The Jabba Worksby Quincy Jones Tsatsi / 17.01.2010
With a two-week itinerary that includes a visit to the BET Awards, a video shoot, public speaking engagements across the USA and various performances with US hip hop royalty (including a Haiti benefit concert) Jabba is justifiably a bundle of nerves.
On a request for a photoshoot and a fresh quote or two, the star’s response is an apologetic but firm: “nah I can’t squeeze you in today my man, I’m doing my last minute shopping ‘cause I wasn’t sure till the last minute that I’m leaving.”
I let this one slide. Fortunately I had spoken to the fella long before the eve of his of departure to Washington DC for a two-week “Artist‐In‐Bloom” residency at BloomBars a DC based non-profit organisation that “works to inspire and unite communities through the arts”.
For a fortnight this frontrunner of South African hip hop will be in the company and guided award-winning hip hop artist and founder of the Hip‐Hop Education Literacy Program (H.E.L.P), Asheru, who is one half of the critically acclaimed group, Unspoken Heard. Many of you might know Asheru for performing the opening and closing theme for the popular TV series The Boondocks.
“Today the world is getting smaller and smaller, and hip hop music and culture is the thing that binds us all over the world. I think it’s an incredible thing for the culture overall to be able to come together in this manner and open the dialogue to share how we each have been impacted by something so universal” says Asheru over the phone.
And that is why our own humble, twinkle toed, hip hop maestro, Jabba is headed to DC; to use culture as a vehicle for social change. The residency aims to build bridges between the hip hop communities in SA and the US. “A big part of our mission at BloomBars is to build cross-cultural connections and educational partnerships with progressive artists and organisations in other countries,” says John Chambers, founder and managing director of Bloombars.
“Also, because we sprouted in DC, where so many decisions are made that impact the rest of the world, we wanted to be an organization that exposes our community to different ideas, cultures, and art in particular,” He adds.
“Like I always say, they could’ve chosen millions of people to represent Africa and hip hop in the continent but they chose me.” Says Jabba. “I am extremely humbled by that. That can only be ditiro tsa Modimo (Gods Work). I met brother John when he was in the country looking for me saying a friend of his put him on to Acceptance Speech and he loved my messages of togetherness. It was then that, in the middle of Catz Pyjamas in Melville, he started explaining the BloomBars concept and I was sold.”
Jabba continues to make major moves with his brand of Motswako. While in DC he will be collaborating with Asheru and also traveling to New York to perform alongside legends such as Pharoah Monch, Jean Grae (Abdul Ibrahim’s daughter) KRS 1, Grand Puba and Black Sheep.
But the most important aspect of the trip will entail Jabba speaking out about HIV/Aids awareness and support for arts education initiatives.
“I’ve got a lot to do when I get there. I’ll be speaking both at private and goverment schools one of the schools where the Barack Obama’s daughters attend. They’re taking me to what they deem to be their Soweto. I want to see that. Also I’ll be attending the BET awards and other community based functions together with the Hip‐Hop Education Literacy Program,” he says.
As Chamber’s says “It’s been interesting to watch the progression of hip hop in Africa. Listening to that album Acceptance Speech, it felt like it had come full circle. The beautiful languages and rhythms are now full integrated with more traditional US-inspired hip hop in a way that seems organic, but still highly evolved. As you call it “Motswako,” or mixture in Setswana.”