Iingqondi Sessions: Bridging the gap between Art & Business

Author: Siya Mahomba
Photos: Matthew Wareley

It’s a warm Friday afternoon and the amphitheatre of the Philippi Village is bustling with activity. Another instalment of Iingqondi Sessions is underway and, if the energy inside the venue is anything to go by, this is a well-adored event.

The free-flowing weekly hip-hop jam session, which – for the past six months – has been a Philippi go-to, is steadily earning a reputation as a cherished talent-showcasing platform in the community. Philippi, a township in Cape Town’s Cape Flats region, is notorious for its high crime and unemployment rates, so this must be a much-needed escape for the youth.

Zephania Ntshekisa, better known as Zee Bee, is one of the brains behind Iingqondi Sessions and he later reveals that each session pulls in up to 400 young people from Philippi and the surroundings. It doesn’t take me a minute to understand why. The stage is perfectly set, the sound is crisp, the ambience is electric, and the host, Sihle Joka who is one of the co-founders of the concept, is not only entertaining and captivating, but his crowd management skills are impressive. What stands out for me though is the talent.

The talent is insane!

This is my first time at the Philippi Village, a business and community hub located at the heart of Philippi, and the beauty of this place is glorious. However, my attention is on the music in the air. I walk into a loud, cheerful applause and, just like every excited face in the crowd, I am immediately mesmerized by the young group of rappers on stage. Clearly a crowd-pleasing collective, they share a mic while spitting smooth Spaza bars against a head-bop-inducing beat, which is sending the audience into a wild frenzy. I have no idea who these artists are, but I am certain that this is the kind of talent that should be dominating the waves.

I express this to Zee Bee, and he agrees: “This is why this platform exists; to grow this talent, encourage it, support it and ultimately present it to wider audiences.” Zee Bee is a music producer and has worked with some of the hot names in the business including Bravo le Roux and Dee Koala. With four of his close friends who are also artists, he identified the need to not only nurture upcoming talent but also equip it with necessary business skills. So Iingqondi Sessions (isiXhosa for ‘intellectuals’) was established. The platform is not a mere talent showcase, it also aims to develop and nurture artists through workshops and master classes.

“We also wanted to address the misconception that artists can’t be successful entrepreneurs. So, our aim is to create opportunities for emerging artists who hail from less-privileged communities. The idea was to establish a space where these artists can come and share their work, but most importantly, to learn the vital business skills needed to thrive in the cut-throat entertainment industry,” Zee Bee explains.

It dawns on me that the venue of the sessions was a strategic move from Zee Bee and Co’s part. Philippi Village was created for the sole purpose of equipping and developing the youth with skills and career guidance in a safe and enabling environment.

A former cement factory, Philippi Village’s mission to drive social change is as concrete as its iconic structure. Nestled in the heart of Philippi, a community riddled with numerous social ills, this business and community hub adds a pop of colour to the neighbourhood. It acts as a glimmer of hope for the residents.

I can barely contain my excitement when Zee Bee offers to take me on tour around the place as we make our way to his studio. The entrepreneurial and social space has A-grade offices and refurbished containers for commercial and non-profit, corporate, and entrepreneurial business owners who bring services to the community. It’s clear that the running of this place is driven by the coming together of various stakeholders.

“This place has been growing from strength to strength since it opened its doors. That’s because all the organisations that are involved work hand-in-hand to ensure that it’s successful. That is the same approach we use for Iingqondi Sessions. By partnering with companies such as Ikeja – who have the community’s best interests at heart – we will ultimately accomplish our mission,” says Zee Bee.

In one of the Philippi Village’s rooms, Zee Bee runs and manages a fully equipped music production studio, that he proudly invites me into. “Now that Iingqondi Sessions is gaining momentum, we will soon start using this studio to refine and package some of the talent you just saw,” he shares to my absolute delight.

Basic music production and business management skills are two of the priority learning areas that Iingqondi sessions aim to instil in Philippi’s emerging talent. Zee Bee and his team are currently hard at work preparing to produce and present a series of workshops and master classes that will be delivered by industry experts and cover the key areas of the music business.

Iingqondi Sessions are held every Friday from 2pm – 6pm at the Philippi Village. Musical artists of any genre are welcome to participate.

Click here to check out Iingqondi Sessions 80’s Theme hosted on the 21st of Oct, 22.