Interview: Unpacking the genius and mind of South African house talent, Cornelius SA

Pretoria-born DJ and producer, Cornelius SA, is one of South Africa’s rising stars in the South African house scene. The Dopewax Records artist has been consistently releasing amazing bodies of work, captivating crowds with his DJ sets and exporting quality South African music to the world. Our editor, Nkululeko Nkosi, got a chance to chop it up with the RMBA Berlin 2018 alumni over email to find out more about him, his moves and plans for the future.

You’re one of the more prominent up and coming acts in South African House and you’re from Pretoria, a city many would call the home of Deep House in South Africa? How did it all start for you and how did your place of residence influence you creatively?

I got exposed to sound at a very tender age, on my first grade in Primary I had already asked my parents to get to me the closest music school. Callings work in mysterious ways, no one knows how much you’re burning inside, so I was denied the opportunity to go study music. My dad used to collect a lot of records and cassettes, then collected CD’s later when they hit the market and I think that’s what played an important role into shaping me to becoming the person that I am today.

Your sound is very organic and has undoubtedly taken off in the House scene. What inspires you to do what you do?

Like I had already mentioned above, I grew up listening to different types of music before “genre” became major….. And to date I still listen to music with a very diverse and sharp ear. Well, basically the music I listen to reflects the type of sound I wish to get out of a session when in studio and the type of sound that I make reflects where I want to get musically and I really see a lot of development from how I sounded 4 years ago and now.

Your music and your talent has opened a lot of doors for you. One being recognised and spotlighted by many platforms, influential people and music-focused organisations like Red Bull. Has the recognition and praise put a lot of pressure on you to create at a much higher level?

Speaking of pressure, I try not to put a lot of pressure on myself. I’m still working at the same pace, focusing more on what matters and myself. I don’t let recognition intimidate my workflow, I got friends, family and other activities, I however put in the right effort, energy and mindset while writing music in studio.

READ: Cornelius SA’s relentless push to share deep, authentic South African sounds to the world

You were scouted by the legendary House pioneer, Kenny Dope, to join his label Dopewax Records. That’s huge and must have been a life changing moment for you. How did the Dopewax move come together?

I’ve been chatting back and forth with Katlego Swizz from Surreal Sounds Music, sending him some of my newly produced material and he’d forward to Kenny without me knowing about it. In days after doing so, he then breaks the amazing news that Kenny is interested on my sound and wants to have it up on his label……I had two successful EP’s put out on Kenny’s Dopewax Records “Heaven” & “Boogie Woogie” and that led to my remix of Tortured Soul “U Live 2 Far Away”.

image of cornelius djing
Photography credit: Benjamin Tilodi

What are your thoughts on electronic music in South Africa? Do you feel that there is enough support from the masses and the powers that be to grow the culture and push it forward for the better?

The passion for Electronic Music in South Africa is massively growing and it’s getting a lot of attention from international music culture investors. In the past few years we saw huge electronic music festival’s being hosted here in the country and that’s also good for the acceleration of the economy.

On the music side of things, you collaborate with many other talented artists from SA. How important is collaboration to you?

Collaborations seems vital to anyone who could be called a producer, if you are looking to expand yourself, learn, share ideas and work on a way much better pace, collaborations are a way to go.

You recently released a project with the amazing songstress, Jackie Queens, through Bae Electronica. How did that project come about?

It all started last year, when I was playing the Stay True Sounds label night party at Kitcheners in Braamfontein….And on this night I met the amazingly talented Jackie Queens, few months later I get an invitation to come and work on my project at Red Bull Music Studios in Cape Town, Jackie joined me, she put her nice voice on the beat and out of the blue then came “Feel It Now”….Jackie put it out on her label Bae Electronica and in five days of release all three tracks in the pack appeared in the Deep House and Afro House top 100s and featured on Traxsource top 100 singles.

You’ve also been selected to be part of the RBMA Berlin class of 2018. That’s major. 2018 is proving to be quite the year for you. What are you most excited about regarding RBMA?

I’ve always wanted to visit Berlin in another time, it was one of my dreams, but I never have thought that one moment would be through the RBMA. I’m very excited and delighted to be a part of this unexpected journey that many describe as life changing, educational and can help in shaping one’s music career entirely.

image of cornelius in the city
Photography credit: Benjamin Tilodi

What can people expect from you in 2018? Be it music or other creative projects.

My newly released single with Jackie Queens titled “Feel It Now” including a hot remix from Kususa and a dope remix from yours truly. It’s out on all major digital stores and it’s undeniably received well. I’m back in studio and I’m putting some new work together which I’ll announce later this year. I also have my own underground music culture event called “BEAT”, which is a platform/space for loyal Deep, Minimal & Techno music followers.

Stream ‘Feel It Now‘ by Cornelius SA featuring Zimbabwean songstress, Jackie Queens, below.

Disclaimer: All images used in this article were taken by Benjamin Tilodi, who owns the copyright to them. Follow and support Benjamin Tilodi on Instagram here.

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About Author

Nkululeko Nkosi Creative entrepreneur, self-starter and writer are some of the words you can use to describe me. Inspired by the grit, rawness and passion you often find in underground and alternative culture. Based in the greatest city in Africa, Johannesburg.

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