Music Review: iFani by Bongani Shweni Album: I believes in me
Release date: 1 March 2013 Genre: Hip Hop
No man, it’s not the same!
That’s the direct translation of South African rapper iFani’s name. The name is fitting for young musician Mzondeleli Boltina, especially since everything about him is unlike other local musicians.
iFani’s big break was through his debut album I Believes in Me which broke new ground as one of the first hip pop albums to be recorded in an indigenous language- all 13 tracks in his mother tongue of isiXhosa
His album which was released (date) has won him numerous awards and also a (what) nomination in the annual Channel O Music Video Awards.
His producers Bongani Fassie and Bossearti, were the perfect duo because of their extensive experience with alternative genres and traditional music and beats. His choice of artist collaborations is also unique as he chose to work with rappers who spoke different languages.
It is this mixture of culture and language that worked well for him as he was able to produce an album that is totally different to what is available in stores today and thus standout from other rappers and competitors such as Driemanskaap and Maxhoseni, who also do ethnic rap music.
Hip hop rappers are usually identified by their saggy clothing, over the top accessories and huge caps- a huge contrast from iFani’s ‘elderly man’ style composed of vintage pants with cross-belts, shirts with bow-ties, large prescription glasses and even a walking stick/cane.
Interestingly, his unique image and music are not part of some PR strategy for attention; essentially his signature style is motivated by his admiration for his grandfather even the name ‘iFani Haymani’ is adapted from his grandfather’s name Mzi’ayifani.
“Ewe”, the very fast paced song about the numerous rejections he went through before that one ‘ewe’ (yes) that changed his life, is a definite must listen to. That one ‘ewe’ he raps about is the SonyMusicAfrica record deal which solidified his arrival into the industry. However, this deal did not result in alterations to his original sound (as with many deals with recording companies) therefore loyal fans can expect to hear music similar to his mixtapes released before his commercial succes
I enjoyed how he incorporated wit and humour in his especially in tracks that would otherwise be misunderstood and offensive. “Chocolate Vanilla” featuring BlackSuga takes a comical twist at skin colour biases and stereotypes and encourages women of colour to embrace whatever shade of brown they are.
I would recommend anyone who would like a VIP pass into the Xhosa culture to go ahead and buy the album, it does not disappoint. The artist created a timeless body of work which has intelligently brought traditional music back into the spotlight and pop culture.