Roots of success: why the world goes mad for Mzansi heritage

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Roots of success: why the world goes mad for Mzansi heritage

Our beads have been snapped up by Beyoncé, while everyone has caught on to Maskandi, ‘Jerusalema’ and SA food

Orrin Singh and Lwandile Bhengu
Model Gina Jeans in a Bedoo headpiece.
Crown jewel Model Gina Jeans in a Bedoo headpiece.
Image: Supplied/Traws Owen

From traditional beadwork endorsed by Beyoncé to a song that was dismissed as “tavern music” and became a world hit, local heritage and culture is bringing in the bucks for some South Africans who are dipping into it.

Just ask Nondumiso Nkosi, the founder of Bedoo Original, whose spectacular beaded headpieces put her on Beyoncé’s radar. Nkosi’s headpieces have put her on the international map, with her intricate work featuring in Black Is King, a new musical film and visual album directed, written and executive produced by the American singer.

Bedoo is also listed in a directory of black-owned business on Beyoncé’s official website.

“I create work that can show that there is more to beadwork than what people outside Africa know ... For me my work is new and distinctly Africa. It’s something you can take anywhere,” said Nkosi.

Locally, Nkosi’s beaded crowns have been donned by the likes of musicians Unathi Msengana and Amanda Black.

“It makes it relevant and shows that Africa is not just ancient ideas. We want to tell the other story about Africa – we have been through turmoil and we have been through struggle but that is not all that Africa is about.”

It makes it relevant and shows that Africa is not just ancient ideas.

Limpopo-born Kgaogelo Moagi - famously known as Master KG - knew he had a winning formula when he made Jerusalema, a rhythmic mix of isiZulu, gospel and house music that claimed top spots on American and European charts and got the world rising to the #JerusalemaChallenge.

The catchy song prompted President Cyril Ramaphosa to challenge South Africans to embrace their heritage by taking up the challenge ahead of Heritage Day on Thursday. When Jerusalema was officially released in December 2019, some called it tavern music.

Master KG said at the time: “Its okay. Wait and let me show what tavern music can do to the world.”

Others too are making a living from their heritage, such as Zululand-born Maskandi artist David “Qadasi” Jenkins and veteran musician Maqhinga Radebe.

The duo, who recently released a second collaborative album, Ungabanaki, walked away with the South African Music Award for best traditional album last week. The pair have toured the world, showcasing SAs unique Zulu Maskandi music.

“Europe in particular is fascinated by African music in general,” said Jenkins. “Its very powerful music and they love it.”

Signed to Sande Entertainment, an independent label owned by Sibongiseni Shabalala – the son of the late Joseph Shabalala who founded Grammy-winning group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Jenkins said the key to success in music was heritage. He believes having a passion for your heritage will likely lead to monetary gain.

“Focus on what you love – ‘I’m doing this because I love the culture, I love the music’ – and then eventually you will get to the stage where you can make a living out of it.”

The success of SA’s first Master Chef winner, Deena Naidoo, in the culinary world is due largely to his local Indian-inspired dishes.

“We have such a variety of food in such a concentrated form. We have every dish available right here in SA. If you take the best dish in the world, you will find it here in SA, and I think our diversity not only in cooking but in character has given us this amazing combination of being the best in the world,” said Naidoo.

In numbers

68,800 - the number of views for a video featuring ‘Jerusalema’ posted on soccer legend Cristiano Ronaldo’s Twitter account;

5,000 - the number of beads used to make a Bedoo original headpiece.

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