Part of a new school Kwaito revival, his music is heavily steeped in electronica, his fashion sense a throwback to 80s-era Afrika Bambaataa, and recent collaborations with British producers LV have gained him international acclaim. He is....
Smiso Zwane, aka OkMalumKoolKat, cuts an imposing figure. He shouldn’t. He’s of slight build. Short. Slim. But he makes a bold impression. Loud, colour-clash clothing, throwback peak caps, multi-hued Dr Huxtable-esque sweaters and an enviable collection of kicks amplify his diminutive stature. Everything he does is difficult to place. From his dress sense, to his politics and his music; he is difficult to categorise. Or even explain. Adjectives and illustrative get closer to the man, but they never quite convey him entirely.
On the stage, behind microphone and laptop, he’s as brash and excitable as his music: electro-rap with Kwaito sympathies, dipping in dub and bass, and swathed in synths. Now, here for the interview he’s calmer. A deliberate and channelled sense of control emanates from him. He typifies the post post. The neuvo new. A brash brand of Afrocentrism that, unlike its predecessors is unfetishized, globally relevant, and, well, super cool. Kool with K cool.
Taxonomy – the process of cataloguing – is a messy business under even the most normal of circumstances, but extremely difficult when it comes Smiso Zwane. By his own admission, perhaps even by his own design, OkMalvmKoolKat defies all nomenclature. “We need to run away from boxing things,” he asserts. “We either need to stop boxing things, or we need to create new boxes. The lines are not as clear as they used to be. The labels and the genres are old. People are trying to figure what kind of music I make, but that box doesn’t exist. On different tracks I feel differently. On different tracks I am different people. For example, on Inhliziyo yami igaya izabozi, I sing in a maskandi style, does that make me a maskandi artist?”
Read the full story in September's issue of The Red Bulletin.