Photography by @ihatelorcan
Front row with Ewiva! of 900* FOREVA
My next interviewee for the FRM Blog shouldn't come as a surprise to many. One of the most talented young artists emanating on the local scene right now – Aviwe Ndyalivane, aka 'Ewiva!', confirms it himself: "I believe myself to be the flyest visionary ever, on a mission to revolutionize art for Black folks."
And personally – I think he makes a very strong argument.
From curating and releasing internet-viral singles such as the eponymous 'Zwakala' (sampled from Stimela's original 'Zwakala' single), produced by creative compadre Maliviwe "Malz" Mayedwa, alongside even more hits with K.Keed & label partner, Orish – it's pretty evident that Ewiva!'s sound gravitates towards creating something new: a contemporary Xhosa-based genre of hip-hop.
Photography by Kahlo Greed
I think that the local scene of rap/hip-hop has long-grown tiresome of stale music which still tends to be produced by more tenured hip-hop artists, who have struggled to reinvent themselves post-Covid, specifically to the wider & more dominant Gen Z audience. And I certainly think that this new wave of Xhosa rap certainly could be the solution – spearheaded by the likes of Khaltsha stars Dee Koala & Lookatups, and more.
So, from explaining his story on how he was introduced to rap, to describing the "900" moniker & more – I had the absolute pleasure of virtually engaging Ewiva! about Xhosa rap, the makings of his internet-hit 'Zwakala', his artistic beliefs, and more.
Photography by @mimiezinne
Would you mind introducing yourself and including a short description of what you do?
Ewiva!: For sure, my name is Aviwe Ndyalivane aka “AV” aka “900” aka “Ewiva!” just to name a few. I believe myself to be the flyest visionary ever, on a mission to revolutionize art for Black folks.
When did you start making music? And when did the realisation point hit that this is what you wanted to pursue with your life?
Ewiva!: Honestly, I’ve always known that I want to be involved in changing what art is and had to offer for people that look like myself & come from where I come from. In primary school I actually used to dance and do visual arts – but I never thought to write music until I met the homies I went to high school with, more specifically TRP. So yeah, I started really thinking, "I can do this music thing", when I met bro.
Please talk me through "Ewiva!" & "900" and the creative monikers which exist behind both. I understand 900 to be a record label & creative collective with fellow artist Orish – but I'd love to hear you describe it to the audience?
Ewiva!: Okay so Ewiva! is Aviwe backwards, quite literally. What that means is no matter how you flip it I’m still the one they been waiting on, you feel me? Waiting on to do what you may be wondering – well time will tell. What 900 is — it’s an ideal, one that I have institutionalized I guess but that’s just for propaganda. It means a great deal to me and I know sooner than later, it’ll mean a lot to everyone else too.
You've been releasing quite a bit of music this year – including your smash hit 'Zwakala' which I genuinely feel is the best song you've made to date. What is your process for making music like this? Like how does one create a song which really trends, like that one did?
Ewiva!: Truly appreciate that family, means so much to me considering how much goes into me making these songs. With ‘Zwakala’ specifically, it took a lot of calculated risks & planning, i.e. the sample we used, the writing, the imagery for everything surrounding the rollout of the song. It's a fun song so I thought "damn, doing a dance challenge for sure would go crazy”, you know? It’s about knowing your product and kinda relaying to the public in a way where they kinda have to be receptive of it – whether they would like to or not. Lucky for me, folks really liked it!
You are a part of this new wave of Xhosa rappers reinventing an entire genre using our native language. How important do you feel it is that you maintain your African authenticity through the music which you make? Considering how Americanised the genre is.
Ewiva!: If you follow me on social media, you’ll know that I’m pretty vocal about Black folk taking pride in being Black – therefore with that I have assumed the responsibility of wearing my own Blackness like an S on my chest. Being Xhosa is a pretty big part of my identity, partially because of how politics in South Africa have shaped the communities we come from. Plus they don’t let you forget it, but I’m extremely grateful that I found honour in that instead of letting it deter me on my quest. Ultimately, I want for us to break down the barriers that exist because of colonization with our respective voices within the art sphere – and beyond. These efforts can only be fruitful to the people if they can, at the very least, understand what we’re trying to say, you know? All that to say that the documentation & preservation of our mother tongues as Africans is extremely important and should be of high priority.
You've got such a strong visual identity and everything done under 900 is always creatively packaged extremely well. Who are some of your main collaborators via visuals and graphics who support you in making your ideas come alive?
Ewiva!: Finally, I get to big up the lords. Off top Ibrahim Bukuru, Maliviwe “Malz” Mayedwa, Raeez Kilshaw, Muneeb Omar & last but not least, Qaanid Hassen. These guys have believed in me for as long as I can remember, literally met all of them via the music. Glad to have formed real relationships with them.
So what's next for Ewiva! and 900 in 2022 looking beyond?
Ewiva!: Just more bro, everything you can imagine really. I been in talks with one of the homies trying to put together merch, so that’s the most recent endeavour. Just working towards making everything 900 an undeniable force. Trying to change the world for real.
Photography by @mimiezinne