The Kalaharians: The legend lives on
Before there was hikwa, or whatever New-Age fusion genres the kids are into these days, there was Riddim and Dancehall (RnD).
It is an infectious genre which makes your soul quiver and causes every bone and muscle in your body to shake with the desire to dance. The face of RnD in Namibia until a few years ago was that of The Kalaharians, the original poster children for what it was to be effortlessly cool.
The group was started in the mid-90s, either in 1996 or 1997, and at the time was comprised of T.C, Yellow Solo and C.J. At the time, they went under the name The Usual Suspects.
“We decided to change the name because it was not suitable for us. We eventually decided on The Kalaharians because it was more representative of us as Africans. It spoke to our culture and traditions. The name stuck because it was unique,” T.C, one of the original founders of the now-defunct group, explained.
Unlike some of the freshman groups which now dominate the industry, they would perform for free, which was not out of the norm for them because they did it for love.
“When we started off, the industry was very small, not yet established, so we struggled. We did not mind performing for free because we enjoyed doing it, music was our food,” he noted.
The group performed for several years, releasing singles which turned them into a household name until in 2000 when they merged with the Dungeon Family through his connections with Faizel MC.
“Faizel invited us to rehearse with them at the National Theatre of Namibia’s (NTN) rehearsal stage. At the time, I didn’t know Sula Kyababa (the head of Ogopa Butterfly here) very well.” Eventually, Kyababa asked them to come over and sign with Butterfly and merge with Dungeon Family.
“I am grateful for the opportunities that Sula gave us, I don’t care what people say about him, but he has done a lot towards the development of the music industry,” he said of Kyababa, who gave them a fighting chance in the industry with his resources.
At that time, Yellow Solo had left the group and Freeda had joined the group. As has become the norm with groups, a year later the Kalaharians and the Dungeon Family demerged.
Freeda and Daphne (the latter was part of the Dungeon Family) went on to form Gal Level, and other members of the group went on to pursue solo careers.
In later years, the group evolved, adding the likes of Queli for a female voice.
They managed to release an album titled The Kalaharians: The Return, shortly before they disbanded indefinitely.
While many may view the group’s eventually disbanding as a failure, T.C will always remain grateful for the opportunities it presented him with, and the lessons he learnt.
“I’m grateful to the group for a lot of things, mainly because it gave me an honest insight on how things are in the industry behind the scenes. People think that the glitz and glam they see on TV is an honest reflection of what is going on in the industry, but that is not the case. The industry is all about working hard,” he stated.
Not wanting to hoot his own horn, T.C says he too has noticed that there is a lack of RnD in the industry, which he says is because artists are afraid of taking chances. It is a tricky genre, and that is a challenge most are not willing to accept.
Concluding his stroll down memory lane, T.C said if he were ever to come back to music, it would be as a gospel artist because he has committed his life to God.
He said he now sees that the music he did with the Kalaharians exploited women, and that is not the message he wants to send out anymore. However, he will always remain grateful for the help Sula and Ogopa Butterfly gave them.
Although Queli joined the group for just a few years before it disbanded, she admitted she enjoyed her time with them.
“They asked me to audition for them, and they found that I had the sound and voice they were looking for,” she continued.
She admitted that it was unfortunate that they had to disband, but ultimately their priorities changed and that could not be helped.
“C.J left the country in 2011 to go to Kenya, scheduled to return the following year, but didn’t. Apart from other projects which I was focusing on, I fell pregnant with my first child. T.Cs MC-ing career had picked up, and he got married,” she explained the reasons why they could no longer be a group.
However, she stressed that the split was on good terms, and they still keep in touch. They had a sit-down and decided to split amicably.
“The Kalaharians were a unique group, different in many ways. Their sound cannot duplicated,” she noted.
The only former Kalaharian member who still does music on a full-time basis, Freeda, is now a solo artist, but she could not help but sing their praises.
“I started off my music career with the Kalaharians, they discovered me. Working with them was the best thing which could have happened to me,” she beamed.
At the time when the group discovered her, she was a rapper. Thanks to the mentorship of the more seasoned members, she was steered onto the singing path, which has evidently paid off.
“They are the most talented group I had ever seen, and it is a pity they are not doing music anymore. If it was up to me, I would give them a second chance to do music, or at least a chance to collaborate with them,” she concluded.
While talks of collaborating with other artists are entertained, the general consensus among the group is that they do not have the time and commitment it would take to reunite.
It goes without saying that their absence in the industry is felt, and one can only hope that there are artists out there who will to fill their shoes.
by Faith Haushona-Kavamba