Kwaito is a 1990's - to present style of South African urban electronic popular dance music. Though kwaito is occasionally performed "live" with the aid of backing tracks, the environment in which it is created is the recording studio.
Kwaito is best described as Soweto R&B, Joburg hip-hop or Johannesburg house. In the 1990s it has taken the title of "South Africa's own pop music" from Mbaqanga.
Influences are from traditional Zulu music, urban African music forms such as mbaqanga, and from ragga, MTV and a heavy doses of the funky European and American house beats that have been popular in clubs in the 1990s.
The beat and heavy bassline is steady and slow enough that you can strut your stuff to it, even after a few beers. Lyrics are repetitive, in a mixture of languages, typically a bit of English Sesotho, Zulu and even Afrikaans. The urban slang uses is sometimes called isiCamtho, or Tsotsitaal.
is an Afrikaans
word meaning "mean", "fierce" or "angry". In slang kwaai is a positive thing, much like a Londoner circa 2000
might say with approval that a beat is "wicked" and "mean".
Mix all of that up, give it lots of local spice and attitude and you've got Kwaito. Mostly, not always, but mostly, the lyrics are chanted, not sung over a slowed-down bass heavy, electronically programmed housey beat. Turn it up loud and get ready to party - cause there's no way you're not going to want to dance.
When house music got popular, people from the ghetto called it Kwaito after the Afrikaans slang word kwaai, meaning those house tracks were hot, that they were kicking," says Mdu who calls his music "local house music." Oscar remembers, "when I was DJing, the music that people felt was outstanding they called Kwaito, cause it was slammin'."
"Lyrically we were inspired by people like Brenda Fasie, Senyaka, Danny Kamazu and Chicco," adds Arthur. "They were representing us and talking about what was happening in the ghettos, and they spoke in a mixture of English, Zulu, Sesotho and Iscamtho (slang)"
Major groups and artists: Bongo Maffin, Arthur (Arthur Mofokate), Skeem, Boom Shaka, Abashante, TKZee, Mdu, Chiskop, Joe Nina, MaWillies, O'Dameesta.
Circa 2008, check out Mandoza (ex of Chiskop), Drencko and Brown Dash.