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Levi's®/LitNet Origins of songs
Moontlik gemaak deur/Supported by: Levi's®

In our sixth contribution from Godessa, Shameema Williams tells how the song “Mindz Ablaze” was born, and answers five quick questions.

Shameema Shameema Williams
“When we perform it and people are singing the lyrics with us we know we have reached ears, hearts and minds, not only through the sales of Spillage but through the bootlegged copies on your pc and cdr's, alternative compilations such as cd4, as well as national radio and television.

Lost “tapes” of a jam session: The making of "Mindz Ablaze"

Shameema Williams

“Mindz Ablaze” was conceived during band rehearsal at Ricardo Moretti, our keyboardist’s, studio. He actually came up with the main melody and the band just played along. During smoke breaks the band would jam a bit and sometimes ideas for songs are born that way. Ej, the lead vocalist and the only one of us that actually sings, started to mumble some words to the melody and so the basis to the chorus was laid down.

It wasn’t until a month later, when Grenville Williams (our bassist and producer), Ej and I were chilling at their recording studio when we were checking out some beats to write a new track. Then we remembered the song we laid down at the rehearsal, looked at the piles of cd’s lying about in the studio and wondered if we’d ever find the unmarked cdr with the potential hit on it. Lo and behold, G reached up on top of the cd player and the first cd we checked out was the jam session! We really needed a good radio single to promote our debut album Spillage and we knew this song was going to be that single.

Immediately G laid down the music and got to work on the actual production, while Ej perfected the chorus and we started writing our verses. There was no fuss and no real discussion about the concept because Ej had done a great job with the chorus, which naturally gave us some ideas. Very rarely does this happen with us. Normally we’d write the chorus last and come up with the title days or sometimes weeks later. By the end of the afternoon we had four verses laced, a beautiful melodic chorus, a slick beat and we knew that the title should be “Mindz Ablaze”. The only thing missing was Burni’s verses, so we called her up and by the next evening the song was complete.


There is a very simple and standard formula for hit singles. As Godessa we always grapple with this since we are an independent band (not signed to a major label) and hate formulas which the majors almost always force on you. Yet we knew that to be play-listed on commercial radio we had to create a formulaic song so that we could be exposed to a larger market. In this instance we were fortunate to have collectively created a song that was not intentionally composed that way.

The formula works like this:

  • A simple melody/hook/chorus, since this is what will become the song’s identity.
  • Short verses with catchy flows.
  • Keep the content basic and not too heavy on the brain.
  • A catchy production that’s not too intricate.

Stick to this formula, be creative with your songwriting, work with good musicians or producers and you will have your gateway into the world of radio.

“Mindz Ablaze” was followed by two more singles, “Journey of Mine” and “Nguwe”, proving that had we not entered the market with a good single these songs might never have hit the airwaves. Not that they were not good enough, but they just did not have the immediate charm that “Mindz Ablaze” had for commercial radio. The trick is that once you have your foot in the door they will support and accept whatever comes after, providing of course that the rest of the material is not wack.


After the album was released we started a relationship with Kurse Music, who is now our distributor, and got to work on ideas for the music video since it is important to have a video to promote the single and the album which it comes from. We had a gruelling touring schedule both overseas and locally, so we decided on an animation video. This worked well for us, since we did not have to spend thousands on equipment and staff and there was no need for us to spend long hours that we could not afford, shooting a music video. The video was received well by the public, except for those that would say that to increase popularity your own faces should be on your album cover and in your music video.

The video featured a monster in a make-believe version of Cape Town (Capetroplis) set in 2104. We are sent on a mission to make the monster feel a part of humanity, extending this ideal to everyone from the taxi to the club through our music. The monster also represents the tension we speak of in the chorus and we have to defeat the tension through our special powers as power-puff type heroines.

Lyrical content

When you work in a group the verses usually get split up into different perspectives. I start off the first verse talking about wanting to be accepted for who I am, what’s in my heart and not what’s on the outside. Ej goes on spitting encouragement to the masses about not feeling left out if you think you’re different, basically reaching out to all kinds of people without prejudice. Burni drops a 16-bar verse that’s sort of “braggadocios” because she wants people to know where her mind’s at. She goes into a lyrical rampage describing that these words are more than just lyrics – it’s as if music is food for your soul, allowing you to tell your story through song.

