The South African indie scene has been swept off its feet by the eclectic sounds of KZN-born Jo’burg-based artist, Mashayabhuqe kaMamba. After a show-stealing performance at Back to the City Hip Hop Festival earlier this year, his music has gained reasonable momentum. His The Black Excellence Show EP sees him introducing us to the new genre he has deemed digital maskandi. After a feature on the current issue of Hype Magazine (Cassper Nyovest cover) and a co-sign from Cape Town’s Red Bull Studios, Live SA had a short chat with the promising musician.
Sinethemba for LIVE SA: How would you describe digital maskandi to someone who has never heard your material?
Mashayabhuqe: It’s an eclectic sound with that Shembe feel or traditional Zulu harmonies. The main thing people should know is that I am trying to preserve this maskandi thing since it’s part of our culture and I feel it’s important to carry out this task with pride and just make beautiful music regardless of people’s perceptions of you and the love for your culture.
LIVE: Please take us through the process of the making of The Black Excellence Show EP.
Mashayabhuqe: It was an amazing experience, having to cry and laugh on records without anyone dictating your work. “Isigqi Sesono” is a great example. I knew the kind of sound I was gunning for so it didn’t become a mission to achieve that.
LIVE: Who handled the production on the project and how did the collaboration with MarazA happen?
Mashayabhuqe: MarazA, a well-known name in the South African hip hop circles and myself, is a friend, a homeboy from KZN. We’ve been working together for a while now so it was one of those decisions where both parties didn’t even have to think or discuss it.
LIVE: Hip hop artists in SA, for the past five years or so, have managed to be successful as independent artists. Are you signed to any label? And what do you think are the pros and cons of being an unsigned artist?
Mashayabhuqe: I’ve been studying maskandi artists and it [independence] has been working smoothly for them and that is where I would like to see myself. I am not signed yet. I’ve learnt that you can still be cool and get money in your traditional attire while using your indigenous lingo. Which is mind blowing to me. You can travel the world and get accepted for who you are and take pictures with the world’s renowned and what not. Who wouldn’t like that?
LIVE: I became accustomed to your music via Facebook. What do you think of the accessibility of music online?
Mashayabhuqe:It’s a blessing to almost every musician out there. Imagine, I’ve received so much love across the country and my music is not even on radio yet. Thank you Shembe for the internet! But then we are still behind a li’l bit [as] our people can’t download, they sometimes act like “they got this” but only to find that a person does not know how to manoeuvre around and get the stuff off the net.
LIVE: Who are some of your musical influences?
Mashayabhuqe: Madala Kunene, Busi Mhlongo, Thandiswa Mazwai, Vusi Ximba, James Blake, Bon Iver, and Polica. When Thandiswa Mazwai goes “Nizalwa Ngobani?”, that makes me cheer up cause it’s a question I ask myself the whole time. My generation isn’t the same as my mom’s or granny’s, we are so liberated and we choose what we want and what we don’t. Somehow we forget the simplest things that really matter, like asking our elders where are they from and how that contributes to life so I tend to play music that’s really got a great deal of message such as the likes of Madala Kunene and his take on traditional healers and saving the nation.
LIVE: What inspires your writing?
Mashayabhuqe: Village stories. I’m a village boy.It’s crazy. Look at the life we live now in the cities, how different it is compared to the villages. I couldn’t write about how my neighbour crashed her Range Rover and how my landlord treats me and my ex. Those are not the stories I want my people to know because they got no value to me. I have seen someone giving birth at their home in the village and moving on with life without having to worry about hospitals and doctors. That is the village life, they are just living and care less about Wi-Fi and chicken burgers. All of that come across as logical and authentic to me and I love authenticity.
LIVE: How has the reception been to the EP and why did you call it the Black Excellence Show?
Mashayabhuqe: When I got the release date from kwabaphansi (ancestors), I told MarazA that I’m not expecting anything more than 300 downloads and that was it. We dropped it and four months later, I was sitting on 4200 downloads on Datafile Host, not mentioning plays on SoundCloud and Reverbnation. It’s been an amazing year. The reception is overwhelming. I mean, for a big brand like Red Bull to jump on my ship and co-sign my work, that has been a blessing. They’ve taken me to tour with Shadow Club (a rock trio based in Jozi) and helped me record some of my new tracks. They have made it easy for me to look at the bigger picture by exposing me to diverse acts in electronic music. I wanna be global now. Digital maskandi must be global now.
LIVE: Who are some of the artists you would like to work with and why?
LIVE:What is the plan now that the EP has gotten so much love? Are you going to be shooting any videos for the it?
Mashayabhuqe:More visuals coming soon. I’ll be playing Afrikvn Lord in my videos. I love weird s*&t!
LIVE: Any last words?
Mashayabhuqe: Thanks to everyone, uMashayabhuqe umngani wakho – Mashayabhuqe kaMamba. You can also download his latest track TRVPMVSKV(Impendulo kaBaba) featuring Busi Mhlongo and Shembe.
Download The Black Excellence Show EP here
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