root - October 10, 2023

Khayelitsha’s ‘Turf’ Transforms modern struggles into musical gold

Peter Luhanga 

 A Kasi Hip-hop and RnB artist has ventured into the kwaito music genre with a new album titled “the life waseMatyotyombeni” which translates to ‘life in the informal settlements’.

The Khayelitsha Site C resident Monwabisi Bence, 28, known by his stage name “Turf”, is gearing up to release his latest musical endeavor next month.

This exciting transition comes after Turf’s successful debut EP, “Sex Tape,” which dropped on Spotify just three months ago.

In “Sex Tape”, Turf says he delves into the complexities of modern relationships, shedding light on the challenges of dating and being in a relationship in today’s world. He says he writes about the pressures faced by men who often find themselves juggling the demands of their partners, which can include financial requests for nails and hair, while living in humble circumstances like leaky shacks during the winter months.  

“I embarked on my musical journey at a very young age, and initially, I was just mumbling my way through it. Lil’ Wayne was a significant source of inspiration for me during those early days. I think, at that time, it was mainly because of the allure of the women in the music videos and the extravagant lifestyles depicted. However, as I grew older, I encountered real-life challenges that shaped my perspective,” says Turf.  

Of his stage name, he says the inspiration came from watching “America’s Got Talent”, where he witnessed a talented dancer being kicked out of his home due to pursuing a career in the arts. 

He says he identifies with the struggle faced by many aspiring artists in South Africa, where societal and familial expectations often prioritise more traditional professions like doctors or lawyers. “The minute you say you are an artist, it’s a battle, especially within a black family and community,” he says.

After a three-year hiatus, Turf says he made a comeback to music production earlier this year. During the break, he says he was involved in dancing with the Imbewu Dance group. 

“When I took the break, I was driven by the desire to have a clear mission. If you want to pursue what you love, you need to understand where you’re headed with it. I aimed to gain more experience and face challenges head-on. If I create music, it’s with the intention that people can learn from it,” he says.

He says his latest EP contains four tracks and encapsulates how important it is “as people to tell our stories”.  

“Life in the slums exposes us to constant threats of crime: being robbed, attacked, or harmed anytime we step out of our homes. We’re even vulnerable to robberies by minibus taxis, and sometimes, the minibus taxi owners are unaware that their vehicles are being used for criminal activities. As artists, it’s our duty to narrate these stories. I find inspiration in taking walks through overcrowded townships, even though the conditions are squalid, with no proper waste removal services in place.”

He said even municipal workers are targeted when delivering services.

“Unfortunately, the authorities don’t seem to pay much attention,” he says. “However, if people could unite and speak with one voice, it could make a significant difference. I address all these pressing issues in my latest EP.”

One of his fans, Lubabalo Pupu from Gugulethu, says he is addicted to Turf’s music, which addresses the societal challenges faced by the youth and delves into the complexities of romance and relationships within townships. Pupu says many artists who produce songs in vernacular languages are often underestimated, but he admires Turf for his courage in continuing to sing in Xhosa. 

He says Turf’s boldness inspires him not to give up, and he believes that Turf’s music is relevant to people of all age groups.

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