September 24, 2006

the kwaito story: lebo mathosa interviewed by aryan kaganof

Filed under: 2003 - sharp sharp! (the kwaito story) — ABRAXAS @ 6:24 am


Lebo Mathosa is one of the hottest female singers in South Africa. Her professional dance act, sexy look and unique sound, which is a fusion of R&B, African music, dance and funk, has set new standards in the local music industry.
Lebo shot to fame in 1994 as front vocalist and dancer for the multi-Platinum success story, Boom Shaka. In 2000 she launched her solo career with her debut single Intro, a track that features on her debut solo album Dream. Four weeks after the launch of Dream, the album went Gold and in 2001 Lebo won Best Dance Album for Dream, Best Dance Single for Intro and Best Female Vocalist at the coveted South African Music Awards.
In 2001 Lebo performed at the South African edition of the North Sea Jazz Festival in Cape Town, the Celebrate South Africa concert in London’s Trafalgar Square, on tour in Malaysia and Singapore and for the Malaysian queen. Back home she performed to over 16 000 people at Nelson Mandela’s 85th birthday bash, to thousands of fans on Youth Day and Heritage Day. In 2002 Lebo performed at an Aids benefit concert in Botswana and Swaziland, for the showing of The Vagina Monologues and on tour in the United States.
Most of her performances have been broadcast nationally and internationally. She has shared the stage with world class musicians and recorded tracks with local and international artists, including with Keith Sweat on his Africa only album release. Lebo is known for her acting and singing roles in top South African television shows Generations, Backstage and Muvhango. She won the 2001 Style Best Dressed Woman of the Year Award and was nominated by FHM Magazine as one of Africa’s sexiest women. Lebo has been on the cover of almost every local magazine and is regularly in the society pages of South African newspapers.

lebo died tragically in a car accident on the morning of 23 october 2006. images-7.jpeg
Lebo Mathosa: I started off at the age of seven, I started singing at church and at the age of fourteen when I moved to Joburg and boarding school that’s when I got involved in the music industry and at first it used to be called bubblegum music. And we actually changed the whole thing I was involved in a group called Boom Shaka we were one of the groups which started the whole controversy about the changing of the music which we call kwaito. At first it was Gong but then they said no we want a better name so it was kwaito and I guess I took it from there. I’ve been in the industry for ten years now and I’ve recently just done my solo project which is totally different from kwaito so I don’t classify myself as a kwaito artist at all. With Boom Shaka yes, we did kwaito music but what I’m doing now it’s totally different from what I used to do. I do a mixture of everything, which is African rhythms and house beats and a little bit of R&B and pop in it.


aryan kaganof: In what way was Boom Shaka different from the bubblegum music that came before it?

lebo mathosa: The difference was with us, like I say, we were the most controversial group in the country. The first thing is we changed our national anthem, and we put a dance beat in it. No one is allowed to do that but we were able to pull that off so that actually shows you how much power Boom Shaka had behind the music scene itself. We sang in our African languages and when you added a little bit of house to the mix of African melodies and rhythms it became kwaito. It was kwaito because we didn’t want to be categorised with the old artists who sang bubblegum music, people like Brenda Fassie, Kamazoo, Senyaka, they were the top people in the music industry before we came up. So the youth wanted to have something totally different from what the others had done before. And kwaito was also different from any international music, so it was something the youth could represent themselves as. Kwaito has been going for as long as I’ve been in the industry now, it’s been more than ten years. If I had to change anything about kwaito music it would be the lyrics in order for the foreign countries as well to be able to understand. They call it kwaito because it is more of the kasi music, I mean the kasi tongue, we speak in our tsotsitaal, and different languages according to how you grew up. So I would change it into something that everyone would be able to relate to and understand and they would be able to sing and say the words that we are singing. Most things that we sing about are more fun things, it’s nothing seriious, nothing political, nothing out of this world that you wouldn’t understand. It’s the same thing that you hear over and over again from other different types of music but now the difference is that we’re doing it in our own language, in our own mother tongue, our own tsotsitaal, the way we were raised in our loxion kulchas. So we’re trying to change things now because the language that most people speak is English so if I spoke my tsotsitaal in English you would be able to understand it.


aryan kaganof: What is loxion kulcha?

lebo mathosa: I would say it is more the youth that have grown up in the ghettos, we have our own kind of life that we live and we call it our kulcha because only you can be that or live that even if they take you out of that loxion, I mean loxion means location, even if they take me out of that location of Soweto or Daveyton or whatever, and put me in the suburb, but you can’t take out what I’ve always lived as out of me. So I will always be that loxion kulcha because I was raised and born in the ghettos. It’s the taal in a way. It’s the youth kind of way of talking.

