In the Southern African kingdom of Swaziland, most aspiring musicians have limited performs to showcase their talents, particularly for upcoming acts. Swazi artists often also struggle to market themselves, partly due to the high costs of shooting videos, a vital avenue of marketing in today’s music industry.
This state of affairs has led a group of Swazi music enthusiasts to create an avenue where artist can regularly hone their skill among a network of like-minded individuals. Mbab’City Open Mic is a grassroots initiative created by SwaziRapCypher for budding hip-hop artists to showcase their skills.
The initiative aims to unearth, develop and mentor emerging artists in Swaziland by creating a space for regular networking, performing and creative exchange; to market and showcase hip-hop in Swaziland in an increasingly global and competitive world; to foster the spirit of creative collaborative effort amongst peers in the fields of film, music, art, design and marketing; to build a database of local talent; and to revitalize urban youth culture, particularly in the capital city of Mbabane.
The SwaziRapCypher venture is driven by two young minds, Mlandvo Mamba and Mfundvo Dlamini. It is a sister project of the Street Corner Cypher in Cape Town, South Africa, run by the hip-hop collective Cape Town’s Finest and founded by Mlandvo Mamba alongside Bronze Bibi Cyriaque, a filmmaker from DRC resident in Cape Town.
After three trial events in Cape Town in 2014 and 2015, the first edition of the Mbab’City Open Mic was held on Sunday 24 April this year at the Checkers Shisanyama in Mbabane. Local beatmakers, MCs, poets, singers, instrumentalists, record labels, promoters and music enthusiasts were all invited to the free event, which ran from 12pm to 6pm to accommodate even young artists who don’t normally get a chance to perform in nightclubs.
Part of the event takes the form of a cypher - an improvised rap performance done by two or more artists - as a way to share and sharpen rapping skills where each rapper takes a turn while the others look on and cheer. It is a great way to network and compare skills and also test out new verses without the use of a studio or the intimidation of a huge crowd. The performances are then filmed by the SwaziRapCyper team, to be uploaded to online platforms and distributed on social media as an effective marketing tool for the artists involved and for Swazi hip-hop in general.
A pilot episode, dubbed SwaziRapCypher ‘Episode 0’, was shot earlier this year at the Mbabane Coronation Park as a prelude to the official launch of the SwaziRapCypher series. It features local talent Souldier Within, Sulis, Qibho Intalektual, MP and Omar Ze Great rapping over a beat produced by Subjamz.
The next Mbab'City Open Mic event is set to take place on Saturday 25 June and will coincide with the uploading of 'SwaziRapCypher Episode 1' onto Youtube which is the first official edition in the video series.
The event takes place as part of the international Fête de la Musique, a global initiative in which nations all over the world (including South Africa, Cameroon and Burkina Faso) to mark World Music Day, taking place for the first time in Swaziland at the local Alliance Francaise on 25 June from 11am to 4pm.
According to organiser Mlandvo Mamba, “There will be a Fête de la Musique for the first time in Swaziland and SwaziRapCypher will be hosting Mbab’City Open Mic as a component of the day’s programme. Three artists that are part of our open mic database - poet Fish, vocalist PK and Christian rapper Calliber (aka The Berean Emcee) - will feature in the main segment of the festival as headlining performers and we will be hosting the normal open mic to open up the day’s activities.”