Johannesburg based designer, Nao Serati, should not be regarded as an emerging creative force in South Africa. His name lives as brand that is changing African menswear fashion, making him a landmark and symbol of excellence in the African creative industry. With a name that carries weight, Nao Serati is breaking down industry boundaries, one door at a time.
A creative that knows is drawn to pushing boundaries, he takes a step into the audio-visual realm of creativity where he merges fashion and performance. He doesn’t do this alone though, he calls on Johannesburg’s very own progressive songbird, Zoe Modiga, who is a force in her own right. Together, they present ‘ME’, a short film that unpacks the beautiful marriage of fashion and performance. The film sees Zoe Modiga take the lead in song and artistic performance, with Nao as the stylist and the creative director, the film is nothing short of amazing.
Artists from the kingdom have continued to toil tirelessly and release the finest of music. This time around we don’t only have singles but an album and an EP, with impeccable production and song writing deserving massive airplay. Tell your friends to tell their friends about this week’s picks.
Zamo – Inhlanyelo (The Seed)
eSwatini born singer and actress is back with a wonderful eleven track album which includes the hit ‘Tinyembeti’ which was released earlier this year and a remix of the same song. The song writing is world class (with most songs written in SiSwati) accompanied by flawless production and a feature from South African R&B and Soul artist Presss.
Stickx – We need to Talk
South African based DJ and producer Stickx is back with another remarkably produced EP. We Need To Talk is a jam packed EP with amazing features and it is hard to single out the best song from this project. With features from former Idols contestant Kyle Deutsch, talented vocalist Lucille Slade and rappers J Molley and The Big Hash, the EPis probably the best EP to come out of the kingdom this year.
Apple Gule – Sink o’ Swim
Apple Gule never disappoints with his unique pop like sound. This song will surely make it to anyone pop loving persons’ playlist and has already been receiving good reviews on social media.
South Africa has a rich acoustic music history and culture. A history and culture that exists on the fringes of conventional South African pop culture. In this culture, many youths find solace and an escape from the harsh realities of life, and their medium of expression is music. In the music they detail their experiences and soundtrack the times they live in. A beautiful marriage between the creators of the music and the people who consume the music exists, and it makes this culture even more beautiful.
The acoustic and alternative music scene in South Africa is youth-driven and live, with many young people stepping to the fore to push boundaries. From promoters, event organizers, brands and musicians, the scene never falls short of talent. This talent unashamedly embodies what it means to be a South African rock head. Durban based band, Black Math, perfectly represent this youthful, fearless energy that exists in the South African alternative music scene. Founded in 2010 by three friends, Tyla Burnett who handles the bass guitar, Cameron Lofstrand who is the vocalist and guitarist and Acacia Van Wyk who handles the drums, the band has grown tremendously over the last seven years. With each year that passes, the band adds weight to their name and grows their fan base, but while all of that is happening they still stay true to their values and ideals – going against the grain and pop culture to push people to be more open-minded.
The Black Math sound and approach is described as raw and unforgiving, and it prioritizes innovation in songwriting and composition. With their approach, they fuse garage rock, psychedelic rock, stoner rock, punk metal and heavy metal to create a sound that is truly unique to them. Their aim is to have an authentic voice that will be unrivalled in expressing ideas and concepts that could live and be translated abroad but still has a sense of home – South Africa. Following trends and adopting a sheep mentality is far from the ethos as they have positioned themselves to be a reliable source for originality and sincerity. Black Math is pioneering a new era for the South African alternative rock scene, one that has a DIY approach embedded in it.
Listen to their groundbreaking project ‘Death, Existing & Other Joys Of Life‘
Born in Manzini in the Kingdom of eSwatini, Mzwaa is a singer-songwriter that has recently burst into the music scene in Southern Africa. Gifted with a way of words and beautiful vocals, he has all the right tools to break into the industry and have a lasting career.
His love for music was sparked by what his parents were fond of and naturally so, he absorbed what he heard as a kid. Genres such as jazz, soul from the Motown era and R&B were the genres that grew his affinity for music and they inevitably laid the foundation and standard for him when it came to meaningful artistic expression in music.
As much as Mzwaa had his foundation in genres that were big back in the day, like the true millennial that he is, he was captured by the more electronic sound that his generation loves. As an artist, he fell in love with House, a genre that is undoubtedly one of the biggest and most supported in Southern Africa. However, he gravitated towards the more soulful side of House music. A group was formed, and a wave began. Capturing the attention of labels in North America and having their music selected by a designer to feature in the Ottawa Fashion Week in 2012 was a testament to their capability and it was a sign for Mzwaa showing him that he was definitely on the right track.