In my next verse, after the second chorus, I ask people on the dance floor to allow the music to help them to let go and not care what the next person thinks. I am also asking people to allow us through our presence to be that vehicle for them to do so. Ej carries on that sentiment, hoping that people can feel us without being in some kind of induced state aware that there are many tortured souls out there that need to release the stresses and difficulties of everyday life. The chorus sums up this entire song perfectly, since it encompasses everything we say in just four lines.

We were really happy with the outcome of the song because Godessa is known for writing topical and serious songs relating to heavy issues such as politics and hip-hop odes, leaving very little space for dance-like melodic tunes that are really just there to sing along with and to “get rid of tension”.


The version on the cd4 compilation, most would know, is not the original song, since we did an acoustic version for the project. We were a bit hesitant to change the song at first, but realised it could actually appeal to more people, and later we found that some people preferred the acoustic version. Through this kind of project and many others we have been involved in, we realised that as an artist you have the ability to take chances and experiment, because you never know what the outcome could be. This version of the song has been well received by our fans and was an introduction to those who had never heard of Godessa. It also gave us the opportunity to combine our work with The Muse (a string quartet), which was quite exciting, because we are always open to working with other artists.

The brief

“Mindz Ablaze” was our first song that made the top ten on local and national radio and was nominated for best hip-hop song at the Metro Awards in 2004. Although we did not win the award or make it to number one it has helped us reach thousands of people all over the country. When we perform it and people are singing the lyrics with us we know we have reached ears, hearts and minds, not only through the sales of Spillage but through the bootlegged copies on your pc and cdr’s, alternative compilations such as cd4, as well as national radio and television. The response to the song and the album has been satisfactory, since South African hip-hop is a growing market that is only beginning to be explored by all facets of the entertainment industry. At the same time it is in danger of being misrepresented through the media and exploited by multicorporations and therefore we would rather co-operate with these mediums instead of leaving them to their own devices. Many “real hip-hop heads” would see “Mindz Ablaze” and our association with companies such as Levi’s as selling out, but for us it’s a bridge to get what we really want, that is, having our music heard by as many people as we could possibly reach. We are blessed, like so many others who have the ability and talent, to touch people holistically through our lives, which is written all over our music.


“Mindz Ablaze ”

I wanna get rid of all the tension
and set your mind ablaze
just move with the groove
let it all hang loose
and please let me drop a phase
Shameema's verse
Don’t you think that it’s a superiority complex?
The nonsense in common with the falseness
My senses marked with the pretence of all the arb shit
Not running from my darkness
Look inside my heart
It’s the beat beneath the song
It’s the colour of my palm
It’s rough rigid but calm
It’s a give and take situation
Stopping the breaks
Making your alpine system
Blasting wisdom
Catch me listen
EJ’s verse
It don’t matter if you mellifluous
Merciless or venomous
Melonous or light-skinned or just a little yellowish
Walls are demolished with the knowledge
That I’m coming with
Possibilities are limitless
So is this lyricist
Let me penetrate your crevices
In between your brain matter
Generate an effluence of alpheric brain patterns
Now you switched on like a lantern
To this hypnotic type ish that make your back burn
Burni's verse
Ay yo my head
It ain’t gonna be sidetracked
So lemme show you all now where my minds at
With lines that
If it wasn’t for nothing more
Than a few chords or a beat that’s raw
I’ll string a few rhymes
Write a new line for
Imagery so vividly spun
It’ll leave you verbally dumb - founded
Guest starring in a movie called ummm
Done did everything
Seen many things mon
By any means son
Let your story be sung
Brilliant glistening mystical little one
Bounce step
Ain’t nothing more to it
Take one step forward
Crack a knee joint on it
Now take another one
And fake a good limp ‘til it
Hits you sideways like a dented car bonnet
And then you’ll know that you definitely got it.
Shameema's verse
Come on release the rhythm that you feeling
When you breathing
It’s like the simple act of living
In the kinda freedom
You be dreaming of a reason to be leaving
The realm of what we giving
From the beginning to the end
That how we send pens to mics
and mics sent to the ill-equipped
we the illest lyricists
it definite
these messages from the tightest sisters
flipping on this
from the deepest
now can you feel this
EJ’s verse
We don’t want no demonics
and no psychologics and
no hydroponics
‘cause your high should be sonic yeah
fill up you inner ear
with what we bringing here
sending tremblings from the southern
to the northern hemispheres
if you ain’t hearing clear
your soul must have endured
a truck load of wear and tear
but only time can repair
there’s no need to run
just slowdown
when the tracks bpms bumping on 91

Copyright protected.

Five questions

What excites you about the local music industry?

Independent labels, filmmakers, designers and artists are taking control of their careers and not waiting for the big players to give them a chance. There are alternatives to the commercial way of doing things and it is great to see artists being proactive.

What pisses you off about the local music industry?

The local industry is driven by the diversity of South African cultures which are not equally represented. I understand that it is hard for the broadcasting, media and advertising industries to pay attention to everything, but I believe they chase trends and since they have the power to say what’s hot and what’s not their responsibility is huge when it comes to the masses. Money, of course, is the root of all decisions and when dealing with the country’s biggest broadcaster, SABC, as an independent label you realise how important it is to have big budgets to buy airtime so your music videos can be played. Surely the SABC should make local content a priority and make it more accessible to the independent filmmakers and record labels. My last point is that we are still fighting to be more South African and less of everything else. When are we going to raise the platform for our own artists rather than put up pedestals for American acts? With the recent rush of US hip-hop artists and rock bands coming to South Africa, we (like so many of this country’s top bands) are constantly called up to open for these US acts and are offered the platform for no fee at all and definitely not the same benefits extended to the headliners. We would like to call all artists to stand up against these promoters and not sell ourselves short. We work as hard as these acts and surely deserve the respect and recognition in our own country. While they have the whole world at their disposal, at the moment our industry is so small we really only have this country.

Are radio stations doing enough to promote local music?

Radio stations are driven by quotas, so the current percentage of 25 percent local content demands that less of our music is heard. There is very little we can do about this until the broadcasting laws change. The only thing we could probably do as music lovers and artists is to lobby through government for these laws to be amended, bearing in mind that it is our democratic right to do so. Other African countries, such as Nigeria and Tanzania, have instilled pride in their own culture, and their industries today are driven by local content first and international content after.

If you have to give an aspiring lyricist advice in one sentence, what would it be?

When you start out as a rapper it is not unusual for you to emulate the rappers you listen to most. Eventually you will find that your own style will develop, providing you make a concerted effort to do so. It is important to read as much as possible: both fiction and non-fiction books, newspapers, mags, the back of a toilet door in a club etc … you might be stimulated or inspired by any of these. Even glancing through the dictionary helps to increase your vocabulary so you don’t end up recycling the same words in all your verses. Be aware of life around you and you will find so many things to write about. There are many techniques and ways of improving your lyrical/poetic skill as a writer, so study and analyse some of the serious rappers such as Talib Kwali / Pharoah Monch / Zubz / HHP, and you will find a world that you thought was left behind at high school. Rap is filled with metaphors, similes, adjectives, phrases and quotes. One of the signs of a good mc is the ability to say the same things many others have said, but in a different way. Lastly, never forget your responsibility as a mc. You are given a platform to express yourself and to reflect the world around you, so take that seriously and treat it with respect, because this shit is “bigger than hip-hop”.

What can local artists do to promote an awareness of HIV/AIDS?

Since you have the admiration and attention of the masses, use your stature by becoming involved and proactive in the hundreds of organisations as a volunteer or spokesperson. As an individual, act responsibly in public, because not only the media but also the youth are watching you, therefore you need to be careful. Do not become involved in projects only because of the money being given to you by corporations that have social responsibility departments that have to give back some of the wealth given to them by the community through buying their products. Do it because you care. I have great admiration for artists such as Zola and Black Noise who have made noticeable changes in various communities. They are true activists and examples of the revolution we keep talking about. Write songs that can educate and not just entertain. There is enough space on an album to do both. Also remember that the government cannot fight this plague alone. It will take the involvement of the whole nation to have a chance against this disease.

Skryf aan ons/ Write to us:

LitNet: 30 May 2006

boontoe / to the top

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