Grammys, Gugs and the Global Heartbeat

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By Sara Lagardien Abdullah

This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 1 of VARSITY News.


Upon releasing her song Ocean Eyes on SoundCloud in 2016, which was subsequently released on Interscope Records’ subsidiary Darkroom Records, Billie Eilish has not slowed down in her rise to fame. The 18-year-old American singer and songwriter has consistently dominated the popular music arena with her alternative, electropop infused sounds. Eilish, who dominated the recent 2020 Grammys – taking away awards for the Best New Artist, Song of the Year, Album of the Year, Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album, has affirmed that a woman’s place is at the Grammys and anywhere else she chooses to be.


Her apparent refusal to abide by societal norms, whether it be in regard to her music, her appearance or otherwise, Billie Eilish is someone whom many have found a role model in. While Eilish takes the world by storm and in doing so, expanding representation for women in arenas that have historically sidelined their presence, South Africa’s local music scene continues to bubble with confidence. With her new release titled Khon’ba, Kanyi Mavi – a Xhosa lyricist, emcee, wordsmith and rapper from Gugulethu – remains fearless in pursuing her plethora of crafts. Venturing into a world that, at least in its popular manifestations, has not been a space that women occupy with ease – Kanyi Mavi has been steadfast in her rejection and subversion of these rigid perceptions of spaces and crafts.




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‘There is peaceful. There is wild. I am both at the same time.’ #KhonBa

A post shared by Kanyi Mavi (@kanyi_mavi) on


Khon’ba is an album rich with a marrying of genres and sounds, inviting listeners to indulge in a sonic journey that travels from hip hop and rap to soulful rhythm and blues. Not only has Kanyi Mavi been able to confidently situate herself in an industry that, historically, may have been isolating, her isiXhosa raps and upbeat melodies distinguish her from global as well as some local sounds. Other South African woman rappers include Dope Saint Jude who has just released her single titled Go High Go Low – evidence that not only are women captivating the world on the global stage, but they are claiming their place locally too through their sonic prowess.  Music across the globe has welcomed a diversity of people and sounds into its realm and whilst challenges may persist, it can be said with confidence that the sonic landscape is indeed shifting towards one that is perhaps less rigid and more accommodating.


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