Social media went into a spin after a song called “Marikana” by an unknown artist from the Eastern Cape (Mount Frere), featuring Stoan Seete of Bongo Maffin, surfaced last December. The song went viral on Facebook. The video for the moody “Marikana”, shot in the Eastern Cape drives the song’s message home. It shows a somber Lilitha reacting to the loss of a loved one and being comforted by elderly women, while children frolic like on any other day. The visuals exude the familiarity of life in rural Eastern Cape, and Lilitha and Stoan perform the song to a backdrop of peaceful hills and velds. “Marikana” has since been played on national radio stations like Umhlobo Wenene FM, Metro FM, SA FM and the video on Mzansi Magic.
Lilitha Bidla, the 23-year-old singer behind the internet hit, says the song started as a poem, after she had watched the 2012 documentary, Miners Shot Down (which won an Oscar award in 2015), when it aired on e.tv. “After watching the documentary, which really hit a nerve, I started writing it as a poem,” says Lilitha. After her producer and manager, Luyolo Beku heard the poem, he said he thought it would sound better as a song. In the song she tells the story of a loved one who left home to work in the mines but couldn’t return because they died in the massacre.
How the Stoan collaboration came about
After Lilitha had recorded the song, her manager shopped it to some artists around the Eastern Cape who didn’t show interest. When he approached Stoan, he fell in love with it immediately and wanted to be part of the single.
Lilitha adds that she wanted to collaborate with someone who would tell the story in a different language, but merge it with her own while conveying the message that “we are one” and “we all feel your pain”. Stoan does exactly that on the song. He renders a Tswana spoken word verse, like he used to on Bongo Maffin songs back in the day.
Not new to music
Describing music as her gateway out of all things that trouble her, she says she hopes the song will become a source of strength for the people that were affected by the massacre. Lilitha says her love for writing music started with her passion for poetry. She would then later convert her poems into songs.
She says she grew up in a family where music played a huge part in their everyday lives. “We all played roles in the church choir. So, for me that is where I found that passion for music.” The vocalist cites Miriam Makeba as her inspiration, “her style will never get old and the way she used to sing still makes me want to cry.”
Her career is taking off. In 2015, she performed at the Macufe Festival in Bloemfontein where artists like Tamia, Mafikizolo and Tshepo Tshola graced the stage. She says she’s working on her first album, Ndim’ Lo (“this is me” in Xhosa), which is due for a March 3 release.