Marking three years of performing at the DStv Delicious Festival this year, Ungawa Kum hitmaker Thebe Mogane, known as Thebe Lenyora or just Thebe, says it still feels like the first time and fans should buckle up for a nostalgic review of his greatest tracks. The festival is on at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit in Johannesburg this weekend – 24 and 25 September.
“The energy and atmosphere at the Delicious Festival is like no other. Just to be called up on stage to perform shows my music still has an impact on someone. I cannot wait to take fans on a journey from where I started up until now,” says Thebe.
With the rise of amapiano, many are under the illusion that kwaito has ceased to exist. But loyal kwaito fans argue that most of the music topping the charts in South Africa now is inspired by kwaito. Thebe did not hold back on agreeing with this sentiment and says kwaito is one of the best-loved genres across the country and that legendary artists, such as Brenda Fassie and Chicco Twala, are imprinted in the hearts of kwaito fans.
“There’s this misconception that kwaito is in competition with amapiano and gqom. I keep saying that there is no competition. Every single weekend I am still performing. How can kwaito be dead if that is still happening?” asks Thebe.
Thebe hails from Polokwane in Limpopo. He is known for his infectious singalong dance moves. Off stage, he is husband and a father to three boys. The kwaito star has recorded 12 hit albums, which have sold more than 45 000 copies, and performed extensively in South Africa in a career spanning 15 years. In 2019, Thebe received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Mzansi Kwaito and House Music Awards.
“I alway preach creativity. Don’t try and copy what someone else is doing because everyone will sound the same. You need to find the fine line between being you and the person you are on stage. When I am on stage performing, I am Thebe. Off stage, I am a family man, I’m not Thebe the artist,” he says.
Dubula hitmaker Kabelo Mabalane is also among the kwaito pioneers expected to perform at the festival. He says after almost 26 years of being in the music industry, performing at the DStv Delicious Festival is a “feather in his cap”. His performance this year will include a tribute to late kawito superstar Tokollo Tshabalala, known as Magesh, who along with Kabelo and Zwai Bala, was a member of the kwaito trio TKZee.
Kabelo is a 10-time South African Music Award (Sama) winner and is one of South Africa’s most admired, multi-platinum musical artists. He says the country’s musical story cannot be told without kwaito and performing alongside other kawito luminaries is testimony to the impact of the genre.
“Whenever our music comes on, it’s still fresh and has a good impact on the dance floor. kwaito is the foundation of amapiano. I have performed alongside kwaito pioneers for years now and everytime we’re on stage, it feels like the first time. The fans make it worthwhile each time,” he says.
In 2003, Kabelo won a Sama for his second studio albumRebel With a Cause and, in 2004, he garnered the Kora Award for Best Southern African Male Artist.
On 2 September, he marked a significant milestone in his life, announcing that he is officially 20 years sober. Reflecting, he said, “Today 20 years ago, a ride like no other began. This journey has made me more realistic. I now believe in miracles. Thank you, Jesus.”
He adds motivation for anyone who might be struggling with substance abuse, saying: “If I can do it, you can do it too.”
Thebe Lenyora and Kabelo are expected to headline the main stage at the festival with three-time BET award-winner and Grammy winner rapper Burna Boy, other local kwaito stars, such as Mdu, Arthur, Trompies and Dino Bravo, as well as English hip-hop-electronic group Stereo MCs.