Yeoville Day 20: Hillbrow, almost

Photo: Lameez Omarjee

BUILT THIS CITY: Artist, Junior Sokhela says he has a house in the suburbs but loves “this place” overlooking the view of the city. Photo: Lameez Omarjee

*As part of the in-depth research project, one of the requirements of the BA Honours in Journalism and Media Studies degree at Wits University, students are required to write daily blog entries to show the progress of their projects. This year the theme is Yeoville and students have to take on a topic that tells a story that is Yeoville specific.

Today Lutho and I braved the inner city streets of Berea to shoot at Junior Sokhela’s studio.    She said she knew where he lived.  Trusting her, I followed her until she said: “Ah let’s wing it”.  I started to get worried.  As we were approaching Ponte Tower, that’s  when I felt like hitting her over the head with the tripod.  But I chose not to, because I wouldn’t have any idea how to get out of Hillbrow myself.

The good news is, we found our way to Sokhela’s place with the help of Lutho’s subject, BK, who we met at a central place.

It was incredible, amidst the economic frenzy of the city, there’s this other enchanting artistic side to it.  I’ve heard and read about it, but I’ve never had the opportunity to explore it.

YOU'RE GONNA BE A STAR:  Upcoming artist BK, had an opportunity to meet Junior Sokhela who's keen on working with him in the future.  Photo: Lameez Omarjee

YOU’RE GONNA BE A STAR: Upcoming artist BK, had an opportunity to meet Junior Sokhela who’s keen on working with him in the future. Photo: Lameez Omarjee

Walking into Sokhela’s modest home, you’re greeted with a portrait of artist Bob Marley.  He has more of these hanging on the walls, black-and-white pictures of Malcom X and Boom Shaka.

The walls of his studio are adorned with the Boom Shaka records that reached gold and platinum status.  It was a privilege to meet Sokhela, he spent two weeks in studio with Hugh Masekela  and  he has worked with Brenda Fassie.

He told us she lived in the same building as he does now, and later moved to Ponte Tower.  He told us about their work on “nomakanjani” and I blurted out, “I love that song”! (Well, that’s one way to lose street cred).

Sokhela met BK, an artist trying to make a break.  Sokhela gave him some advice on the industry.  He told BK to find an identity and to add more kwaito to his music to make it memorable and recognisable as South African.  Having helped Lutho with her footage over the week, I noticed many of the artists incorporated Western influences in their music.

Sokhela was pleased to hear that BK sings and is good at RnB.  “I hate rappers,” he said.

Worried about our safety, and our equipment, Sokhela walked us back to catch a taxi.  For three solid minutes, I got a microscopic snapshot of Jo’burg city.  Walking the streets, past the vendors selling kasi snacks, the tasty smell of runaways being braaied on the street (I may be vegetarian but I know tasty food), it struck me that little girls were  playing hopscotch on the streets I fear daily.

I guess to survive Jo’burg, you become Jo’burg.  Dangerously addictive, limitless surprises.  I love this city.





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