aryan kaganof: There has been a boom of pride in the past decade among black South Africans.

lebo mathosa: Yes. If you check out old musicians from the fifties, the Kofifi time, they were doing almost exactly the same thing that we’re doing now but the difference is that theirs was more original than ours because now we’re trying to modernise everything.


aryan kaganof: How do you feel about the increasingly dominant influence of America on our South African youth culture?

lebo mathosa: Well I can say the whole world is influenced by different cultures, it doesn’t matter whether it’s American or African or European or Asian, it’s not that exactly. It’s what people like out of what they see, if you come and present something that the people love that they want to listen to and that they get interested in the whole world will love it. Like now most South African artists have never gotten the opportunity to explore their talents and to teach the world about how we make our music. This is because our industry is a very small industry, not as big as the European and American industries. So we have less and they have more. We are original Africans that actually have something to share and show to the world.

aryan kaganof: Kwaito seems to be a male dominated form on every level.

lebo mathosa: Yes yes yes. I can say years ago it was very difficult for women to get involved in the music industry whether you wanted to be a producer or whatever, because you’d get some kind of harrassment in a way, it could be sexually or it could be moneywise or mentally. It all happens in different ways. So most women here at home aren’t very much exposed to the industry and the ones that have made it are the ones who have stood up for themselves and I must say it’s very very difficult because every producer that you meet in our country is male there isn’t even one female producer that you could say ok I like that record that is produced by so and so. But it’s not such a problem for me because I have made it through ten years of the industry and looking up to women like Miriam Makeba and Brenda Fassie that have made it before me. Miriam Makeba has made it all over the world, but she’s the only one you see and Busi Mhlongo has made it all over Europe but not back here at home. Only now that she has come back home has she started making it big here. And if you look at all the musicians who have made it overseas they are all old musicians, like Hugh Masekela and Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

aryan kaganof: But isn’t the sexism in the music industry merely a mirror of the general societal trend?

lebo mathosa: As you know South Africa is the country with the highest figures for rape and women abuse, I mean we have issues like that. I mean in this industry you have to sleep with someone to get into a recording studio so when you came up in my days you were very lucky because at that age I was like fourteen years old and the people who produced the album that I worked on it was old musicians like Don Laka and Oscar who had been in the industry a long time before me and I think Thembi (Thandy) and I were the only two girls in kwaito at that time. But we kept Boom Shaka in the public eye because of our controversial dancing, of the way we dressed, the sexy way of dancing. It was not easy for people to accept that because I think the elders found it very dangerous because of their past experiences.


aryan kaganof: You mentioned earlier that your new material is not kwaito, is this just a temporary move or are you leaving the kwaito scene for good?

lebo mathosa: Kwaito is one two three music, it’s like those three words kind of songs, where you sing “ai wena uh uh uh ai wena uh uh uh” and then it’s a beat and it just carries on until the song stops. It’s just little things, short phrases. But I’m more of a writer, I sing and I write my own songs. I love R&B, I listen to all kinds of things, I love jazz music I love Gong and my voice doesn’t allow me to stick in the limitations of a vocal style that only allows me to sing three words at a time. I like to explore my voice’s potential more than just singing an ABC song. I can do kwaito but my voice is versatile and I can do so much more, I can do deep African soul sounds, jazz, ballads. Lately I’ve been given the opportunity to perform on stage with people like Puff Daddy and I have a dream as an artist to qualify to be a world artist. A song is a very important thing to me, if I have to sing a song it has to be good lyrically, musically, in every kind of way. Kwaito is too limiting for the international audience to get into. African music and African rhythms that express the spirits of our ancestors, now I get that kind of feeling when I’m onstage, that’s what I can give international audiences. That African beat that comes through me onstage, well I’m a totally different person onstage from the person that you see sitting in front of you right now.


aryan kaganof: Who is your favourite kwaito artist at the moment?

lebo mathosa: I would mention somebody who says he is a kwaito artist but I think his music could fall under any other category, pop, R&B or maybe house with an African mix in it, call it what you want, it’s Kabelo. Kabelo has made a huge difference in his latest album, Rebel With A Cause, and he’s really pushing the kwaito sound way out of its limits. I don’t know what Kabelo’s music is but I don’t think that it’s kwaito because it’s too good to be kwaito. I recently asked him to write me a song, because he’s a good writer. What I love in Kabelo I can listen to his songs and learn from them because he doesn’t repeat his lyrics over and over again, for me he’s on the same level as Ja Rule, Puff Daddy, any of the international well known rap artists. Kabelo delivers in his own African way the way we can understand and no one can do it that way, except maybe some of the older musicians who did bubblegum before, and actually Kabelo is taking us back and telling us that music is not just about getting in the studio and singing the ABC but you have to live it, you have to be in it, you have to write music that will be able to heal people and m,ake them want to share the experience with the rest of the world. His music is not just for dancing, not just for kids, like most kwaito artists write music for young kids. Kabelo has set a great example in his album, he calls it kwaito music but I don’t think so. I think it’s way better than kwaito, way better than bubblegum, but you can see that it was taken from bubblegum.

