Mafokate was born in Rustenburg, North West Province and his family later moved to nearby Chiawelo, in Soweto. There Mafokate's dreams of becoming an entertainer and musician began to be realised. As an accomplished dancer, he became a backing dancer for top artists such as Brenda Fassie, Son of Monwa & Son fame and Johnny Makholi. Through dancing he was able to be closer to his dream of being a musician as it allowed him to get a feel of the atmosphere on stage and to work with established musicians.
First Kwaito Hit
He was credited with creating the first kwaito hit with his 1995 song "Kaffir". While the song itself is notable musically for spearheading a new genre of music, its lyrics reflect the new freedoms that emerged after the political changes of 1994, including the implementation of a new constitution and democratic election system. The title, "Kaffir," is a derogatory term used mostly in South Africa as a racial slur to refer to black people. In his song, Mafokate protests against the use of the word "kaffir," claiming that his employer (called "baas" or boss) would not like to be referred to as "bobbejaan," or baboon.
This song is significant, not only as a musical milestone, but also in terms of the lyrics. The association of kwaito with gangsters is because kwaito in itself, according to Mafokate, is "all about ghetto music." However, as the apartheid era was coming to an end, this new song and genre represented a perfect reminder of the atrocities of the past and inspiration for the future, while stamping Mafokate's reputation as an artist unafraid to stir up controversy or voice his strong opinions.
- I don't come from hell.
- You would not like it if I called you a baboon.
- Even when I try washing up, you still call me a kaffir.
- Boss, don't call me a kaffir.
These words are recurring until the end of the song, while the lyrics are repeated sequentially at various pitches, a common theme of African music. While being banned by a few radio stations, the song caught the imagination of the country's youth and the EP went on to sell in excess of 150,000 copies and largely influenced the state of kwaito today.
999 Music Label
Mafokate is the self-proclaimed King of Kwaito. He is the founder of the 999 Music Record Label, a privately owned company which now produces upcoming artists mostly in the kwaito genre. Mafokate named his newly formed music label 999 Music, after the house number of his family home in Chiawelo. Some of his productions are Supasta, Bambezela, Doom Sugar, Tall & Slender, Papa Jeff, Pinky Pinky, Aba Shante, New School, Lira, Purity, Speedy, Makhendlas, Brenda Fassie, Scamtho, Helela, Iyaya, Mouze, Ishamel, Mshoza, Zombo, Zulu, Chafkop, and Stitch. As of 2005, he was the sole owner of the label. Through hard work and the strong will to succeed, Mafokate was able to succeed as an artist and in building a sustainable independent music label. Thus 999 become one of the most established and recognised Music labels in the country and it still is, existing for over 15 years.
Arthur Mafokate, credited as the King of Kwaito, was recognised for his contribution to this new generation of music at the 2007 FNB South African Music Awards. His victory in the 'Song of the Year' category, depicts the peculiar popularity of a music genre which does not analyse the historical black struggle like traditional South African music has often done. The genre of Kwaito music resulted from "the lifting of sanctions in South Africa which provided musicians with easier access to international music tracks and a radical revision of censorship, while the easing political situation allowed for greater freedom of expression. Freedom of expression meant that for the first time, the youth of South Africa could make their voices heard". Making his voice heard through the song Oyi Oyi, Mafokate hit a particular note with South African audiences "in a year when the competition was strong, indicating his enduring appeal for his hundreds of thousands of fans". Unlike the often apolitical characteristics of kwaito music, Mafokate does address the lower class black experience in South Africa in much of his music as is revealed in the lyrics of "Kaffir". Mafokate describes his success in these words: “I commit myself in everything that I do. Give me a script now to portray a character, for example, and you’ll see my dedication. I’d never claim my looks have anything to do with my success. It’s entirely what comes from within me”.
Mafokate is particularly significant for breaking economic barriers that hampered South African artists of previous generations. By becoming owner of 999 Records, Mafokate broke economic barriers and helped bring kwaito into a new era. "' The presence of independent companies is a hallmark of kwaito's evolution, signifying, in the case of people like Mafokate... a growing Black economic empowerment within the music industry."' In addition to his economic success he is also unique for helping to broaden kwaito's appeal internationally. "Arthur has begun to have an impact on the overseas marker, with a promotional performance in Spain last year knocking the socks off the sometimes jaded international music."
- Arthur Mafokate
- Mhlambi, Thokozani.'Kwaitofabulous': The Study of a South African urban genre. Journal of the Musical Arts in Africa. volume 1 116–127. University of Cape Town. 2004
- South Africa (02/08)
- Mhlambi, Thokozani.'Kwaitofabulous': The Study of a South African urban genre.
- Videos of Arthur Mafokate music
- Microsoft Word – ARTHUR CONTROVERSIAL KING.doc
- South African Music
- Mhlambi, Thokozani. "'Kwaitofabulous': The study of a South African urban genre." Journal of the Musical Arts in Africa, vol 1 (2004): 116
- Magubane, Zine. "Globalization and Gangster Rap: Hip Hop in the Post-Apartheid City." The Vinyl Ain't Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture. 225.
- "Mafokate, Arthur (South Africa)." http://www.music.org.za/artist.asp?id=92. Accessed 28 February 2008.
- Arthut Mafokate on music.org.za