Kwaito blasts British airwaves

22 November 2005

Kwaito, the music of South African urban youth, is blasting over the UK airwaves with the launch of a new radio station, Hills 102fm.

SA DJ Dennis Matsane hosts the station’s morning show, and has already treated his audience to the music of top kwaito stars Zola and Malaika, according to the Sunday Times.

“In the UK, African music gets almost no airplay, in favour of huge European and American acts,” he told the newspaper. He has played Malaika’s hit song Destiny and songs from Zola’s new album, Ibuthu, and believes this is the first time kwaito has been played on a UK radio station.

Kwaito, which first emerged in the 1990s, is is a mixture of 1920s marabi, the kwela of the 1950s, mbaqanga of the hostel dwellers, 1980s pop and imibongo, African praise poetry, with influences from hip-hop, dub, jazz and UK house music.

Hills 102fm broadcasts live from Coventry to the Warwickshire region. This is the home county of reggae band UB40 and, long ago, of William Shakespeare.

Now in his late 30s, Matsane has lived in England for four years, according to the Sunday Times. He got the job at the station after working as a part-time DJ at several pirate radio stations.

“I remember when a truck drove into the premises of the station I last worked in and confiscated the broadcasting material while we were on air,” he told the newspaper.

His experience on pirate stations led to his appointment at Hills 102fm. He says the only way South African music can break into the international market is by getting frequent airplay there.

“I intend to play a lot of kwaito music on my show – as much as I possibly can,” he told the Sunday Times. He hosts the 6 to 10am weekday slot, which offers chat and music with an entertainment slant.

The English response to the kwaito on their radios has largely been positive – even if they don’t get the lyrics.

“Most of them liked the music, but they mostly listen to the rhythm of the songs as they can’t understand the words.”

SAinfo reporter

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