The word Kwaito originates from the Afrikaans word kwaai - angry. In conversational slang, negative terms or expressions often gain a positive connotation or "cool" status. The language of Kwaito is Isicamtho, South African township slang. Isicamtho is a modern version of tsotsitaal - thug or gangster language. This language comprises of Afrikaans and a mixture of all other traditional languages.
Kwaito music first emerged in the 1990s as a concoction of different rhythms like marabi, kwela, maskhandi, bubblegum music of the 80s and Imibongo (African praise rhyme).
South African music greats such as Miriam Makeba and Brenda Fassie – to name a few - have swayed Kwaito from styles drawn from the African Diaspora's Hip-Hop, Dub, Jazz and even UK House.
DJ Oscar "Warona" Mdlongwa explains:" In the late 80s, we started remixing international house tracks to give them a local feeling. We added a bit of piano, slowing the tempo down and putting in percussion and African melodies".
Zakes expanded kwaito as a genre to new opportunities for up and coming artists. He said the difficulty with kwaito was that the pace was a bit sluggish in comparison to house and it became tricky for DJs to blend such songs their current playlists. His DKM offers DJs a kwaito that they can easily merge with a house song, he says.
Zakes' ambition is to have the album released in the whole African continent and overseas countries, essentially bringing a new kind of kwaito to the world.
Some music reviewers have commented that the song "Clap your Hands", featuring Xolani Sithole, is the kind that will force music fans to appreciate this different but very good quality music. The song is just in a class of its own, and you will be misguided to think it might actually sound international instead of local.
With traces of jazz music in Sunrise Tell, where he features Culoe De Song on production, you pick up his influences like Miles Davis, Moses Taiwa Molelekwa and Bheki Mseleku.
Kwaito is about the township, knowing about the township, understanding the township, walking the walk, talking the talk and most importantly, being proud of these things. The township is being celebrated by the youth of South Africa in Kwaito music, and Zakes is at the top of this celebration of being proudly South African.