White boy sings kwaito

2001-01-30 22:00

Johannesburg - The self-described "white boy of kwaito", Lekgoa, is set to bombard the country with his second album to be released in March "just in time for Easter". "It's going to be much more hard core than the previous one," he assures his fans.

He sits peacefully, blue hip-hop hat half concealing his eyes with his hands folded on the table. Silver earrings are visible under the brim of his hat. As calm as can be. The sleeveless T-shirt reveals a tattoo with the word "Lekgoa" with half a sun above the letters.

This is the white boy who is giving a new pulse to township music rhythms.

Lekgoa (27), which means "white boy" is also known as TV and radio personality Francois Henning (of Generations, Stralejakkers and Kliek fame). He is the first white guy to take on one of Africa's most popular musical styles.

Kwaito, derived from the Afrikaans work "kwaai", (tough, angry, æheavyÆ) is a township-based form of modern dance, rap and hip-hop with strong ethnic overtones. A highly underrated type of street music, inherent to South Africa and which is attracting world-wide recognition.

Lekgoa says in the past kwaito was much more aggressive and sexually laden with oaths to give young people a vehicle of expression.

"It has now calmed down to party music," he says. "The music, however, still has its own lingo to distinguish it."

Lekgoa's use of language is pioneering and his music in general is radio-friendly "giving people the opportunity to understand it". He sings in his own "tsotsitaal" which incorporates Afrikaans, English, Sotho and Zulu. "You can achieve quite a lot with eleven languages at your disposal," said the singer who has been speaking Sotho as well as he speaks Afrikaans since childhood.

His second album, still in search of a title, is a "journey of personal growth". The two hits on his debut album Basetsana, titled Lekgoa le ready (Die wit seun is reg) and Basetsana (Girls), he maintains were very naive.

He is now ready to address more profound issues. He "aims for more".

"The more I toured townships and other African countries such as Botswana and Venda (sic) for performances, the more I grew. When I made my first album, I had not yet been exposed to other cultures."

The new album will include tracks such as Bopelo ke lewielie (Life is like a wheel), encompassing the universal truth of what goes around comes around. It sums up the album well.

"It's clear: the first album was finding my feet, the second is a work of art."

He laughs.

"Then it also has a track like Shaka dibono (Wiggle your bum), which stands a good chance of being banned."

He also highlights distinct sub-cultures.

"There is for example a track dealing with taxis, what happens in taxis and the sign language used by commuters to go to different places."

As Brasse Vannie Kaap managed to attract a lot of attention at the Klein Karoo National Arts Festival (KKNK) , Lekgoa has managed to reach new heights among Afrikaners. Whereas in the past he mainly performed in Orlando and Soweto, he performed with singers like Anton Goosen and Valiant Swart at last year's Aardklop festival.

"It was cool to see white people's reactions to this type of music, but it was even better to see them dancing to the music," he added.