If you are shaking your booty in South Africa, specifically Johannesburg, you are most likely listening to House music. And in South Africa, Kwaito is their street-styles, unique local flavor of music, with heavy House and African rhythms and local dialects.
From when it first hit the streets in the early 90s, Kwaito was so intensely popular in South Africa (the world’s House music market) they organized an entire awards ceremony just for it. This new genre began in Pretoria, and then rapidly spread to Johannesburg and became known as sound of the post-apartheid--an uplifting celebration of boundaries breaking and a bright new chapter in South Africa’s long dark history.
And because the new Kwaito artists couldn’t get any airplay on the local radio stations, they decided to take their music to the people by using the hundreds of township taxis to promote their music. Smart thinking given a recent Pretoria University study estimated that between five and 10 million South Africans use taxis every day.
Taxi stands or Kombis, are the main source of public transportation in South African townships, since many residents can’t afford to own cars. Taxi drivers played a pivotal role in breaking new Kwaito artists by playing and selling their CDs to their captive taxi audience.
Kwaito was the music that defined this new generation, but its popularity has waned in recent years and House music--what originally sparked the whole Kwaito scene–has now taken over again. But this time it’s coming OUT of South Africa and onto the international club scene. South African House is more appealing to the country’s younger, globalized generation. And much like they did with Kwaito, taxi drivers throughout South Africa are now playing the sounds of SA House.
To understand the evolving music scene in Johannesburg is to understand the township life and struggle, and the important role the taxi drivers continue to play in shaping the musical backbone of this tumultuous country. We drove the MINI to meet one of the biggest SA House artists DJ QNess, and he really summed it up for us: “Even with the internet and radio these days…if a Soweto taxi driver is playing your song, then you know your song is big.”