Obituary: Senyaka Kekana, godfather of kwaito

12 April 2015 - 02:00 By Chris Barron

Thula "Senyaka" Kekana, who has died in Vereeniging just weeks before his 59th birthday, was a hugely popular and versatile hip-hop artist, rapper, comedian, film and television actor and producer. He was widely regarded as the godfather of kwaito, and many argued he was the pioneer of rap in South Africa, too.When rap was an international genre he brought it into South African living rooms with his hit Saturday-Sunday.He became famous in 1986 when he released a hip-hop album featuring the enormously popular hit single Go Away. This led to a career in music and film.story_article_left1The 1980s and 1990s were his decades and his star shone brightly with hits such as Chisa Mpama, Romeo wa Nkolota, Satane-O-Maponapona and, in 1998, the controversial Fong Kong, which he sang with his childhood friend Danny "Kamazu" Malewa as the Hunger Boyz duo.Fong Kong addressed the issue of cheap, low-quality, counterfeit goods flooding South Africa and being sold by Chinese shop owners to the detriment of the local informal business sector."We wrote this song as a protest against what the Chinese were doing to the black man," said Kekana. "We were like, how could they come here and do this when we were hosting them so well?"They would sell you takkies that were like rotting pieces of meat. In two weeks the things would just literally rot on your feet.""Fong kong", referring to fake items, became part of South African colloquial language.With the Hunger Boyz, Kekana made the shift from hip-hop to kwaito, and was subsequently regarded by many as the founder of kwaito.His quirky, controversial and humorous lyrics were a mirror of the man himself. He was always laughing, joking and in high spirits. But he was never one to shy away from a fight. He was notorious for having a full-on and very public feud with the late Brenda Fassie, who he accused of hating amagents, young men involved in crime. No shrinking violet herself, the great singer riposted in no uncertain terms with her hit Ama-Gents.Kekana also took on Sony in an article in City Press in 2004, accusing the company of exploiting him and refusing to allow him to get out of a contract with it.Kekana first appeared on television in the Ashifashabba comedy show anchored by YFM DJ Shonisani "Shabba" Muleya on SABC 2.He also starred as Moruti wa Tsotsi, a scurrilous pastor, in the feature film Moruti wa Tsotsi and its spin-off TV series Confessions to Moruti wa Tsots.story_article_right2He released his first album in many years in November 2014, a 12-track production titled, with sad irony as it happened, I Am Back.Kekana was popularly known by the name "Senyaka", meaning "blob of jelly", which was unofficially bestowed on him by his aunt, who was both impressed and amused by his chubby appearance when he was born in Evaton on April 13 1956.He died of complications from diabetes, TB and meningitis, having shortly before, on Valentine's Day this year, given what many fans thought was one of his best performances, in Hammanskraal.It was also his last.He is survived by two children, his son Senyaka and daughter Hanna, with whom he was reunited after they were estranged for many years following the break-up of his marriage.1956-2015..

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