57 Responses to “the kwaito story: lebo mathosa interviewed by aryan kaganof”

  1. DeFunKadelic Says:

    Would like to learn more about Lebo Mathosa. Recently saw her in concert in London. (http://www.defunkadelic.com/images/AUMG%20LIVE/index-2.htm). Website? Contacts? I would love to promote her work.
    Love the interview. Thanks.

  2. Ben Garba Says:

    Hiya, I represent Africa 1 radio, a newly licensed DAB radio station in London, would love to do a feature on Lebo, no matter how short. She is a pride to Africa, and we want to promote her furthur within London. Kindly advice on the best way to achieve this. The online part of our service will be launched shortly, and I have opportunity of putting content on her on with the launch.

  3. Thimza Says:

    Lebo Mathosa died this morning …car accident

  4. unathi Says:

    It is so har to lose a person like this. Who else will follow? This is so hard for me to believe.

  5. Unathi Daniel Says:

    It is so scary that Lebo died in a car accident. I cannot believe it. Everything else looks as usual outside as if nothing has happened. I got an email at work, I thought it was a joke at first , until I called people who confirmed this. I am so nervous and I guess you cannot predict death as she said. Now you are talking to a person laughing and joking and the next thing, she is dead.

    MY CONDOLENCES TO THE FAMILY AND FRIENDS. When incidents like this happen, I use to say that when 1 door closes, 2 doors open. I am sure that God has something else planned for her in heaven. Let us not worry, as I am sure that her spirit is still alive and what we need to do from now on is to celebrate her life and thank God for borrowing us Lebo. Girl, its kinda lonely without you…

  6. yiannis Says:

    i just want to say that the loss of ms. mathosa is felt as far away as new york city. she was and always will be a very important artist for her contributions to the music industry and as a role model of a strong, talented woman. our condolences go out to her family and the many friends/fans she left behind. — yiannis psaroudis (founder, divastation.com)

  7. Hofman Says:

    It’s very sad to loose a music sensantion like Lebo. My condolences to all who loved her especially the family, rest in peace Mathosa we’ll always play your songs. U WERE THERE BEST ARTIST AND A ROLE MODEL TO US.

  8. kagablog: great art daily » Kwaito star Lebo Mathosa dies in car crash Says:

    […] an in-depth intervie with lebo mathosa and aryan kaganof can be found here […]

  9. Cary P. Says:

    All my condolences to the Rainbow nation – Lebo was a great artist – Nobody knows her here in France and I was hoping she’d conquer Europe soon!
    Al the best to the little ones in sA who had her as a role model.

  10. S'ubusiso Says:

    what God give God take in due time he knows when each and every one of us will go
    i belive where she is, is a peacefull place

    let us pray hard
    may her sole rest in peace

    mudzimu ndi wavhudi, uri funa rothe

  11. Kay Kay Says:

    Man!, life is too short. This let us know that we should live our lives to the fullest and enjoy every moment given by God, I believe Lebo did just that. She left a legacy and a trade mark for those who remained. She used her gifts very well and was not ashemed of who she was. she was confident, brave and represented her culture and that’s what everybody should do. We’ll miss Lebo, and thank you for sharing the massage with. Luv You Babes!

    From: Huntsville, Alabama (U.S.A)

  12. chekupe Says:

    i am very much disappointed. i love her so much. we namibian are mourning and we would like to express our sadness with other south african people. may her soul rest in entire peace.

  13. Anna Shiimi Ekandjo Says:

    Oh, I am very much shocked to hear that bad news. She use to remind me of the late Brenda Fassie and Yvonne Chaka Chaka, she was my second African Queen. On behalf of other Namibians’s I would just say “Lebo” rest in Internal Peace.

  14. Pina mwiiyale Says:

    lebo was my star, my hero and my motivator. when ever i listen to her voice, i always feel happy. although she is going physically, her soul will remain with us. namibians are praying, and we will never forget her.

