|Intro||South African musician|
Arthur Mafokate is a South African kwaito musician and producer. He is considered to be one of the pioneers of the Kwaito music genre.
Mafokate is the son of Olympic equestrian and philanthropist Enos Mafokate. He was born in Soweto, Gauteng Province and his family later moved to Midrand. He became a backing dancer for artists including Brenda Fassie, Monwa & Son and Johnny Mokhali.
First Kwaito Hit
Arthur Mafokate created the first biggest kwaito hit with his 1995 song “Kaffir” which to date has sold over 500 000 copies. While the song itself is notable musically for spearheading a new genre of music, its lyrics reflect the new freedoms that emerged after the political changes of 1994, including the implementation of a new constitution and democratic election system. The title, “Kaffir,” is a derogatory term used mostly in South Africa as a racial slur to refer to black people. In his song, Mafokate protests against the use of the word “kaffir,” claiming that his employer (called “baas” or boss) would not like to be referred to as “bobbejaan,” or baboon.
This song is significant, not only as a musical milestone, but also in terms of the lyrics. The association of kwaito with gangsters is because kwaito in itself, according to Mafokate, is “all about ghetto music.” However, as the apartheid era was coming to an end, this new song and genre represented a perfect reminder of the atrocities of the past and inspiration for the future, while stamping Mafokate’s reputation as an artist unafraid to stir up controversy or voice his strong opinions.
- I don’t come from hell.
- You would not like it if I called you a baboon.
- Even when I try washing up, you still call me a kaffir.
- Boss, don’t call me a kaffir.
These words are recurring until the end of the song, while the lyrics are repeated sequentially at various pitches, a common theme of African music. While being banned by a few radio stations, the song caught the imagination of the country’s youth and the EP went on to sell in excess of 150,000 copies and largely influenced the state of kwaito today.
999 Music Label
Mafokate is nicknamed “King of Kwaito'” He is the founder of the 999 Music Label, a privately owned company which produces various top and upcoming artists of all genres. Mafokate named his newly formed music label 999 Music, after the house number of his family home in Chiawelo. Some of his productions are Chomee, Lira, Cici, Lungelo, Pantsula, Jamela, Ishmael, Kabelo, Chiskop, Supasta, Bambezela, Groove City, Dancemasters, Hip Hits, Dance II Sweat, Mob City, Papa Jeff (Jeff Maluleke), Pinky Pinky, Aba Shante, New School, Purity, Speedy, Makhendlas, Brenda Fassie, Scamtho, Helela, Iyaya, Mouze, Zombo, Zulu, Chafkop, and Stitch. As of 1992, he was the sole owner of the label. Through hard work and the strong will to succeed, Mafokate was able to succeed as an artist and in building a sustainable independent music label. Thus 999 became one of the most established and recognised Music labels in the country and it still is, existing for over 15 years.
Mafokate, credited as the King of Kwaito, was the first artist to win the South African Music Awards category of The Song Of The Year as voted for by the public. He was recognised for his contribution to this new generation of music at the 2007 FNB South African Music Awards. His victory in the ‘Song of the Year’ category, depicts the peculiar popularity of a music genre which does not analyse the historical black struggle like traditional South African music has often done. The genre of Kwaito music resulted from “the lifting of sanctions in South Africa which provided musicians with easier access to international music tracks and a radical revision of censorship, while the easing political situation allowed for greater freedom of expression. Freedom of expression meant that for the first time, the youth of South Africa could make their voices heard”. Making his voice heard through the song Oyi Oyi, Mafokate hit a particular note with South African audiences “in a year when the competition was strong, indicating his enduring appeal for his hundreds of thousands of fans”. Unlike the often apolitical characteristics of kwaito music, Mafokate does address the lower class black experience in South Africa in much of his music as is revealed in the lyrics of “Kaffir”. Mafokate describes his success in these words: “I commit myself in everything that I do. Give me a script now to portray a character, for example, and you’ll see my dedication. I’d never claim my looks have anything to do with my success. It’s entirely what comes from within me”.
Arthur was honored at the 2016 South African Metro FM Music Awards with the Lifetime Achievement Award for recognition of his 22 year old successful entertainment career.
Mafokate is particularly significant for breaking economic barriers that hampered South African artists of previous generations. By becoming owner of 999 Music, Mafokate broke economic barriers and helped bring kwaito into a new era. “‘ The presence of independent companies is a hallmark of kwaito’s evolution, signifying, in the case of people like Mafokate… a growing Black economic empowerment within the music industry.”‘ In addition to his economic success he is also unique for helping to broaden kwaito’s appeal internationally. “Arthur has begun to have an impact on the overseas marker, with a promotional performance in Spain last year knocking the socks off the sometimes jaded international music.”