Listen to QULA by Brenda Fassie.
Time flies! I thought I had just posted a minute ago, but it turns out it was last Thursday!
So, Qula. This is a Kwaito track, meaning South African house / hip hop /garage music. It's pretty interesting, but if you're just dabbling, maybe it's more interesting to read about the singer, Brenda Fassie. There's a Time magazine essay online from 2000 that calls her "The Madonna of the Townships." That's kind of silly, but she certainly led an eventful life (Unfortunately, she died in 2004. Unlike Madonna, I guess, she was 4 real). Here's an extended excerpt:
In recent years, with her girly, high-pitched delivery ripened into a strong-woman wail, Fassie has entered a new phase of her career. The kids call her the Queen of Kwaito, a pulsating pop style that exploded out of the townships in the early '90s and that Fassie quickly adopted. Kwaito (slang for "these guys are hot") fuses slowed American house and hip-hop, British garage and Jamaican reggae, held together with laid-back bass lines and percussion from traditional African chants. Like hip-hop, kwaito has become a cultural movement that incorporates lifestyle and fashion.
Fassie, 36, is doing so well because while such younger kwaito acts as Arthur Mafokate create dance-party standards, her lyrics address more complex themes dealing with African culture and life. In Sum' Bulala (Do Not Kill Him/Her), she asks taxi operators in the provinces to end their violent rivalries. Fassie has also mostly abandoned English and now sings mainly in Xhosa, Zulu and Sotho.
Fassie's personal life remains a work in progress. By her own admission, she spent much of the early '90s in a cocaine haze, missing gigs and becoming a promoter's nightmare, until the overdose death of her lesbian lover, Poppy Sihlahla, impelled her to clean up her act. Ridiculously generous with family, friends and even friends of friends, she has been broke many times, and was once arrested for nonpayment of debts. Those experiences have colored Fassie's perception of success. "I'd rather have happiness than money," she says. "People ask for [money]. Sometimes when I don't have it. I make other people's problems my problem because they want me to; they ask me to. So sometimes I wish I didn't have the little money that I do."