Bra Sipho Hotstix’s 70 birthday candles will never Burnout in our hearts

Published by capeetc on October 19, 2021

It was a magical night celebrating your 70th birthday when we forgot the troubles of the last 20 months for a few hours in each other’s company – all while a local government elections was looming. We needed this break, Bra Sipho, writes Gasant Abarder in the latest #SliceofGA.

Abarder, who recently launched his book, Hack with a Grenade, is among the country’s most influential media voices. Catch his weekly column here, exclusive to Cape {town} Etc.

At some point, we all fantasise about having the perfect dinner guests around. Who would you invite if you can have a room full of awesome South Africans in one place?

Last Wednesday, that fantasy became a reality as those nearest and dearest to a legend gathered to celebrate his 70th birthday. Music icon Sipho ‘Hotstix’ has that kind of pull. His longstanding manager Martin Myers and artist wife Razia Myers pulled off a masterstroke at a stunning Atlantic Seaboard setting (albeit a few weeks before Sipho’s actual birthday on November 2).

Gasant Abarder, Sipho ‘Hotstix’ and Laylaa Abarder.

To mention a few: aspirant mayor Brett Herron, Premier Alan Winde, veteran photojournalist Rashid Lombard, talk show host Pippa Hudson, the who’s who of the music industry, poet Siphokazi Jonas, WP cricket CEO Michael Canterbury, singer, actor and songwriter Alistair Izobell, my favourite journos Lance Witten and Robin Adams paying tribute to Bra Sipho. With DJ Wicksy providing the soundtrack.

Sipho ‘Hotstix’ with Rashid Lombard.

It was a magical night when we forgot the troubles of the last 20 months for a few hours in each other’s company – all while local government elections was looming. We needed this break. And, yes, Leeuwenhof is still haunted, according to our province’s first lady Tracy Winde!

I had first crossed paths with Bra Sipho in 2016 when I interviewed him for a profile to mark his 50th year on the music scene. He is no ordinary musician as his activism conscientised hearts and minds during our liberation struggle.

His set at the Concert in the Park with his band Harari, that drew more than 120 000 to Ellis Park, is etched in our minds. Just a year earlier, he released Burnout, which can so easily be the top search result when you google: “What is a uniquely South African sound?”

He gave a South Africa that was on its knees in 1985 then, what his birthday guests were experiencing now: the tonic to help us celebrate ourselves despite our difficulties and differences.

At the birthday party, Sipho’s aura was palpable. In response to the many glowing birthday tributes, he told Alan Winde to roars of laughter: “Firstly, my vote is my secret! I won’t let you know who I’ll be voting for. If you thought by coming here it was going to sway my thinking…”

He then went on to say in his modest way: “I’m truly honoured that the people who are here tonight, mean so much to me. Everyone who is here have had an impact on my life, either way. I do not believe I would have been where I am had it not been for the people who are here today.

Sipho “Hotstix’ Mabuse

“I consider myself a privileged black person. I will emphasise that. It’s not always easy when you come from a township to be surrounded by great minds. Minds that will always say, ‘We recognise what you do and we’re going to help you advance what you’re doing.’

“That, for me, has been one of the best opportunities to have interacted with the people who are in this house today… when you have people who are always nudging you and wishing you well to do things, you get the strength and the power from those who believe in you. You are in my heart, in my brain, in my space.”

That may be true, Bra Sipho. But you have done so much more for us. It was your story of completing your matric at the age of 60 that moved me to go back to school in 2017 and complete my degree. You kept in touch and followed my progress. And the power of your heartfelt message when I had COVID was a massive gesture that helped my recovery.

Then, in a moment I will never forget, walking into my Joburg book launch last December to make a good event a great one by contributing so brilliantly to the conversation.

It is us – the guests at the Cape Town leg of your party – who were privileged to have you in our lives along with the million others you have touched around the world in the course of your life. We’re delighted that you’re releasing new music just in time for Christmas on the back of 300 million impacts across 62 radio stations since 2015. Holder of The Order of Ikhamanga: Silver for excelling in the field of arts, culture and music. Part owner of our hearts.

You are a national treasure, Sipho Cecil Peter ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse. Happy birthday, legend!

Gasant Abarder, Sipho “Hotstix’ Mabuse

Pictures: Gasant Abarder

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