The Voice of Johannesburg

The influence of a single voice cannot be underestimated if you are able to capture people the same way Khanya Hadebe did.   

The metropolis that is Braamfontein  

All roads begin in Braamfontein, the perfect hub for young minds and young creatives. The irony is that on its own it’s like a higher institution for learning, one can learn lifelong lessons and experience life in a unique way that the surrounding institutions could not teach you. On these streets is where a lot of inspiration and innovation occurs- where an echo and faint whisper can become a voice.   

Tragically a unique ‘Voice’ was gone too soon one that was still cementing himself to his path.   

A certain profoundness comes with death, a feeling that you can’t put your finger on. A numbness. An ache. Heartbreak, but also a feeling of peace as you recall the experiences you shared with those people.   

Creative and musician behind some of Johannesburg’s most loved events, Khanya Hadebe, was involved in a fatal car accident on August 9, 2021, which also took the lives of Amapiano musicians Mpura, Killer Kau, DJ Thando Tot and Thando.  

Vigil for Khanya Hadebe on 70 Juta Street, Braamfontein. Photo: Amanda Khumalo 

The concrete jungle, despite its tough exterior is the home to the culture of music and creatives.  

Many have rooted and made a name for themselves in Braamfontein, young street entrepreneurs, photographers, artists and more. “I realised that Juta [a street in Braamfontein] is the perfect place to create contacts and to network, a lot of potential is in Braam,” said photographer Alfonso Nqunjana.   

Juta street, forms a charismatic part of the suburb with an identity of its own heavily laced with culture. It becomes a place that can shape you into your worst or your best. Hadebe found himself in Braamfontein, a witty kid from Cape Town but schooled at Holy Family College, developed his creative flair in the suburb.   

“Braam was just his stomping ground,” said matriarch of events group Until Until, Amahle Jaxa.  

South African music culture and its influence  

The concrete jungle, despite its tough exterior is the home to the culture of music and creatives.   

Many have found their ground and rooted themselves in the city, a place that many call home. Music genres such as Amapiano found their seal of approval in Johannesburg and the wider Gauteng.   

The genre along with others such as gqom, house and deep house have encapsulated the youth of South Africa riding a wave that won’t die anytime soon. The youth is the growing backbone of South Africa in many ways music represents the youth and speaks to the youth.   

Music and creativity go hand-in-hand. Amapiano is a beautiful combination of sounds of Africa and western contemporary influence according to Billboard. The genre alone influences a lifestyle of “good vibes”; sundowners with majita (the boys) or nights out where you can floss your best outfits. The vocalists such as the late Mpura or Daliwonga narrate stories common and relatable to the youth of South Africa making the genre evermore influential on the youth.   

According to close friend KiddxFresh, Hadebe played yanos [Amapiano] to cater to the crowd because it’s the sound that has taken over South Africa. “He loved gqom though! I’m not sure if it’s the Zulu in him,” he laughed, “for someone who couldn’t dance, he loved it.”  

Pursuit of happiness   

We live in a society where following one’s passion is frowned upon. It’s perceived as a waste of time that doesn’t present a clear-cut path. Michael Bohanes wrote in Forbes, that following your passion is dead and advised not to follow it. Before his passing Hadebe was developing and evolving as an individual something that Bohanes says is impossible for people who place all their eggs in one basket.  

  Hadebe betted on being a creative. Beginning as a retail salesperson for Archive selling sneakers then becoming a DJ playing at Great Dane under the mentorship of Stilo Magolide. Hadebe would have been recently promoted to a permanent position as an events manager at the Until Until Group in August.   

Seems as though betting on oneself and placing all your eggs in one basket isn’t so bad after all.   

Marking your territory as a creative   

The young creative’s aspiration was to create spaces for creatives to be, “whatever they want and whoever they want to be,” Hadebe said in an interview with Puma South Africa. Before his passing he kick started his dream by creating blended experiences of music, art and fashion.

Events management was an extension of himself, his love for fashion and music 

Often in life, what makes us happy is not about what is done for us, but how things or people make us feel. Hadebe cultivated a culture of feeling and self-expression. As organiser for Until Until’s loved get-together, Sunday Roast, Hadebe blended a fusion of fashion and musics for people to come together to celebrate life and today’s youth in all their authenticity.  

“The Voice”  

The young 23-year-old known as “The Voice”, was said to be a loving, giving, confident and a people’s person. Whilst learning more about Hadebe, it became hard to pinpoint why he called himself “The Voice”. But what became apparent was the voice that he gave to those he encountered.  

“You’ll always live on The Voice within” read one of the tributes that were written on portraits of Hadebe during his memorial on August 13, 2021. Photo: Amanda Khumalo. 

“Khanya wanted to be the voice of the people to show that you can be a creative and make coin [money],” said a friend of four years. *  

  The city of everlasting opportunity  

More and more, life in the city has become about self-expression and identity. Everybody is trying to find a place of belonging – and it takes certain kind of person to identify this and create it.   

“The Voice” curated spaces for people to network; to be see; heard and for them to express their love for the culture forged by South African music industry.   

Events management was an extension of himself, his love for fashion and music. It’s as if he merely extended the invitation for the public and youth to share in the same feeling that it gave him. Befittingly enough the youth heeded to his call and shared in this experience.   

A memorial held on August 13 on Juta Street was a fitting send off. The street was illuminated in green. Friends and the public arrived in numbers to pay their respects to the “Voice of Johannesburg”.

Mourner kneeling in front of Hadebe’s memorial on Juta Street, Braamfontein. Photo: Amanda Khumalo.

FEATURED IMAGE: Mural of Khanya Hadebe on 70 Juta Street, Braamfontein. Photo: Amanda Khumalo.

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