SAMA finalists: Who are the newcomers of the year?

2014-04-27 15:00

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“Weird and wacky” is how people have ­described isiXhosa rapper iFani, who was born ­Mzayifani Mzondeleli Boltina in Umtata in the Eastern Cape.

The rapper is all kinds of fresh, with his retro style and distinctive rhyming.

Some feel he borders on cheesy and gimmicky; fans say he is unique and brave.

With two Sama nominations, iFani is set to continue his upward trajectory this week as he vies for best newcomer and best rap album.

His 13-track debut I Believes in Me (1st Quadrant) happened after this computer engineer quit his day job to focus on his rap career.

From the moment he arrived on the scene, he started attracting the right kind of attention.

With the release of his album, critics immediately took note of his vernacular lyrical skills on the hard-hitting track See Live.

iFani is ensuring that the isiXhosa rap genre is steadily entrenched in the mainstream.

Coming from humble beginnings, he isn’t just about the bling.

Sure, he has had a hit rapping about making his first million, but he also raps – with pride – about his roots.

Gangs of ballet

Their name rings with a light-hearted irony: the toughness of a gang and the softie image of ballet.

Gangs of Ballet is on the fast track to becoming South Africa’s next big thing.

The four-man rock band has been nominated in four Sama categories for their album Yes/No/Grey: best rock ­album, newcomer, duo or group and best producer.

The outfit is led by Brad Klynsmith on vocals and electric guitar.

Hardus de Beer plays bass guitar, while keyboard is handled by Jono Rich and Josh Klynsmith sits on the drums.

Like an assortment of millennial hipsters, they wear a variation of bushy, tan and ginger beards, comb-overs, tight pants and shabby boots.

Their music is a sonic version of their hip, ambivalent look.

Hello Sweet World, for instance, is a hit ballad that manages to sound as sweet as it is edgy and raspy.

Naima Kay

From the first note of Lelilanga, her ­runaway hit single, it was evident that NaimaKay brought her own fresh flavour to Afro-pop.

Perhaps it had to do with her powerful soaring voice or the recording ­genius of producer Robbie Malinga, but it is clear that a star has been born.

Umsebenzi, her 12-track debut album, is packed with tunes that have found a permanent place in the Afro-pop songbook.

­Sukundishiya, the moving duet with Ntando, is one for the classics.

Kay was discovered on the stage of the Ugu Jazz Festival in her Port Shepstone hometown before being snapped up by the hit makers at TS Records.

It’s hardly surprising that Umsebenzi is also nominated for ­album of the year.

This is Kay’s year and her star is only going to rise higher, with her timeless music standing out from the ­overproduced jams dominating our airwaves.


MuzArt, the new face of South African soul and funk, approaches one track from five individual places, ­making them a unique ensemble.

The group is in the running for best newcomer and best R&B, soul or reggae.

The group is so diverse and hard to categorise that they ­sometimes fall between the commercial cracks.

The five-member ensemble appeals to a diverse audience with their fusion of jazz, pop, House, gospel and soul elements.

Their self-titled debut 12-track album contains two distinct gems: Jukebox and Party After, with that 1980s feel-good sing-along effect.

Rori heads the group as lead singer. Former TV presenter Jabu Junior, son of the late legendary Jabu Khanyile, acts as the group’s promoter and DJ.

Session lead guitarist Sol is a virtuoso and Tazzy offers vast songwriting and producing experience.

Vic works on sound quality with his technical acumen as a producer and sound engineer.

The album is a one-stop club, lounge, jazz and theatre experience.

Read our profile on Nakhane Touré here.

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