Famous for 5 minutes – Selaelo Selota: Marikana and the jazz muso

2014-04-24 14:00

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Gold miner-turned-jazz hero Selaelo Selota has a new album out and he is going on a self-funded tour across the nation to promote it. Percy Mabandu gave him a call.

I recently heard a radio presenter joking about how ladies flock to your performances to see you take off your shirt. What’s that about?

[Laughs] Well in the last five or six performances I gave, it didn’t happen. Thrrr Phaaa, the song in which I normally take off my shirt, was the second track in the set. You can’t just walk on stage and take your shirt off so soon. It all goes with how taken by the music I get.

I hope the ladies aren’t going to be ­disappointed.

Well you can tell the ladies I have them in mind. I’ll tone up and do it for them soon. After all, I’m an entertainer and that’s another role music plays.

You’ve just released The Promise. Tell us about the album.

It features the kind of music that helped me grow my brand. It’s the music of our home.

It reflects my identity as a musician from here [Polokwane]. There are ballads, some easy-listening music, but there are also different new tracks.

It’s been 15 years since your first album, Painted Faces. Do you still get excited by releasing an ­album, or it just another project to do?

For me it’s a continuous thing. I’m constantly creating music. In fact, I’ve been looking at releasing two more albums this year.

One of these will be guitar arrangements and compositions in which I’ll explore a different space to what people stereotypically put me in.

It will be a straight-ahead jazz album, where I show that instrumental virtuosity does not have to come at the expense of the emotional content of a song.

I’ve noticed how young musicians coming out of universities these days get hung up on showing off how well they can play the ­instrument and the song ends up coming ­second.

I’ve decided I shouldn’t make noise and talk, but just record an album and let the music speak.

You started out working as a miner ­digging for gold. Mining is in the news these days since Marikana. What do you think as you observe what is happening in that space?

You know, I was there when Marikana happened. I was finishing a recording of mine workers’ songs commissioned by the NUM [National Union of Mineworkers].

It ended up not released. However, I see the Marikana massacre as something that was on the boil for a long time.

I don’t want to be the type of guy who starts storms, but why is it that the most dangerous jobs are the ones that pay the least?

When I was a gold miner at Deelkraal mine around 1984, I was earning about R320 per month. Remember a loaf of bread was about 25c then.

I could buy clothes and still have something to send to my mother.

Today bread is about R11.50. A miner’s salary hasn’t changed as much.

So now people have died asking for R12 500 ¬– which, by the way, isn’t much when you consider that these are people with families.

» Selaelo Selota kicks off his tour on April 25 in Nelspruit

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