If you agree, then you'll also understand me when I say a teen reporter is more likely to give concrete meaning to the recent meteoric rise of the New Afroteens, a band from Port Elizabeth, comprising 10 high school pupils whose average age is 17.
Surely someone must be wondering why a bunch of kids who should really be worrying about passing this month's exams, giving away their veggie sandwiches without mom noticing, and getting up to other school mischief, have already recorded and performed with famed saxophonist Hugh Masekela and US R&B artist Puff Johnson?
Here's a clue. "Their age belies their musical ability, which is astounding." That's the explanation by Thanduxolo Jindela, the teen band's publicist. And Ntsikelelo Kulati, a jazz show presenter at Radio Grahamstown, recently remarked about the New Afroteens: "Their music is quite mature considering their age. That they recorded with Masekela and Johnson is a testament to their calibre."
In their corner, the Afroteens have the backing of Mkhuseli Jack, a well-known political activist in Port Elizabeth, whose wife, Karen, is the band's manager.
Jack's son, Themba, a guitarist, founded the band in 2007. The band is mainly an Afro-pop act. Think Juluka, Mbongeni Ngema, Chicco Thwala, Sipho Mabuse, that kind of late 1970s, 1980s, early 1990s popular township music. Those are some of their influences.
The technically gifted Afroteens pack a punch and maturity – the elusive quality which can imbue a piece of music with so much emotion that we declare it art on the spot – will emerge as the youngsters gain experience.
Their 13-track debut album, "Siyazazisa", is filled up with a varied selection of songs, such as "It's about time", a ballad with Hugh Masekela on trumpet; a gospel song "Lalani", and what passes for rock music, a track called "In my Mind," featuring the US R&B artist Puff Johnson.
The whole album has a prevailing spirit of togetherness and shared hope for unity, reflected in the track titles, lyrics, and the general mood of the album — the kind of mellow feel you'd get from listening to Hugh Masekela's most recent albums.
An example is the third track, "Bayeza eMzansi," meaning "They are coming to South Africa" and whose lyrics intone: "Siyanamnkela zizwe namazwe/Khululan' ibhatyi ninabe nonwabe," which translates: "Welcome, world, to our country / Take off your shoes and relax".
The term Afro-pop itself is a bit ambiguous, for it groups any mixture of two or three familiar African music styles, such as African jazz, kwaito, gospel and neo-indigenous music under the single banner of so-called popular African music. Afro-pop artists include Lira, Thandiswa Mazwai, Freshlyground, KB, Siphokazi, Camagwini, and Kelly Khumalo. Ultimately, Afropop is a genre for players who can adapt to other genres, hence the Afro Newteens can easily play with Masekela (post-1994 Afro-pop with jazz leanings), HPP (post-kwaito rap) and Jimmy Dludlu (contemporary Pan African jazz) — all artists with whom the young band has already collaborated at one point or another during its short lifetime.
"Mkhuseli Jack motivates them, gives them life lessons and of course helped pay for the CD. Karen does bookings, negotiates with promoters, ensures the equipment is working, and ensures performances go smoothly," said Jindela.
"The collaboration with Hugh Masekela came purely through the band's producer, Lawrence Matshiza, who knows bra Hugh very well." He added: "The band also met Masekela when they were performing on the HHP Respect Show on SABC1, on which the band was performing, and Masekela was being interviewed. He practised with them in their garage before the Nelson Mandela Bay International Music Festival last month and joined them on stage for the ballad, 'It's about time'."
Just how important to the Afroteens is their music? Well, for two of them, at least, you might say it's a matter of life and death. Brass players Xolani Moppie (trumpet) and Mkhululi Gxasheka (saxophone), both 16 years old, were "poached" from undertakers Shweme and Shweme, who have their own brass band that plays at funerals on Saturdays. And to stress this point, lyrics from a song called "Lalani Ngoxolo" or "Rest in peace", from the group's debut album, dedicates a prayer to fallen local musicians, such as Eastern Cape muso Stompie Mavi. "To the greats who have left a legacy for us to follow," one lyric from the song goes, "their music will tear through our souls for as long as we live."