Jabba belongs among South Africa’s pioneering greats
2 November 2018 MUSIC
By Gomolemo Lesejane
“I kept my culture. I kept the music of my roots. Through my music. I became this voice and image of Africa and the people without even realising it” – Miriam Makeba from Makeba: The Miriam Makeba Story (2004)
These words of an iconic visionary ring true from the treasured archives of South Africa’s Hall of Fame. A place where Jabulani Tsambo – or HHP as he is better known – has always belonged: Among South Africa’s pioneering greats.
Since his passing last week, Jabba’s musical prowess has been gloriously magnified by the many tributes, written, rapped, spoken and otherwise, as deserving of praise. This outpouring of grief from a pained entertainment industry has also been a profound sadness that has overcome millions of South Africans, our continent and by no means least, the Tsambo family.
I can hear it to this day: Lefatshe Je loudly beckoning us from stuffy classrooms in the last thirty minutes of the school day, raring from outside the schoolyard ko gare ga diskofi. Then, it cultivated a child-like becoming and belonging. The Setswana that was often spoken at us and would generally fly over our heads became accessible and aspirational. It became ours. When Jabba said he “made Setswana fashionable”, he revolutionised our heritage. This past week, the same record, Lefatshe Je, has been a poignant, grounding prayer. A reminder of how this man lived so generously, fiercely and passionately, sometimes to his own detriment.
Jabba made a way for an often-divided hip-hop fraternity to finally reimagine music as something that can be dynamically relatable. And what a journey it’s been. As heart-wrenching as it was fulfilling. He became the face of his beloved Mmabatho and a founding father of what we know today as Motswako. And one of South Africa’s most engaged, endearing and adored personalities.
His warmth, unreserved sense of humour and passion made him otherworldly and simply human all at once. The many stories I have heard of his influence, his relentless mentorship and diverse musicality in the past week have made him almost superhuman. Conversely, it has exposed me to the fact that even in our super-humanness lies brokenness. A brokenness that rings, at times, louder than all the noise that comes from our talents and unique abilities.
Selflessly, Jabba put a sound to the brokenness. He never shied away from it, instead, he held our hands through it as if to shed light on the depth of our own sadness. May his life be emulated by those who have come to know him beyond the music. Beyond his infectious personality and the raspy mischievous cackle, we have all come to remember with fondness. May the brokenness of one of our own be a light for all of us who are looking for some solace in something bigger than ourselves.
Bakone a ba amogele morwa’a Tsambo ka mogolokwane le molodi. The concerted efforts of HHP will be indelibly imprinted on the legacy of the Motswako movement, and by and large, the South African music industry. True to your promise, o re phuthetse go fitlhela mmu o go wela. Robala ka kagiso mogaetsho.
Gomolemo Lesejane is a Sowetan communications consultant trying to occupy, navigate and make sense of a world that vehemently resists her existence