  15. Roboam Says:

    les africains du sud doivent faire un film sur
    la vie de lebo. C’est le seul homage qu’on lui donner, maintenant qu’elle n’est plus

  16. Buyiswa Says:

    i feel so sad,i still dont believe it, my God what a great loss to all africans. Lebo was a true performer very talented and with a very good sense of humar every one could relate to her cause she was not a fake,when she talked she would say it as it is.Anyway we must not cry because God had a perpose for her and if it was not Gods will then it would have never happened,we must celebrate her life.
    I Love you Lebo,mey your soul rest in peace

  17. Tazz Says:

    It’s still so hard to believe that it has happened. If it were not for my girl friend I would never have known her music. Just like brenda she was different from the rest. she showed strength and will and she will be missed by all who knew and loved. Sorry to the family and God bless. The family is in the pray of the whole of South Africa

  18. Tebogo Mojela Says:

    I will like to send my condolences to lebo`s Family and friends.I thank god to borrow us a sister like lebo to our life.she showed us a lot .She entertained us by her music from Boom Shaka to the end .We thank u lebo to present South African youth.We prou of u.

    May your soul rest in peace .We will always love u

  19. defunkadelic Says:

    In my lifetime, I have seen Michael Jackson as the best live performer. Lebo was one of the best african artists I have ever seen on stage. I wish I had got to know her and do my part in promoting her work.
    Lebo performed in London, and she mesmerised everyone. She was sexy, talented and had respectable presence on stage.
    I guess at times like this, God is unfair! Rest your soul in peace.

  20. Rumbi Says:

    Rest In Peace. Love your music, loved your style, will miss you.

  21. joshua segowa Says:

    Lebo was a real star and my her soul rest in peace.For us lets pray that God forgive her for all she has done wrong and also pray for our selfs.

  22. Andiswa Says:

    Its such a great loss,may her soul rest in peace.she touched many people in many different ways. she was an angel and ultimately angels go to heaven.My condolences to the family.I never met her but I was one of her biggest fans. i feel like I have lost someone I have known all my life. she will never be forgotten.she was a hero, an angel, an a role model.this industry will never be the same without her.but I believe that God has a plan for everything.

    Good bye “Mmadibuseng” my you shine over us and lead us as you did when you were still around.

  23. Joshua Segowa Says:

    Rest in peace

  24. wongeka Says:

    i love lebo mathosa (marasmane)but not as much as my sister pam,she was crazzy about here. to the family Everything happens for a reason,God knows what he’s doing.Lets let her rest in peace and lether spirit fly up so high o bless our youth in south africa and the whole world.Lebo was loved all overshe is going in a plce where there is love and she will be there with her father and her uncestors.Mthosa you are the star keep on shinning.

  25. thabo Mahopolo Says:

    I make beats, I’ve got them recorded and mixed on TDK tape: Southern African Music :isighubhu (zulu/ndebele for container). I have no record deal, but have set up a myspace web page: http://www.myspace.com/thaboakastaydt for once I have it digitally ready to be made available for sale on the internet. I can be reached thru email, and would like to be reviewed and heard, as American exposure would be great. Let me know if there is a way to bring it to you, and possibly grow and develop with each other.

  26. Bongiwe Says:

    Lebo,i have loved u 4rm the vry 1st moment i saw u on tv,i heard u singin in radio,always wanted to meet u someday,but unfortunately i never got that chance,ol i can say is i love u & always will,God be with u & protect u!….

    4rm:Bongiwe empembeni (eskhawini)

  27. eunese shaw (liberian in jhb) Says:

    i had the honour of meeting and spending time with miss mathosa and of basking in the glow of her beautiful spirit. and although we didn’t know each other very well, i considered her a special friend. her friendship was always sincere, and although i only had one friend like her, i have no doubt that she had a million friends like me. that was in her nature – she gave love and received it a-hundred-fold. it’s hard to believe that it has already been 8 months since lebo left us, but with entries on this website as early as 2days ago, it’s inspiring to see that she is not forgotten. living in johannesburg, there are little reminders of her everywhere: her old music videos on tv, buses and posters with her smiling face on, the song that her fellow musicians recorded as a tribute to her playing on the radio, her boom shaka group members pressing on – most notably though, it’s where we don’t see her that still moves me to tears. no longer is she listed in the line-up at major events – such as yesterday’s youth day celebrations. i visited her grave not long ago and it was sad to see not one fresh flower or greenery on the site, only empty baskets and twigs from the funeral – though she has continued to spread love through her music to all who still care to listen. share, and let her live on… (i.e. ben garba – from africa 1 radio, i urge you of you haven’t to still do that feature you wanted to do on lebo)

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  57. Sue Says:

    RIP Lebo