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Sabelo Soko launches his new album -Umkhondo

Carob magazine sits down for a chat with SATMA award nominee, Poet, writer and musician, Sabelo Soko to talk about his new album, life and career.

CAROB MAGAZINE: Tell us about yourself, where were you born and how was it like growing up?

Sabelo: I was born eMkhondo, a timber and wattle growing town in Mpumalanga where, almost, everybody is related to everybody. I had a decent childhood, raised by a single mother and loving grandparents, I didn’t miss or lack anything. My grandfather worked at the local firm during the week and farmed vegetables, which he traded for cash, over the weekends. I was tasked with keeping track of the seasons and knowing harvest times. My grandmother owned a shop at the township’s “shopping centre” where I spent most of my childhood. Growing up “ey’toro”, as locals refer to the shopping centre back home, I was exposed to the good, the bad and ugly of black livelihood at a young age.

CAROB MAGAZINE: When did your love for Poetry and music start showing?

Sabelo: Yoh! I have been in love with rhythm and stories for as long as I can remember. My grandmother always talks about how I would stand on the veranda, at the shop, singing along to almost every struggle song ever sang in the early 90’s. After ‘94 my mother moved me to a multi racial school where I discovered Hip Hop and, subsequently, the love for language. When I moved to Jo’burg from Mpumalanga after Matric I discovered a world bigger than what The Journey of The Magi had captured. When I heard Thabo “Motho Fela” Lehlongwa recite a poem of his titled ‘Remember Me’ I knew I had found my calling.  

CAROB MAGAZINE: Please tell Carob about your album, what inspired such creative work of art and how long it took you to finish the album?

Sabelo: The album is actually 1/3 of a 3 dimensional project I began working on in late 2015, where the same text or poems are adapted for page, audio and stage. The idea was to be as true to each media as possible without compromising the story I’m trying to tell. The process began with me dealing with issues I had with language because coming from a town so close to KwaZulu Natal and Swaziland the Zulu I speak is not what is deemed as formal Zulu, let alone my Model C background. I then started reading and consuming more Zulu literature, art and music; the idea was to master the language and be eloquent in it but I couldn’t overlook the politics of the language within the language. The poems on the album are from this ongoing process of mastering mother tongue though they are not about the process itself but real life experiences. With the album there is a chapbook with English translations of the poems… the stage part of the project is solo theatre performance sometimes supported by a band.    

CAROB MAGAZINE: Why is the title of your album Umkondo? What is the significance of this name? 

Sabelo: Umkhondo means the trail in Zulu, or the track. This project is testament to the journey I’ve travelled, so far, trying to learn not only a language but the ways of a people. It’s a ‘looking back to go forward’ kind of a thing; which is important as we continue to reclaim ourselves.     

CAROB MAGAZINE : You advocate for truth, peace and justice in your album would say your poetry/music is black conscious? 

Sabelo: I am a black person; my experiences are of a black person; so what else can what I create be than what I am.     

CAROB MAGAZINE: Which artists would you still like to work with? 

: uBab’ Madala Kunene would be a dream. Urban Village. I would love to do a record with the great scamtho poet uBra Ike Mboneni Muila. The queen of Ndebele Music, uMam’ Nothembi Mkhwebane. I have fallen in love with the artistic in my backyard and that’s what I want to share with the world.      

CAROB MAGAZINE.What keeps you inspired as an artist? 

Sabelo: Ordinary people. Day to day life.  

CAROB MAGAZINE: What words of motivation can you share with our readers to keep them motivated and inspired

When it gets tough and you feel like giving up, breathe. And remember, someone out there cares. It might be unbelievable at that moment but someone out there cares.