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Ode To Mzansi's Perennial 'Mafikizolo' -- They're Still Fresh AF

This year, they celebrate with a groundbreaking 20-track album, the largest body of work they have ever done and released in one go. This is huge.

15/09/2017 03:57 SAST | Updated 15/09/2017 03:57 SAST
Music In Africa
South Africa's Mafikizolo in debut US and Canada tour.

So it dawned on me a few weeks ago, listening to Mafikizolo's latest single, "Love Potion", that award-winning band Mafikizolo's name loosely translates to '"those who arrived yesterday", meaning "new kids on the block". I mean, I knew what it meant, I just never thought of it in-depth, especially now that I am looking back at a career that has spanned over the last 20 years.

And successfully, I might add. This year, they celebrate with a groundbreaking 20-track album, the largest body of work they have ever done and released at one go. This is huge.

Their music unifies generations. Literally. uGogo, that aunt and uncle who love a good turn up and the church ones too, the young'uns -- all of us have a Mafikizolo track we jam to.

At weddings [and I recently learnt that it's not just black weddings!] or stokvels -- this duo's music is the soundtrack of our lives. I was at Great Dane a couple of weeks ago and the entire dance floor was doing the electric slide to "Ndihamba Nawe". I mean!!!

The way they strike this balance is genius. It's part nostalgia, part respect for seminal movements from the past, part recognition of fellow genius, and lots of passion.

... They give a nod to the rest of the continent in the 'Africa-has-been-here-I-don't-know-where-you've-been' kind of way.

The nostalgia for African-romance symbols is almost palpable in their music. Like waiting for your loved one at the river at dusk after months of being away, as in "Emlanjeni". Or simply marking the celebration of witnessing each other's lives over decades, as in "Mas'thokoze".

The homage they pay to one of our most important and most formative cultural eras, Sophiatown is clear. It's in their sound, their swag and even sometimes literally, in the songs that narrate moments from that era like "Kwela". From collaborations with Dorothy Masuku and Hugh Masekela to Kgosinkwe's black and white wingtips and Nciza's A-line skirts -- they really play around with the icons and iconography of that time.

Then there's giving a nod to the relatively newer kids on the block -- at least compared to them -- geniuses like Uhuru and Maphorisa. And when they give a nod to the rest of the continent, it's not in the "Afrika-rising" kind of way but in the "Africa-has-been-here-I-don't-know-where-you've-been" kind of way. They are part of Africa's musical master class, sharing the studio and stage with Nigeria's Davido, Tanzania's Vanessa Mdee, Zimbabwe's JahPrayza.

Early in August, Mafikizolo released their latest single, "Love Potion". It's a song about that crazy love that keeps you up at night. The sound is very Mafikizolo, with a touch of something else. I am not sure what, but it's beautiful. Maybe it's that they bring a little something from everywhere they have been: Europe, North America, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana, and many others places they have toured.

The single has a stunning video directed by Garth von Glehn, shot in Cape Town. It's set in a mansion where a love is being celebrated between a prince and princess. Or is it king and queen? There's an abundance of food, drink, music, and a very deliberate African influence. It's stunning. There's even Aquafresh. The set is majestic, the duo is beautiful and the dancers are fantastic.

The release of the video was exclusive to the toothpaste brand and when it was announced, they dubbed it a celebration of freshness. Literally, they push freshness of breath, and Mafikizolo has, over the last 20 years, been an embodiment of freshness in music and beyond. It makes sense and many of us couldn't have imagined it at all. But that's Mafikizolo -- they pull cool out of the ether and they stay slaying, always fresh.

So as I, and I am sure many other fans, wait for the new album, I am going through their body of work to reacquaint myself with the hits, and gems between the hits -- from "Lotto" when they were three [RIP, Tebza] to "Love Potion", where they still continue snatching our edges. I hope we continue to support them, after all, everyone has a favourite Mafikizolo hit!