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I Wrote A Book About Kwaito!

Journalist Sihle Mthembu felt so passionately about the history of kwaito music that he thought it deserved its own book.

Mthembu, and his co-author Esinako Ndabeni, wrote Born To Kwaito in an effort to archive the history of one of the most loved and popular music genres in South Africa.

He shares the process of writing this one-of-a-kind book.

When did you decide to write the book?

The book actually originally started out as a podcast because I am a big podcast fan. I wanted to do a podcast project that would have been 15 episodes dealing with the history of kwaito music. The idea was that each episode would focus on a particular song but I didn't want to only focus on the big hits. So a friend of mine introduced me to Esinako's blog where she wrote about kwaito and I thought it was really compelling and she had some interesting ideas. I invited her to the podcast and from that we just found that it was really a necessity to go more in depth and merely talking about the song was not the way to go about it. That's how the idea behind the book came about.

What was the research process like for Born To Kwaito?

Esinako and I spent a number of days at the National Library in Pretoria. We looked through old copies of Drum magazine and Y Mag and newspapers. If anyone wants to research anything they should go to the National Library of South Africa, it's a free public resource. We did that research process and we also spoke to artists, writers, producers, record labels executives, sound engineers, you name it. In between writing we would exchange chapters and even up until the last day we were writing and researching.

Born To Kwaito Fin Cover

What was the writing process like?

The best time for me to write is early mornings or late evenings because it is quiet in the house. I am definitely not the type of writer who will write for three hours at a time unless I really have to. If I write for an hour or two then I am really happy. My approach is to leave the writing when it's going good because that makes the coming back even easier. There's something that I always tell other writers that I like to stop when the writing's going good because once you get stuck all you think about is that you are stuck and it creates this anxiety about going back. But if you stop when you are in a good place ideas tend to come to you naturally and you are excited about carrying on. So, don't write for five hours and get stuck and then you can't write for another week or two.