By: Bongiwe Tshiqi
At the height of their success, SWV (Sisters with Voices) sold over 25 million albums worldwide. It was the time of girl groups and they along with TLC, En Vogue and many others defined the sound, look and feel of RnB in the 90s.
Infighting, naivety and ego’s broke up this beloved group but they’re now back and ready to stake their claim at the top of the RnB charts again. With their new album, Still which came out this year to great reviews – they might just do that.
The legendary women who are actually very warm, down to earth and funny in person are in SA to perform at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival tonight. Coko, Taj and Lelee chat to us about the current state of RnB, reflect on their past and tell fans what to expect tonight.
1. The sound of RnB has changed quite a lot from the 90s. When you guys decided to get back together how did you go about making sure that you kept your original voice and soul while also making sure that your music was relevant?
Coko: You know SWV, we’re just classic. I don’t mean to toot our own horn but we’re legendary. We have people sampling our music so I look at it like, why would I want to sound like you when you want to sound like me? So we just continue to keep that classic SWV sound and because people love us so much, they love the sound. We put a little twist on it, add a little new school to let you know that we can sing anything but we really want to stay true to who we are and that’s that classic SWV.
2. What do you think about the perceived sexualisation of RnB. People are always making comparisons between how you guys dressed and danced versus the artists today. What are your thoughts?
Taj: Look, here’s an example. When you were younger and your mum would tell you, you should do this, you shouldn’t do that because it’s going to hurt you and you would say, “Ma you don’t know, you don’t understand”. That’s how it is right now in the industry. We’re the older parents right now. So these kids don’t listen to us. As far as they’re concerned, we’re too old to understand. We don’t know what we’re talking about. Our time has passed. We’re out of shape. They don’ think that we have any clue about what we’re talking about. Now with all these gigantic asses that are being grown or paid for. We didn’t do that back in our day.
Coko: It’s also just a different time right now. When we came out we were seen as too tomboyish and that’s the reality. They’re always going to have something to say.
3. You’ve said that being together now is better because you’ve matured. So what would you say to your younger selves, knowing what you do about the industry now.
Lelee: You know what, you know how they say that you are your brother’s keeper? I would tell my younger self that you are your sister’s keeper.
Coko: I would’ve been just more honest and open with them so they could’ve know who I really was and where I was coming from so that was they could understand who that person was.
Taj: I probably would’ve started with, ‘Be more confident’. I lacked confidence back then.
4. Would you guys ever consider releasing solo projects again?
Taj: I don’t think that I would ever do a solo project. I like company. I need to be able to talk. I don’t wanna be by myself.
5. How have you guys been finding SA so far?
Coko: We haven’t gotten a chance to go anywhere. It’s so unfair. We just go to the show and back to the hotel and we’re leaving straight after.
Taj: I wanna do a safari.
6. What can your fans expect from your show tonight?
Coko: A lot of energy. We’re gonna give them a lot of energy. We’re gonna give them some classic hits and then we’re gonna give them some of our new hits and we’re also gonna pay tribute to some of the artists that came before us.
Lelee: We’re just gonna have a good time.
The group also gave us a short snippet of what we can expect tonight by singing one of their hits, Weak. Those voices are still incredible!
SWV hits the stage at 12.15am tonight at the Mannenberg stage. See you there!