Is The Mike On?
Analysing the word according to Mac Manaka

Mac is a genius and it’s sad that he still refers to himself as a struggling writer. He laments that ’10 years from now I don’t want to see myself as a struggling writer juggling words to provide family’. He’s quick to clarify that he’s not talking about 2010 but 2018. Someone asked me why are artists always struggling when they are often paid to perform in SASOL Inzalo adverts, government imbizos, presidential inaugurations and other high profile art events, including Poetry Africa and Arts Alive.

Well, I failed to provide an adequate response because I am an artist but I don’t consider myself a struggling writer but rather a ruthless hustler (without being a capitalist nigger since I detested Chika Onyeani’s definition) because while I’m not on anyone’s payroll and have no one on mine I still manage to pay my bills, raise a child and have a few cents for my regular red wine and dates with chicks as dark as my coffee – that is without doing stick-ups or bombing ATMs or being a gigolo.

Mac is a bloody genius (excuse the adjective), I repeat, and there’s no justification, scientific or social why he should be broke at this point in time. Being broke and navigating through the dark cave of poverty seems like a theme of this well produced CD, titled Word Sound Power. Mac carries its heavy message throughout with his often nasal rattlesnake lyrical prowess that complements the saucy beats that carry his equally heavy presence. Mac is firmly rooted as he stands on three, not two feet (thanks to a accident that however failed to silence the bard). Fuck accidents.

The first time I came into contact with Mac’s works was in Justin Nurse’s Laugh It Off. The next thing, weeded and holding back blood from my nostrils I found myself in a session he was doing in Melville’s 7th and thought it was a hallucination. Since then I have followed his career through If Only (poetry book), Soul City (tv series) with interest and haven’t yet been disappointed except for the SASOL Inzalo silicone poetry (poet David wa Maahlamela once wrote in a poem dedicated to Lesego Rampolokeng, ‘let’s write plastic poetry/ that melts when we near the fire’, maybe Mac took it literally).

While the CD is back to back nectar for the bear there’s a line that stood out for me about his analysis of society’s failure to recognise what’s wrong with its surrender to fate and comprehension of truth. In his almost arrogant (in one poem he says his arrogance is disarmed by someone’s kiss) tone he utters, ‘how dare you romanticize poverty like it’s hip to be poor’. Well said, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Joan Armatrading differed when she chose to sing, ‘poverty can be romantic/ I black and white it looks like art’, well the jury is out.

It soon becomes contradictory of Mac to dis adoration for nothingness and want while on Batho ba Mona the number of times he actually hollers ‘I’m so broke’ smirks of closet romanticism. In this poem he explores the playerhaters in a humorous manner and goes the distance of adding the SABC to the list of those who should know that he’s still broke. He’s aware that nobody will believe that he’s broke including ‘maghenge’, or majimbos, depending from which ‘hood art thou, who would obviously insist on a loose draw from the bard. But the way he romanticises being broke strikes me as crass.

Further on Mac touches on the challenge most poets find themselves in. He’s right that ‘passion pays no bills’ but well-cultivated love is a bond, equivalent to a blank cheque. It is such a currency that often when it’s time to transact all you have to do is to avail yourself at the teller with a trolley full of grocery and yell, ‘where’s the love?

An earthmoving tribute to the sisters is in Speak. He takes the pillow-talk post-orgasmic hallucinations/rants to the public mike and shares intimate thoughts about sistas as a cradle of humankind with the rest of the world. It’s passion without erotica or action, which becomes romantic in this CD.

Mac’s broke status is an indictment on first; artists; we can’t work together across the 1994 provincial boundaries and across disciplines. Purity is milking our shallow pockets dry. There’s an elitist element in South African poets that some perceive themselves to be celebrities. You have the most talented folks outside of the narrow Joburg celebrity circles being overlooked for opportunities because their style is unorthodox and they come from Limpopo.

Before I offend other people or become political I’ll stop here and challenge you to tell me, ‘why are artists broke?’

1 comment:

  1. It's the true artists that are broke, quite sad actually!!! With the amount of dedication & effort they put in towards presenting what sound good to the ear and makes sense to the mind!

    The should be pushing wheelbarrows of cash into the bank.

    Passion pays no bills------> True that!


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