinyl and education programme titled ‘17 July to 12 September 1977. Lebo Mathosa is born. Steve Biko is assassinated’ as part of the 10th Berlin Biennale of Contemporary Art at HAU2 & Club YAAM in Berlin. This was followed up by the cultural production and transcontinental studio album ‘Keleketla!’ by Ahead Of Our Times, London in 2020. Rangoato is an active member of the ARAC (Another Roadmap for Arts Education Africa Cluster).