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Annika Schall

Kwaito: The Urban Heartbeat of South Africa

Kwaito, a music genre born in the townships of Soweto, South Africa in the early 1990s, expresses the lifestyle of South Africa’s young black population like no other. Where exactly the term Kwaito came from, nobody knows. It is supposed to be derived from the Afrikaans word kwaai, which literally translates into angry or strict, but is also used as a slang word for “cool” or “hip.”To describe the musical style of Kwaito is not easy, regarding its variety of different influences. It is best described as local music with global influences. Kwaito developed from what inspired the young urban people of South Africa at the time it came into being. When DJs in the clubs of the townships slowed down western house music and added an African twist, such as traditional African instruments, elements from African Jazz and a certain beat, Kwaito was born. Its style evolved over time and incorporated other kinds of music, such as Hip Hop, R&B, Dancehall and Disco. Those various influences are all blended into a very unique style of music that can best be explored by listening to it. There is more to Kwaito than just music though. Its history, culture and lifestyle tell a lot about present-day South Africa.Kwaito and Post-Apartheid South AfricaThe history of Kwaito is closely connected to the modern history of South Africa itself. When Nelson Mandela was freed from prison and Apartheid was abolished, an era ended that had deprived the non-white population of basic freedoms, exposed them to bad living conditions and considered their culture as inferior. After decades of oppression, all citizens of South Africa now enjoyed equal rights and freedoms regardless of race. Mandela’s election as the first black president of South Africa and all the changes that came with it also gave the non–white… Read More