By Latoya Newman
AT just 23 years old, Sbongiseni Mbutho, better known as Sbo Da Poet, has become a mover and shaker in Durban’s snowballing contemporary poetry movement and on the entertainment scene in general.
Sbo, who prefers to be called an “ethnic rapper”, has been widely acknowledged by the public and the entertainment industry for his Zulu contemporary poetry.
It has been a long journey, which originally started in hip hop, and has reached the point where Sbo now finds himself featured regularly as a poet on Ukhozi FM, and is the official poet for the SABC television series Zone 14, and with quite a prominent collaboration list – which includes hook-ups with gospel giant S’Fiso Ncwane, and kwaito greats Professor and Tzozo.
Tonight spoke to Sbo about his career, his poetry, his debut album Isthombe Somshado and the June 16 commemorations.
Sbo’s poetry reflects his love for hip hop culture, while staying true to his African identity.
“I started writing poetry in my matric year. I realised people weren’t getting my style of hip hop rap, so I began to convert this to poetry and they seemed to understand it and enjoy it more. Later I met Kim Ngcobo at a gig and she invited me to do a night time slot on Ukhozi. People liked my stuff and now I have a following,” he explained.
From a late night slot on radio to a prime time Saturday breakfast show slot, Sbo has moved up the radio ranks. On the television front, his regular theme poems for episodes of Zone 14 have also seen his popularity grow and he recently scored a leading role in the film Uhlanga – The Mark (directed by Ndaba kaNgwane).
His debut CD Isthombe Somshado offers more insight into his young mind with tracks that are an eclectic mix, laced with hip hop, gospel and even African and Isicathamiya beats.
His lyrics touch on everything from life to identity and social issues.
“I try to cater for everyone in my music. My culture has brought me the success I have in my poetry. If it wasn’t for my Zulu poetry, I wouldn’t be at the level I am today. We must embrace our cultures because if we don’t, the generations to come will not know who they are.
“Some of my tracks are personal; I speak about how life has never been easy. And in other tracks I address things I come across in life, like xenophobia and love.”
Sbo was born in Mandawe village – near the south coast town of Scottburgh.
He developed his love for music at the age of 11 when he formed a hip hop group called Kruger Style. After he completed matric he started performing poetry as a solo artist.
“Opportunities are like the morning dew; you have to wake up early in the morning to catch just one. I am a very hard worker, I hardly sleep.
“Whether it is my poetry work or my studies at university, I’m always working,” he said.
“If it wasn’t for the youth of June 16, (1976), we wouldn’t have the opportunities we have today. They fought for our freedom so they must be remembered every day because their blood was shed for what we have today.”