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Behind every success story there is a struggle – Ntsiki Mazwai

The journey began for me on December 16, 2011. I was hosting our regular session Street-Pop Sessions in Soweto.

I have been hosting Street-pop Sessions since 2006. They were an outdoor, live music session which provided a platform for local bands, it was held monthly. It was predominantly hip hop based and as a result, initially, there was much resistance to ‘a woman’ hosting a Hip Hop session- but it was there that my fighting spirit was harnessed.

We ignored naysayers and I continued my duties as the host of Street-pop. The sessions always had a great turnout and the entertainment was in a league of its own.

The journey with the Street-pop team was never without drama. The boys Works, Zos and Mlu ran a tight ship and I was the face of a session that was a popular favorite in the Jozi underground movement. The interpersonal relationships were tricky to manage. The boys had been friends since childhood; and I had met them later in 2000 so naturally they had a tighter bond. What was interesting however was that, whenever there was a fall out (which was often), I would throw my diva tantrums and Works would always stop everything and say “bafwethu, Ntsiki is the queen of Street-pop- whatever she says... Or goes!” This is also how I got my aka Street-Queen.

Needless to say, the Works was my go-to-guy whenever things got heated or anything random. Works had a warm heart so he was everybody’s favorite.

In a tragic turn of events Works passed away in 2010. That was when we Really got tested. It wasn’t easy. Mlu, Zos and I forged our way through the grief and committed to working even harder towards the Street-pop Sessions’ dream of longevity in the industry. In the past, I had missed a few sessions because of infighting but after Works passed away, I gave myself wholeheartedly to Street-pop.

On Dec 16 2011, the boys had organized another festival and true to street-pop style there was a HUGE fall out the night before the gig. I must have had some unresolved emotions because yerrrr! I took it home with the drama. I sent the boys a string of high drama sms’, I was in tears all morning on the 16th feeling really alienated and distressed; and missing Works’ conflict resolution style.

I don’t think the boys expected it, but I still pitched up for work. I sat in my car while the stage was being set up and when it was time to hit the stage, I dried my eyes, put on a smile and proceeded to charm the audience silly. It was easy to switch my mood as the festival lineup included Simphiwe Dana, 340ml, Nokwazi Dlamini and some of the undergrounds finest bands.

That day my stage manager was an older white woman called Janekke. I didn’t get to engage with her much, but at the end of the show she came up to me and said she would like to work with me again, and would call me when she has something concrete.

It was three weeks later in early January that Janekke did in fact call. She told me she was working at the Promusica Theatre and they had just sent out a ‘call for proposals’ for the use of their basement theatre. She also apologized that this was last minute and I had two days to submit.

I had two days to run around getting tax clearances, bank statements and certifying ids as well as dreaming up a concept.

At the time in my life, I had been trying to find a venue for a poetry session I was trying to set up called ‘The Platform.’

I always get mail from young artists who just want a space to perform so I was trying to find ways to fill that gap. I was in a space where I was getting desperate and despondent about my sessions without a venue. So I guess it is true, luck is when Preparation meets Opportunity.

I put my vision on paper, changed the name to ‘MAMA SAID SESSIONS’ and added surprise guest icons to share the Real story behind the journey.

I wanted it to be a space somewhere in between education and entertainment. I wanted to create a structure for other young artists to sharpen and develop their talent while providing a fun, soulful and safe space.

A few days later Janekke called again to tell me my proposal had been accepted. Not only that, but she took me out on a few lunch dates to show me the Ins and Outs of being a good producer. She taught me vigilance with contracts. She taught me how to draw up and handle budgets for Productions. She taught me how to deal with my team and pretty much held my hand through the transition between performance artist to producer.

The launch session was a blessing. We hosted mam’ Dorothy Masuku and Thandiswa Mazwai and from then on the sessions went from strength to strength with the likes of Lillian Dube, Pops Mohamed, Jah Seed + Admiral, Wanda Baloyi, Ringo and Kabomo. The audience loves the ‘chill out’ sessions with the icons. Poets love being accompanied by the in-house band. It’s amazing to see the diverse talent Mzansi boasts.  And I am having a fabulous time taking centre stage to show off the caliber of work that South Africa is producing!

I am truly grateful for what MAMA SAID to me in my dreams...

 By Ntsiki Mazwai | Home Page (Guest Writer) - she's a South African artist - hosting  monthly infotainment sessions, 'Mama Said Sessions' at the Joburg Promusica Theatre.

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