Arts & Crafts

Down with it

Down with it

Following an explosion of raw talent on the hip-hop music scene in Nelspruit of late, Get it hooked up with two young acts to see what they are all about. Benno Stander rapped with Hlabangani Mtshali, and Orpa Clausen had a powwow with duo Victor Malaza and Nipho “Bazz” Jiyane of the group Calamity.

Hlabangani Mtshali, better known by his stage name INI, was born in Piet Retief and moved to the Nelspruit area when he was a young boy. “Before I heard hip-hop music I just used to listen to the same kind of sounds my father listened to. So when I first heard hip hop it was something I felt I discovered on my own and made it mine,” he explains.

For this 20-year-old rapper, hip hop encompasses dancing and singing, and he sees it as a subculture that stands for
self-expression, only with a beat.
Besides performing at school and local venues, INI’s career really took off when he was asked to open the stage for big names like Squatta Camp, Tuks, Zulu boy, Sliquor, Proverb and ProKid, at the Mpumalanga hip-hop festival at Blue Moon a couple of years ago. “It’s difficult to craft a career in hip hop in South Africa, and especially the Lowveld,” he says. According to him the international influence of house music and Westerners’ version of hip hop is overcrowding the scene, making it difficult for local artists to break through. As he puts it, “Whenever an international hip-hop artist performs in South Africa, it’s sold-out shows all the way, but when local guys put up a performance we battle to get an audience because we don’t sound like them. Often artists have to move to Joburg, like Ntokozo “KO” Mdluli of Teargas, who is also from Piet Retief.”
Right now INI is focused on recording material that he can get out there, but his views of the industry are quite contrary to what one might expect, “I’m not too motivated to try for a record-deal right now and I think a lot of artists are realising that it is not the be all and end all. With the bad economy and royalties being peanuts really, I’m more interested in getting on stage and getting Nelspruit on the map. I follow what I like to call the DIY approach.”
Although he is not backed by a record label, he isn’t really doing it all by himself. Mfundo Nyambi, the brain behind Ark Music Movement, has his backing all the way. The Ark is a record-cum-entertainment company that focuses on promoting local artists. The movement was established in 2006 in Nelspruit, when Mfundo saw the need for aspiring young artists to gain support and exposure. He likes to describe the initiative as The Ark Family or ArkFam, and calls it a “family of friends” who clubbed together to help build this movement through their love of local hip hop and good music.”
With its help, INI has successfully recorded a very good quality song called “Amen”, which he is planning to follow up with more recorded tracks shortly. And if the sound of this track is anything to go by, you can be sure that you’ll hear a lot more of him in the near future. He feels his style is unique because he doesn’t try to imitate the trendy sound as his integrity would get lost if he did so.
Although he is keen to give it everything he’s got to make it on stage, he is also smart enough to have his plan B all worked out. Journalism has always interested him and he plans to study and specialise in entertainment, which is close to his heart, on stage and off.

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Creating art and leisure, and making it for the youth – that’s the task at hand for hip-hop crew Calamity, who has exploded onto the Nelspruit music scene during the last few months. While they have been known to swag a bit of old-school bling from time to time, these school-going youngsters are a far cry from the typical “cant-touch-me” attitude that most modern hip hop artists embody. That being said, don’t let their well-ordered approach fool you into thinking they don’t have what it takes to make it big either, because the rate at which Victor Malaza and Nipho “Bazz” Jiyane are punching up the airwaves is making them rather difficult to ignore.
The dynamic pair have known each other for six years, but it wasn’t until seven months ago that they started to refine their mutual musical skills. Even though they live in different cities, and admit to being in contact more via social media than face to face, they still manage to pull off some impressive tracks in the process.
Being unsigned and self-managed, Calamity enjoys the kind of creative freedom that most artists long for. From the early stages of conception, they control the outcome of each song – from the beat that will form the backbone of the track to the lyrical sovereignty that goes with it.
“Bazz handed me a programme which produces beats and from there, not only did the knowledge of the programme grow, but also the friendship and the idea of hip hop as a future. Now we are taking bigger steps and are ambitious to share what we’ve accomplished so far,” says Victor, adding that “the future we are currently creating for ourselves seems more and more melodic by the day.”
Because Bazz has been a fan of hip hop since he can remember, and Victor leans more towards house music, given his background as a deejay, their collective components work to create a unique sound despite the friction one might expect. “Right now, we are in our own genre. I wouldn’t say we are purely hip hop – more modern hip hop if we had to put a name to it. At the moment, our sound is very retro, yet rare and distinct at the same time,” explains Victor.
To their minds, the only thing holding them back at the moment is their locale, and once school is out they are looking forward to branching out globally. “We would love to have more local support, but we do want to reach an international level,” says Bazz.
“We don’t aspire to be in the country for too long,” agrees Victor. “We see ourselves in the States or the UK.”
Sadly, this seems to be the case too often for most upcoming musical talents in South Africa, who first tend to make the move to the bigger hubs, and then go overseas to make a name for themselves.
“It’s a sad reality, but in order for me to have the kind of life I dream about, I just don’t think the music will be enough, especially in this country. I’m hoping to use the music to get my name out there.”
Both agree that when it comes to local inspiration, there isn’t much to talk about on South African soil, but they have their respective muses overseas.
While Bazz has always looked up to Jay-Z for inspiration, Victor’s all-time favourite artist is Puff Daddy – not only for the music he sires, but also for his business interests. “He’s just so driven. He makes music and he’s good at it, but he also owns restaurants and has so many other things going on the side,” says Victor.
Wherever it is that they end up going, the rising cheers are a good indication of where this slick duo is headed.

Fact file
Get in touch on 082-640-2586. Listen to their tracks on www.reverbnation.com/calamfam. Become a fan on facebook.com/calamitymusic or follow them on twitter, @CalamityMusic.
Shot on location at The Performing Arts Centre, Casterbridge.

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