Fast forward to a few years later after 2012, Mzwaa has emerged as a solo act that fuses his soul, R&B, funk, House and Hip Hop influences to create a sound that, firstly is new in the kingdom and secondly, is unique to him. In the first six months of 2018, he has managed to do what many artists struggle to do – build hype – in a short amount of time. With a performance in one of Africa’s best music and culture festivals, the MTN Bushfire Festival, after winning a competition, his rise in the game grew. Equipped with a strong team behind him, a great band and a couple of singles, Mzwaa is fast becoming a strong contender to shake up the urban music landscape in Southern Africa.
His recently released single, ‘I Got It’, is one of his first strikes. Gaining over 2 thousand streams in less than two weeks proved his importance in the music game as he’s filling a void and creating a unique lane for himself. The songwriting on the song is world-class and the quality of the whole composition could fare well in the international arena. Mzwaa is a star in the making and he has all the right tools to have a run in the music industry that could truly be impactful
Phundo Art is a wild, bold and fearless South African creative that is living his truth in the UK. Fearless in his expression, he paints the world a picture depicting the life and times of a young black South African finding his feet, re-imagining his identity and channeling his innate creativity in a first world country.
At first glance, Phundo is no different from his creative peers in urban music culture in other western countries in how he presents himself in dress, but his unique selling point is how he carries himself and how he projects his artistry. As he ascends and breaks through, his online audience numbers swell up because he is nothing like what new age rap fans are used. He doesn’t sound American and he doesn’t sound British, and that makes him a unique act.
He proudly carries his South African identity as he references it a lot in his rhymes. There is no doubt that Phundo Art is one of the most promising up and coming rappers to come out of South Africa. A true leader of the new school, he has a lot of potential to fly the South African flag high in the international music arena.
Legendary South African house label, House Afrika, spotlights four up and coming House acts that are undoubtedly the future of South African House music. Port Elizabeth’s Sean Munnick, Cape Town’s Pierre Johnson, Pietermaritzburg’s Brewed Souls and Johannesburg’s Fka Mash are called up to flex their artistic talents, each being knighted into the House scene in South Africa as talents to look out for. With a House Afrika co-sign, these young artists are geared up to lead a new wave of House music in South Africa.
When you speak of creative forces that continually push culture, shift perspectives and break boundaries, you cannot leave Nonku Phiri out of the conversation. Nonku Phiri is a talented, multi-disciplined creative who has collaborated with global industry leaders in electronic music with a growing track record. Experimentation is rooted in her artistry and as time goes, she exposes layers of her being as she continually and naturally comes into her own. In the creative industry in South Africa, she is regarded as a pioneer and a future leader who is pushing boundaries in art. Musically, she knows no bounds or limitations, as her creativity is not built on singularity but rather the flexibility and the unpredictability of life.
We got a chance to speak to Nonku Phiri about her start in the creative industry, her new label venture and her future projects.
You first burst into the South African music industry about seven years ago, breaking down walls whilst also eradicating common perceptions attached to womxn in the South African music industry. Your story obviously doesn’t start there. Please share your story of how Nonku Phiri, the multi-talented artist, came to be?
I basically decided to pursue music after I completed my studies, it took a series of serendipitous events to finally convince me that this was something I wanted to do. Working in the creative industry is challenging as it can be quite a thankless job but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
Since breaking into the industry, you’ve done quite a lot for yourself in music. Having worked with some of the best electronic music artists in South Africa and the world, it could be easy for one to assume that you’ve ticked a lot of boxes of success in your career so far. How do you stay sharp as an artist and what inspires you to keep creating?
Surprisingly enough I feel like I’m just beginning, I try not to focus too much on following trends and always try mix things up a bit when it comes to collaborations. The project I’m currently working on has allowed me to explore things like production and how that translates into creating a unique live set. I’m super excited to begin sharing a lot of the new material and hope that you’ll enjoy what comes out this phase.
What are your thoughts on the current state of electronic music in Mzansi? Do you feel that there is enough representation of womxn in the industry and if there isn’t, what change do you want to see in the near future?
I really think we should stop using this segregated narrative when it comes to women in the creative industry, as there are tons and tons of strong female artists kicking ass locally and internationally. Since there’s lots of music available nowadays people tend to gravitate more towards what they like, I don’t think one’s sex should play a role in making this decision. Regarding the current state of the electronic industry artist like Manthe Ribane, Moonchild, Eve Rakow, Purity and Rose Bonica really excite me.
