Lebo Mathosa’s legacy receives a fitting addition with remix EP, ‘Forever’

Inventive spins on three of her best and greatest songs

To describe the legacy of South African singer Lebo Mathosa as iconic is well beyond fitting. In just over a decade of activity, from the mid-90s to the mid-2000s, Mathosa went from being an integral part of the seminal, highly revered Kwaito-fusion group Boom Shaka, to emerging as a bonafide, boundary-pushing solo superstar. At the time of her passing in 2006, at just age 29, Lebo Mathosa was easily one of the most celebrated artists in the contemporary landscape of South African music, lauded for her artistry and discussed for her outwardly assured persona and occasional antics.

In the years since her passing, the life and legacy of Lebo Mathosa continues to be honoured with reverence and nuance, which is not often the case for many iconic artists. It speaks to the singer’s undying influence and the incredibly remarkable life she led. In 2019, BET aired ‘Dream: The Lebo Mathosa Story’, a biopic series portraying Mathosa’s trajectory as a solo act and the complexities that made her who she was. That same year, there was ‘Incomplete Without’, the third posthumous compilation project featuring some of the best and greatest songs from her wondrous, solo three-album run.

Announced earlier this year, the singer’s fourth posthumous project, ‘Forever’, was released last Friday. Unlike its predecessors, this new project predominantly includes remixes to arguably the three biggest Lebo Mathosa songs—“Au Dede” and “I Love Music” off 2004’s ‘Drama Queen’, and “Brand New Day” from 2006’s ‘Lioness’. Released under the auspices of Universal Music South Africa, the curators tap several producers across the ever-colourful spectrum of South African Dance music, giving them creative license to put a modern spin on these classic songs.

‘Forever’ is something of a reverential portal into an alternate timeline, showing what Lebo Mathosa would probably sound like if she adapted to these present times and leaned into the prominent stylings of dance music like Amapiano and Tech House. It’s not a farfetched idea, seeing how she seamlessly expanded her palette over time and transitioned from the Kwaito-indented direction of her 2000 solo debut LP, ‘Dream’, to the dance-pop sound of her latter work, which folded in influences from R&B, Soul, Funk and more. With ‘Forever’, the singer’s siren voice is retooled to fit into music choices as modish as throbbing Amapiano and as left-field as glitch-inflected deep house.

Of the five remix tracks, “Au Dede” receives the special treatment of three remixes from three different producers who put their own unique touch on the song: Karyendasoul’s version plays into his fluid Tech House lane, Josiah De Disciple curates a dancefloor ready ‘Piano rhythm with folk flourishes, and North the Jap’s ability to turn out off-kilter dub grooves comes to the fore on his own remix. In their own varying ways, all three remixes are great reiteration of the song’s dance-ready tilt.

“Brand New Day” is remixed by Sam Deep, and it caters to his preferences of making Amapiano that emboldens the subgenre’s connection to deep house, which feels apt considering the song’s personal lyricism. On BlaQRhythm’s remix of “I Love Music”, his adeptness at inventively manipulating tribal house elements colours the joy with which Lebo Mathosa performs the song.

In these remixes, the producers on ‘Forever’ showcase their own individuality while clearly paying homage to the voice responsible for the magnetic essence of these songs. Rounding the project out, remastered versions of the original songs are included, and they embellish what the remixes already highlight: The Lebo Mathosa legacy is built on a foundation of timeless music.

You can listen to ‘Forever’ here.