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The Lebo Mathosa story minus the magic

2019-11-22 00:00

Dream: The Lebo Mathosa Story

BET (DStv channel 129) Wednesdays, 9.30pm

2/5

BET’s Dream: The Lebo Mathosa Story has big shoes to fill when it comes to portraying one of South Africa’s most loved and complicated women.

Anyone who knew Lebo Mathosa as a public figure would tell you freely that the telling of her narrative is one that requires gusto, great music in abundance and fine storytelling. However, from the first episode, with Keabetswe “KB” Motsilanyane singing Unconditional Love, right through to the third episode, where Mathosa is still fighting record executives, one can’t help but notice that the show fails to meet two essential expectations that seem fundamental to the telling of Mathosa’s story.

The story line so far seems so generic. The narrative about Mathosa fighting record labels over missing funds, and her fierce determination to rise from rags to riches, makes for okay television, but this doesn’t provide us with particularly new perspectives on the singer’s life. In fact, it’s a story more about the industry than it is about Mathosa. It could almost apply to any woman musician, particularly of Mathosa’s time. The erasure of Boom Shaka from the story is shocking, to say the least. One would think that was an important part of Mathosa’s life and contributed significantly to who she was. No wonder the kwaito group distanced themselves from the show.

The show always seems to portray Mathosa as the star through other people’s eyes, and never steps outside of that to offer viewers intimate moments that made up Mathosa’s life, or to really get into her mind.

After realising that the record label stole her ideas, in episode three, she disappeared for some time to try to hustle money to buy herself out of the recording deal – this was a missed opportunity to get to know Mathosa outside of her interactions with record labels, dancers and her manager.

The second and most disappointing aspect of this show is the poor musical production. While we can forgive KB for her poor depiction of Mathosa, it is tough to overlook the missed musical opportunity to bring Mathosa’s music back to life with some character and flair.

At the moment, all we get are weak backing vocals and uncoordinated lip-syncing performed in front of unconvincing audiences.

To demonstrate that music was low on the list of priorities for the producers, take Bahumi Madisakwane’s representation of Mathosa in episode three: Her performance in that episode is more convincing than KB’s was in bringing out Mathosa’s rough side.

Bahumi portrays a young Mathosa sneaking out with her brother against their parents’ wishes to go to a talent show, which she ends up winning. After winning, the rival group of dancers takes their prize and her handmade red wig, and Mathosa fights to get everything back – a triumphant moment that you’ll find yourself admiring. However, instead of the “winning performance”, all we get are special effects with some poor vocals in the background that aren’t convincing for a win. It’s assumed that she will win because she is Mathosa.

Here, one has to echo charges about the legitimacy of the cast. There is no reason young Mathosa couldn’t have been played by someone who could act and sing. Equally, there’s no reason an actor like KB – who can sing – can’t compensate for the unconvincing Mathosa act with the musical abilities she already possesses.

It seems like a rush job that will sit well in a canon of poor films telling tales about great women.


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December 8 2019