Luv & Kwaito: Part 1 (My Love Ses’hlangan’ Emarenken’)

There is something that makes black love inaccessible. The organic kind where you wake up and choose to love who you will loudly and proudly. Our grandmothers were forced into marriages. Our grandfathers were forced to migrate to the city to find work. When they arrived there, they started new families. Our mothers were abandoned after being impregnated.  Often at ages too young. And this is just at a heterosexual level. There is a lot that interferes with black love. Power makes its way into our most intimate relationships and unsettles us. We see it looming over us when we discuss over and over again whether one can have a date that costs less than, say R100. We see it in how certain people have no right to love who they will because of a society that tells you that male and female is the only sensible combination.

This is why I celebrate black love. I didn’t grow up around much of it. Even what was felt was not expressed. Especially when it is from the villages and the townships. In a world where we consume music that expresses love through materialism, there is something particularly liberating about an artist shouting “MY LOVE, SES’HLANGAN’ EMARENKEN’” as his expression of romance. That phrase that Brickz yells in most of his songs is the young black love that I grew up around. Except, it wasn’t taxi ranks where people were meeting and falling in love- it was at the corners of their fences in the late hours where their parents could not see them. That romance, in contrast to the romance I experience in my suburban life, was inexpensive and without pretences. People were together and that was it.

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There seemed to be an unflattering narrative that followed kwaito artists when it came to love.  On the topic of “decolonisation”, I have often wondered whether we would ever get to decolonising our ideas of romance. Has our understanding of love been affected by racism and classism? This is something that Brigado, the late Brown Dash and Mdu Masilela knew all too well as they expressed their grievances about it on the song “Vum-Vum”. The song starts with the most important question posed by Mdu; “uban’ ok’tshel’ ukuthi labafana bekwaito abanathando?” He goes on to list the negative stereotypes about men in kwaito, remarking that what he’s heard is unfair.The song challenges the idea that kwaito men- and so by extension, men from the township- do not know how to be romantic. Vum-Vum is the only South African song I know that addresses respectability politics; the idea that a marginalised group has to act a  way favorable to the standards of the dominant to gain respectability. These artists challenged just that. Brickz, closing off the verses, remarks that although they do make mistakes, there’s absolutely no need to call him “is’korop”.

These artists invite the people that they’re addressing to come closer so that they can ride in their vum-vum. Maybe this is an expression of love. Brickz comes in, yelling “MY LOVE SES’HLANGAN’ EMARENKENI” again before he speaks of taking his lover to the movies. For as long as I’ve known his music, Brickz has remained unapologetic about the way in which he understood romance.We saw this on the  “Sweety My Baby” (Shout out to DJ Cleo who produced the song and many other bangers) music video. In the video, you see him dress to his best and make his way to the taxi rank to meet his love and on the way, he sees a man selling roses and tries to steal one when  the man has looked away. When the man catches him, he steals the R10 note in his pocket instead and gives it to him- pretending to buy the rose. Twisted. But romantic.

Love seems to be predetermined for us by unnamed structures. If we’re not being told who to love, we’re being told how to love. Often, as black people, we’re even told that we just can’t love. That’s why “ghetto love” becomes celebrated. Because any love that is not black is romanticised so we get excited at finally being represented as black people. So this is why “Luv & Kwaito” will be a series which is an ode to black love- young and old. Black love is diverse- there is no one way to love. It is private. It is valid. It is beautiful.

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