Itai Hakim and friends at No Chaser


Tapping into a narrative with themselves

Itai Hakim is a synchronicity of truth. Siyabonga Mthembu is pure heart. As a collaboration- they are a dream. They have a conversation with the audience, through gesture, voice and sound.

With a small room comes a captivating audience. People keep tiptoing in as the performance moves forward. With each echo of the strings, the crowd make their way nearer to the stage, taking to the floor with contemplation and adjustment. We are there to be a part of this moment, without vanity tapping, each of us sits still.

On stage are two energies. Two independents not limited to conventional versions of the world’s expectations; but rather sitting comfortably with who they are and who they’re becoming as their mindset shifts in formation.

The first time Itai played in Cape Town was last year September, at Straight No Chaser club and at a Soiree at a friend’s house in Woodstock. He enjoyed the idea of playing intimate acoustic shows, where the feeling focuses on conversation with all the people involved, as opposed to it being a performance. This time around the songs are not supported by a band,  but rather played as they were made initially, with support from Siyabonga Mthembu from The Brother Moves On.

We are here to witness the progress and storytelling of Itai Hakim- by way of collaboration and honesty. He uses an inventive playing style which is a cross between afro-blues and indie-jazz expressed through a plucking style unique to traditional folk guitarists. The self-taught guitarist draws influence from artists such as Sam Mutukudzi, K-OS, Richard Bona, Sibusile Xaba and Project Elo, creating a soundscape that has the range of old and new balance.

I actively listen to the origin of the emotion. Itai resonates with empathy as he diversifies between an aural deepness of the vocal chords, a soothing partnership between the guitar and his songs, and it’s impactful poetic counterpart. For the first time in so long, I can breathe.  For the honesty vibrating around me. The authenticity mushrooming through the space. And the realness I seek out in the moments holding me. It’s breath is fragrant and rich, full of history and interpretation, and I want to know more.

“Itai is so still, sensitive and engaged. It’s rare to find an artist who can be so bare on stage,” says Siya, wrapping up his sentiments for Itai as a peer and contributor  to his life.

Itai’s lyrics pause as his prose comes to perform. His poem outlines the essence of a man’s fragility and how society scares men away from their sensitivity and themselves. I can’t seem to find the words on the internet, but what I recall, he speaks of a man’s power depleted by generations before and raising the bar for men to find their voice with or without certainty, together or alone in society.

As Siya and him reach back into the sound and their voices – like caramelised honey, the mood is calm, the crowd is present. They end off with what Siya thinks will be his home run, “Ni songo xela,” which means ‘don’t get lost’ – for the second time in the set, and I leave with the gratitude, calm and fire I have redeemed from the space.

His debut EP ‘Ntodeni’, which in Venda means ‘look for me’ was launched in December 2015 in conjunction with his collaborative European Tour with The Brother Moves On and Stopnoncents. Itai Hakim intends to continue the tradition of sharing the narratives of a changing folklore and documenting how that folklore changes us, through future tours globally and cross-border and cross-cultural collaborations with artists across disciplines.


About Author

Content junkie | Self-assured | Dance floor devotee | Empathetic | Lone wolf | “If you only read the things that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking."