The Sunday News
Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter
WHEN the man that had been born Anesu Mupemi in Mbare in 1973, jumped on stage and grabbed the microphone while heavyweight South African kwaito super group Boom Shaka were performing at Palace Gardens in Bulawayo, few in the youthful crowd that day would have known that they were witnessing a legend in the making.
The year was 1993 and Oskido who had never seen Jah Seed perform live, was convinced that he had unearthed a gem to put on a Kalawa Jazmee crown that still only had Boom Shaka as its shining jewel.
After the success of Boom Shaka, fronted by the irresistible Lebo Mathosa and Thembi Seete, few would have known that Oskido’s next super group would be fronted by a chanting student from Bulawayo Polytechnic. Fate had led Jah Seed and Oskido to that stage at Palace.
“We had Boom Shaka in the stable but we always think ahead so when Boom Shaka wasn’t singing we started putting up the pieces of Bongo Muffin. Apple (Jah) Seed actually used to be this side and Otis Fraser actually sent me his tape and said listen to this brother and wow, I loved it. I said where is this boy and I think he said he was studying at Bulawayo Polytechnic and I said I want to bring this boy this side (South Africa) because I think he can make magic,” Oskido said in an interview.
“I had never seen him. I had listened to the tape but after that, that’s when it happened (Jah Seed jumping on stage). I said my outie I’m taking you and going with you to eGoli. I said even if you speak Shona, I’ll teach you my boy,” he said.
According to Oskido, convincing Jah Seed, a hardcore reggae chanter to stick to Shona lyricism would be his crowning glory. It would prove a masterstroke that gave Boom Shaka its unique, multicultural identity.
“I said when we get there I want you to pick up Shona culture because I loved the Shona language. When I hear the lyrical thing (I get excited) because I love the African languages when I develop the thing (music). So we put together Bongo Muffin. Don Laka brought Thandiswa Mazwai and I had already discovered Stoan . . . The good thing about Apple Seed was that he was hardcore reggae but I said lets convert this to your language, that is how Bongo Muffin was born,” he said.
House music might not be renowned for being culturally progressive but Oskido has stuck to his guns over the years. Groups like Black Motion, who infuse their thumping house beats with unique African flair and instrumentations, have flourished under his care while hits like Tsa Ma Ndebele show a man who still appreciates colourful vocals in whatever African dialect. However, such discoveries happen later in Kalawa’s 25 years of existence. Before he turned into the talent factory that could uncover Jah Seed in Bulawayo, the Kalawa mastermind faced many challenges.
Trompies and the street wars
While Kalawa Jazmee is a common enough name, few know how it was actually conceived. While Kalawa came from the combination of names of original founders Oskido, Don Laka and Christos’ names, the Jazmee part came as a result of running battles on the streets of dangerous Johannesburg.
“There was controversy with the Trompies guys about the song Ibize Moyeni and Traffic Cop because we had done the same song and they had done the same song so we were fighting on the streets because I felt they had chopped my record. That time it was getting dangerous with Jazmee Records.
“So Mandla (Spikiri) and I sat down and said that it doesn’t help for us to fight my friend, because those days everything was hectic, even the hip-hop culture and in Joburg there was a lot of shooting, killing each other. During that time we lost Makhendlas . . . there was this beef with Kalawa and 999 and we felt that this was not the way to build a nation. We should be an example to society. So that’s when we joined record labels. That’s how Kalawa Jazmee was born.
The era of newcomers (oMafikizolo)
According to Oskido, it is never wise to sit on one’s laurels as a record label boss when your artistes start flourishing. The realisation that Jah Seed and Bongo Muffin would soon be out of his grasp had led him to hunt for new talent until he stumbled on Mafikizolo.
“So as Bongo Muffin got bigger we had to think ahead. Music is like soccer, you’ve got to develop and you’ve got to think ahead because as the group gets bigger so do their heads. So that’s how we hooked up with Mafikizolo because they brought in a cassette and one of Thandiswa’s friends said Oskido, there’s this group, can you meet them and that’s how I met Mafikizolo.
“They gave me a cassette, you know those old cassettes the TDKs? . . . It was pitch black cassette written Mafikizolo and I said what’s going on here? They gave me the cassette and I listened to it and I liked their voice and I liked what they were doing. They came from this kasi (high density suburb) called Kagiso and I liked their vocals because we always want to sign something different at Kalawa,” he said.
When their time to impress came the former Gifford High School boy, Mafikizolo did not disappoint. There was one problem however, they did not know what to name their three men group.
“From there that’s how the group came about and we sat down to listen to them because that’s what we usually do and we then we agreed and boom. But Mafikizolo did not know what to call themselves and the first track on the tape that they had given me had a chorus about oMafikizolo so I said no, I’ll call you Mafikizolo. They were quite embarrassed saying with this whole Kalawa stable as big as it is you want to call us Mafikizolo and they felt that I was undermining them and I said that’s your name, Mafikizolo. So that is how they were named,” he said.
When Black Coffee came knocking
Black Coffee is one of the world’s most sought after performers. From Las Vegas to Ibiza, he packs arenas and makes the walls of prestigious shake to the sound of his educated branch of house music. Before that however, he was just another young hopeful, following Oskido around the spots that he was playing.
“From there we started signing different kinds of artistes because Mafikizolo became a brand. That’s when I met guys like Tira because he wanted to set up his record label. So we took him at Kalawa and that’s when he started releasing his stuff under Kalawa, licensed by Kalawa.
“I remember one day I was chilling at home and I heard a hard knock on my door. I opened the door and saw that it’s this kid, with a friend of his, who is always following me around. I ask myself ‘how does he know where I live?’ He says my man you’re the only person who can help me with this. He gave me (his demo). This kid is Black Coffee. I listen to his stuff and I say wow. I told him I was signing him there and then. So what we did was, because he had a lot of remixes, we cleared his stuff with the guys and that’s how Soulistic music was born, through these hands,” he said.
Oskido’s home has indeed seen the debut of more than one special talent.
“Dr Malinga came to my house and he sang and sang and after that we went to my house and I said my man here is a contract. This is because he is so much of a talent, undisputed talent.”
Coming home again
Earlier this year, Oskido caught heat for snubbing the Bulawayo Arts Awards with claims from his label that he was not Zimbabwean. According to him, he had been catching unfair criticism since he started the Kalawa Homecoming gigs.
“I grew up here (Bulawayo). It (Homecoming) was meant to say let’s give back to the community. Remember the people who’re employed are people from here,” he said.