The Xhosa language has long stood as one of those South African tongues that endear and intimidate at the same time. Aurally, the clicks make it interesting to listen to but I don’t believe that they are the main attraction. It brings to mind an American southern drawl in the way it has the range for so much expression and how you can only get the rhythms just right if you’re a native speaker. It is for this reason that even though I’m not a part of his hive, I always look forward to Anatii’s offerings. Thixo Onofefe delivers on the creative use of a vernacular language that doesn’t get a lot of mainstream hip hop’s love (save for Ifani).
I’ve had Thixo Onofefe on repeat all morning and I am tickled to no end by the repeated “hhay looooona” in the hook. It’s just the right amount of jovial in a song that tackles rather heavy matters of spirit and identity.
“Thixo onofefe khona into bendizenza, Khona isiko mele ndilinze, Umthandazo uzosebenza, Abantu base lalini bafuna ndisele iyeza, Umthandazo uzosebenza” (Translation: Merciful God, there are things I been doing, There is a ceremony I must perform, A prayer will work. People in my village, want me to use muti, A prayer will work)
Anatii comes face to face with his religious beliefs and the ways they intersect and are often in tension with his traditional spiritual beliefs. His music has always had Christian influences but this direction is new. The ceremony referred to here is the initiation Xhosa boys undergo to emerge as men.
Xhosa traditional initiation rituals have come to the fore in recent times with more artists injecting the furiously secret and guarded ceremony into their art. Musician and Actor, Nakhane Toure received severe public backlash last year for his award-winning film Inxeba, The wound (which hits cinemas on the 2nd of February) in which these initiations are central. Anatii too in this song is lending a perspective over a trap beat. He told Sunday Times “I decided to open about the culture because I want to export our culture on a global scale and people are more drawn to real things and experiences”.
Also, it’s refreshing to see commercial hip-hop’s coming of age in South Africa. It’s a move away from the assertion of power using women, bling, and money as core lyrical crutches. Rapping in vernac is not new but the use of hip-hop as a language that addresses uniquely South African challenges and topics is. Who would have known that in Tata’s rainbow nation we’d eventually be twerking at the club to a song about ulwaluko (traditional circumcision practices)? This land is truly alive with possibilities.
Enjoy the song and share your thoughts. Are you feeling Anatii’s current vibe?