Tribute to a hero

MOTHERWELL-based hip-hop artist Yahkeem Ben Israel hopes to become nationally recognised after his latest single, Umhlaba Uyanyikima, made its debut on radio station Umhlobo Wenene FM on Friday.

The single is on the musician's album Critical Thought, which is dedicated to the struggle veteran Livingstone Mqotsi, who died in 2009.

Israel, who is also the founder of the Grassroots Arts Festival, said he was very excited to hear his song on radio.

"I would be failing if I do not acknowledge the work that the music office at Umhlobo Wenene is doing in support of local Eastern Cape music.

"Gwiba Nkonki and Nogolide Gwija really are giving us air-time.

"It gives me great pleasure to see that a lot of people are receiving my music quite well and they love it. Umhlaba Uyanyikima in English means the earth is shaken. In this song, as an artist who refuses to move out of the Eastern Cape to be recognised in the industry, I am stamping my authority – I am here to shake the globe irrespective of my geographic location.

"Ever since I began to pursue music professionally, I have witnessed so many great musicians being broken by the hopelessness of the Eastern Cape and venturing outside of our province for greener pastures.

"What leads to the frustration is the lack of support from various segments of society, family, media, government, private sector and so forth. All artists at this point feel compelled to move out and then other places shine by means of our talent," he said.

He believes he brings culture and soul in the "hollow and heavy" hip-hop industry.

"They say if you want to open a business, identify a problem and seek profitable means of solving it.

"I studied the industry so I am everything that is currently missing in the South African music industry.

"I dedicated my album to one of Eastern Cape's unsung struggle stalwarts, Mqotsi, who was invaluable as an adviser of the late Oliver Tambo and who raised Chris Hani as his own son.

"I wanted to do work that would resurrect his ideals and inform people about this special soul. I was touched by his work as a writer and his selfless spirit as a freedom fighter," he said.

The 20-track album was released in January and was launched in East London in March.

"Last year I was nominated in the King of the Eastern Cape category at the South African Hip-Hop Awards.

"I represented the Eastern Cape in the Splash Jam Conference as a panelist. I was listed among 23 top underground MCs in South Africa," he said.

His music has already been played on various radio stations across the Eastern Cape as well as East African Radio in Kenya.