You’re one of the best performers in our country. One can tell that you put a lot of effort into your performances as you consistently display excellence in your showmanship. How do you approach performances?
Thank you. I try to approach each show with an open mind and tend to focus on creating a new experience every time we get to play. Seeing as none of our performances have ever been the same, it definitely does help that the live show has an element of improvisation that allows me to feed off the energy of the room. The rest is often left to the universe and the mood of the day.
The second half of the year comes with a new single from you called Sifo. With this new song, you seem to have taken a different direction musically, from the production to the writing. How did the single, Sifo, come about?
Without going into too much detail, Sifo was inspired by a personal experience that took place last year. I’ve essentially spent the last two years on the road exploring and showcasing the new sound/material and I felt that it was time to share apart of my journey sonically. I hope you’ll like what’s in store as I feel as though I’m finally coming into my own as a solo artist.
The new song is released through your own label, Albino Black. What inspired the move to go independent?
I’m inspired to see more artists take the leap. Everything that I have released thus far has been released independently. Starting off I felt that it was important to be hands-on and in control of all facets of my career. All it takes is a little bit of investment in oneself and taking the initiative to start things off without waiting on someone else to make it happen.
What can we expect from your new label?
For now, a new EP releases from me.
What can we expect from you as the year goes?
I’ve got plenty more music to release so you can definitely expect to hear more from me. I’ll also be heading out of the country for a couple months and am currently working on curating a couple of shows around SA with some of my favourite acts over the summer time.
As of late, the alternative music industry in South Africa has been delivering nothing but quality music rivalling the bigger, more funded mainstream music industry. Many of the artists, labels and fans that keep the alternative music scene afloat in the country are forced to embrace a DIY approach and depending on how you look at it, you can extract negatives or positives from the state of alternative music and culture. One of the biggest positives from the alternative culture and scene is ownership and the opportunity to drive a counter pop-culture narrative that is rooted in defiance, originality and authenticity. The freedom and the power to re-imagine and build one’s identity without having to lessen oneself to fit mainstream conventions is a gift.
Talent from different corners of Mzansi is rising up, aided by the internet, and speaking their truth, sharing their stories and giving the masses a glimpse of what life looks like in their parts of the world. Who would have imagined that kids in the provinces like Mpumalanga, Limpopo, Eastern Cape, Free State and Northern Cape would try their hands at breaking into the music game without the fear or worry of not being in a big city? King Lutendo, a Venda born multi-talented creative, is one of those kids. Fearlessly pushing through to make South Africa pay attention to the talent that is buried in Venda. We know of Una Rams, who has recently broken out in the South African music industry, receiving much acclaim for his innovative approach to music. King Lutendo is no different. Gifted as a wordsmith, he has a way with words that could make any writer enviable, and a talent of piecing together concepts is incredible. He’s undoubtedly a new kid you should be on the lookout for.
Lungelo Manzi burst into the South African alternative music scene last year, capturing and captivating crowds in Durban, Pretoria and Johannesburg. Starting from the ground up, every performance he had was designed to be a stellar introduction to Lungelo Manzi – the man and the artist. His tireless work and breathtaking talent got the attention of Slikour On Life boss, Siya Metane (more popularly known as Slikour) who chose him to become part of the SOL incubator, an artist development and exposure platform for up and coming acts playing in the urban space of music in Mzansi. Lungelo Manzi impressed and got South Africa’s Hip Hop community to pay attention to him and regard him as one of the next to bring a fresh energy to the South African Hip Hop scene.
To kick the second half of the year off, Lungelo releases two singles from his forthcoming EP entitled ‘Vulindlela’. On the two songs, Vulindlela and Baobab, he focuses more on testing and pushing his sound. Listen to the two songs below.
Founded by four friends, Them Fads is a fresh new band from Cape Town that is built on defying societal and creative conventions. With Desmond as the lead guitarist and backing vocalist, Mike as the rhythm guitarist and backing vocalist, Heino as the bass guitarist and leading vocalist and Kayla as the drummer and leading vocalist, the band is hell-bent on building artistic worlds that they can live in and freely communicate how they see the world. Having no bounds that limit their creativity, they are armed with tools of expression that many artists would envy, such as freedom and experimentation.
The band dubs what they do as ‘psychedelic garage rock’. They fuse two rock sub-genres, psychedelic rock and garage rock, two sub-genres that live on the fringes of popular rock culture and are often found in alternative and underground scenes. Musically, the space they play in allows them to stretch their muscality and it also allows them to take their song-writing to interesting places. As a band, they are geared up to shake things up in South Africa’s alternative music scene.