The Poet MC

The first time I heard Tumi Molekane was probably at Jungle Connection in Doornfontein, Johannesburg, circa 1999/2000, doing poetry. As he explored the various aspects of his creativity both as part of Tumi And The Volume and then as a solo artist, I watched and listened from the sidelines, enjoying the various creations and, occasionally sharing my thoughts: Tumi Traverses Whole Worlds.

I have always felt that Tumi occupies a particular space in the South African (and global) musical landscape that is beyond the hype, the ‘turn-up’, the trivial wordplay that says nothing and stands for nothing. Don’t get me wrong, I do feel that, as multi-dimensional beings, we should explore all facets but, too often, artists seem to sink into single-dimensions driven by commercial interests. But, the artist’s responsibility to themselves, their values and how they want to present themselves as people. And the listener’s responsibility is to decide what resonates and what doesn’t.

This morning I woke up to a message from Tumi with the Open Letter below (which reinforced my perspective of him as an artist) and a link to his new album Return Of The King, released on Youth Day in South Africa, a day to commemorate those students who took a stand (some tragically killed) at the Soweto Uprising in 1976. I won’t review the album. I love that he featured my homeboy (from Lesotho) Kommanda Obbs, as well as Saul Williams, Simphiwe Dana and Kelly Khumalo, amongst others. Read the letter and make your decision. I’ve made mine. I won’t review the album but I will say, it’s worth the listen.

We Were Almost Great: An Open Letter

Not sure if anyone can remember a show called All You Need Is Love. It was one of them franchised TV shows licensed from Germany. It was a television matchmaker show that looked to connect and reconcile loved ones. It was by all accounts a successful show with a clear format and a game show look about it, well a game show on Valentine’s Day. I loved this show, not so much for the romance but for the unavoidable cracks in its format. Midseason something started to happen though. When they were looking for loved ones to reconcile they started finding these incredible stories of displacement, migrant workers with different families, breakups caused by poverty, of lost children and cross cultural family feuds. I can imagine this was incredibly frustrating to the producers trying to keep to the romantic formula of the show. The show lasted a few seasons but the die had been cast.

I like to think All You Need Is Love became Khumbul’eKhaya. The slick German game show got infected with the unavoidable truth of who we are. The real didn’t want to play along with the fantasy.

I think we are at that point in this country. Where these licensed ideas of freedom, democracy, unity, the free market and identity are starting to get infected by the real fact of poverty, corruption, insecurity, privilege and the heft of capitalism. We are starting to see the cracks. What was a picturesque Image of good triumphing over bad has become a complicated abstract. We are approaching that point where we are seeing a new show develop. A show titled We Were Almost Great.

We are trying to remember our heroes but are magnifying the villains, wanting to honour our artists but ignoring their art, supporting our teams by mocking them, trying to inspire our young through meaningless celebrity.

We are going to have to decide what kinda series we are. Counterfeiters and licensees to our own lives. If we want to be treasured or sold. The instant gratification self proclaimed selfie stars or real kings and queens. Does the movie change now? Do we make our own unavoidable true story or become that dream deferred, the rainbow in a storm, the almost great.

I choose great. Always. It’s not easy to keep insisting on great. It’s expensive, it’s time consuming, it’s lonely heavy work, it’s thankless but it’s the only way I know to create and cultivate greatness. I approach my music in this way. I assume it’s important, that someone out there can use it for their party, their problems and their reflection. So when they talk about my work they talk about how it made them feel, what it gave them, where they disagreed, where it touched their dreams. I want people to purchase my album because they buy my story and believe my music and I didn’t want a big tasteless campaign interfering with that. One can control their own story and how it is transmitted. With that said It gives me great pleasure to announce on this, the 16th of June the release of my album.

Enjoy. Return Of the King ?#?TUMIROTK

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