The Mash Up radio host learns from listeners

Poets and musicians collaborate on The Mash Up, a weekly SAfm radio show. Between them and the audience, they teach the host and listeners about South Africa’s musical history.

the mash up naledi moleo
Naledi Moleo, host of The Mash Up, says the first show was broadcast on 13 August 2016. It was nominated for Best Music show in the 2017 Liberty Radio Awards in April. (Image supplied)

Melissa Javan
To learn about South African music from the listeners and the artists in studio is one of the benefits of hosting The Mash Up radio show on SA FM Radio, says Naledi Moleo.

“Songs like Jikijela by Letta Mbulu and Naughty Little Flea by Miriam Makeba are songs we would never have sourced and played had it not been for the listeners and artists who have requested real South African classics,” she adds.

The Mash Up, explains Moleo, is a weekly hour-long show broadcast on Saturdays. It features live poetry and music by renowned and upcoming South African poets and musicians. “Each week, The Mash Up will bring together a poet and a musician. Through interviews, live poetry and music performances, they collaborate by ‘mashing up’ their respective crafts.”

The artists may also give a selection of their favourite South African songs. “The listeners will be introduced to artists from different backgrounds, ages and genres. The show is about nation building and celebrating the extraordinary talent from South Africa.

“The listeners love it. I get excited especially when listeners SMS us, giving us names of musicians and poets that we should have on the show,” says Moleo.

How it started

She realised there was a major opportunity to create a platform for South African poets, says Moleo. “Poetry has the power to either make really difficult conversations more palatable or raise our awareness of injustices. More than anything, poetry can also just uplift and renew us.

“I believe that South Africans really need that in this day and age. We are bombarded with so much bad news and pressure that it is necessary to reflect. I too am in need of therapy that the live music and poetry offer at the end of every long week.”

It is just magical, she says, to watch two artists who have never collaborated forced to make it work live on air — they have no prior preparation. “They always come into the studio feeling completely nervous and leave on cloud nine because they are so proud of themselves.

“South Africa has always been a country that enjoys music and poetry. Think of how we sing with every major event. Think of the praise poetry and official events and even traditional weddings. The Mash Up is just a reflection of how South Africans have always expressed themselves. As a talk radio host all I really am interested in is hearing those different forms of self-expression.”

The collaborations

Moleo says the musicians are usually the underdogs in the industry. “Artists like Nono Nkoane, Msaki and Tribute Birdie Mboweni are immensely talented and underrated. We think it’s important to celebrate their work.

“Every now and then we will also have some of the legends of the music industry. Maestros such as Lex Futshane, Vusi Mahlasela and Pops Mohamed have also graced our studio and it’s wonderful because we get to celebrate their wonderful work and share with a younger listener who perhaps hasn’t had the opportunity to interact with their work.”

One of the collaborations was Tshepo Molefe and Sabelo Mthembu.

Molefe has been writing poetry for two years. “It began when I was still a student at [the University of the Witwatersrand] and I entered a poetry competition called DFL Lover + Another. There, I met a poet who goes by the name NoLiFE [or Nobody Lives ForEver] and he introduced me to a platform called Cuddle Sessions. This in turn introduced me to the Joburg poetry scene. I haven’t looked back.”

According to Molefe his poetry ranges from social issues, such as alcohol abuse and miscarriage from a father’s perspective, to political commentary to his own struggles and the problems he has with his family.

He describes his experience on The Mash Up as amazing.

Molefe believes collaborations such as these build a better and more versatile network between artists. “What I mean by ‘more versatile network between artists’ is often we get caught up our own artistic spaces, for instance I would normally stay in and interact with my poetry circles, and not know of other creative spaces that are out there.

“Such spaces would include soul singers and instrumentalists. The Mash Up kind of collaborations opens doors for artists in different fields to first know that they exist and if they would someday want to work on a joint project, provided that they like each other’s work.”

Musician Mthembu agrees: “I truly enjoyed it. I wasn’t sure what to expect. But the vibe between the poet and I was great. It was the first time I collaborated with a poet.

“There was an instant gel of styles.”

He says collaborations teach him that artists need each other to grow. “Working together we have the capacity to achieve more as a people.”

Mthembu has been in the music industry for about 10 years. “I did backing vocals for Louise Carver for about five years before releasing my solo project.”

He says although he started singing in church when he was five years old, singing was not a first career choice growing up. “I enjoyed doing it very much though. It was only after participating on South Africa’s Idols in 2007 that I decided to pursue it more aggressively.

Besides Carver, he has contributed backing vocals on various artists’ projects. He calls his music “Afrosoul with a touch of jazz and classical music”.

You can listen to the podcasts of The Mash Up here.

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