In the interest of responsible journalism I spent some time investigating whether or not there really were refugees from the Eastern Cape, and in my exploration happened to stumble upon a hip-hop/dubstep/rave group (what are the odds). Blah Zeh Blah is an unlikely quartet of musicians who came together  three years ago with the vision of making “whatever sounds and feels  good”, and perhaps that is what makes them so refreshing.

The dynamic group boasts a melange of instrumentalists –a beat boxer, rapper, vocalist and a Dub step Dj. I sat down with beat boxer Oz (Sinethemba  Mzwali) and rapper Epic (Nangamso Mntyingizane) to talk music, money and making it in South Africa.

Oz, born and raised in the Eastern Cape, is nothing short of an advocate for local talent. When asked about the difficulties faced by an upcoming artist in a locally and globally competitive environment, the beat boxer’s response was both critical (of his peers) and optimistic.

“When people meet me they say things like I’m surprised you’re from the Eastern Cape, as if almost saying people from here aren’t producing anything good quality…you don’t have to go anywhere to do it, you don’t have to compare yourselves to Americans.”

Indeed there are many long-winded, Thabo-Mbeki-ish historical arguments about “the roots” of hip-hop being African but the duo also suggests that perhaps it is much more a case of how you use what you have than where it comes from and Epic makes a quip that would put even Mbeki to shame;“just because a car is made in Germany doesn’t mean you can’t drive it in South Africa, it’s about taking the same thing and using it differently”.

While artists are concerned with hip-hop not being “real” anymore and many have traditionally defined hip-hop as a political platform, there is a sense that these musicians are not bound by labels or caught in the malaise of “defining” hip-hop.

“What I  hate the most is that a lot of  people feel they are forced to be conscious rappers…if  you’ve always wanted to tackle the government then by all means tackle the government, but you shouldn’t feel like it’s something you (have to) do…. If it’s not you.” says Oz in an unabated tone.

The beat boxer-come-lyricist defines his inspiration as “books and movies” and describes how  he can “…rap about anything, I can see a homeless man on the street corner and come up with something,cos [sic] that’s the art I saw in his life”. If you are looking for some deep political statement, or a tragic history then this is not the place to find it. These artists are the rejection of every hip-hop stereotype.

In a country where “promoting democracy” and “creating awareness” seems to have become the slogan of politicians, and the obligation of all and sundry, it  gives one hope to see that there are still musicians who spend more time on  perfecting their art, and truly speaking their minds, than they do peddling  political propaganda. Their music, passion and perspective are sure to invigorate.

– The group is still working on their debut album Dream Catcher and plans to take over the scene “one show at a time.”

               

Advertisements