MotherLand X is one of eSwatini’s music label which is always pushing boundaries and elevating local artists. In the recent months they have been hosting a social Sunday event called Pop Sunday which has been well received by the youth. Since its inception, MotherLand X was founded with the main aim of shining a light on producers. “Producers are clearly undervalued all over the world yet they do most of the work behind the scenes”, Rendition (co-founder) explains MLXs background. Inspired by movements like Soulection which highlight the importance of celebrating producers and giving them the same respect as artists. In its 5th year since inception MLX has grown in leaps and bounds and has elevated eSwatini’s music scene with some of their notable achivements being featured on a number of international projects – with the most recent being Rendition on uSanele’s mixtape, DJ Ohpis perfoming at the Luju Food & Lifestyle Festival, hosted DJ Shimza in December, unearthing new talent – Remedy (one to watch) being the most recent and countless other achievements.
MLX has grown to be a collective of not just producers but an entire spectrum of the creative industry (DJs, photographers, artists, fashion designers, videographers etc). King of the Boards is a new concept show in collaboration with Deck Life Events. The event is called Social Saturday Beer Garden spear-headed by DJ Mkay and it will be hosted at the Albert Millin. With an outdoor upmarket setting, young and diverse crowd this is set to be one of the popular events in the capital city. King of the Boards will be a segment which will feature two local producers to compete against each other. “The challenge to the producers is to captivate a crowd of over 500 people with their beats with the crowd deciding on the eventually winner” Rendition explains the concept. “The battle will be broken down into three rounds, with each producer playing a beat for 2 minutes per round and then the crowd decides on the winner” he elaborates. Each round will test the producers ability to grab the crowds attention considering three different elements.
This new initiative will profile the kingdoms hidden talent and give producers the same platform and respect that artist get. Performances and deejay sets have been scheduled in between the rounds to keep the crowd entertained. With the ultimate goal of this concept is giving bedroom/budding producers the chance to showcase their talent and open doors for mentorship or even collaborations.
Swazi Jive entertainment is back with another superb to kick start the year. At the beginning of 2019 the had their first ever cypher which was well received and saw the president of Swazi Jive also drop some bars. The 2020 cypher is fresh and flaming hot, from the setting of the video to the Wigo produced beat and crazy bars spit by the lads. The cypher features Luci Gang Child, OG King, Jurie, Jody Brown, Able Klein and Steez One of my favourite things about this cypher is the beat produced by Welile Wigo Mthethwa, the beat has a lo-fi feel with some incredible samples put all together into the perfect freestyle beat any rap would love. Major credit also goes to all the rappers featured on the cypher, their delivery and breath control was just impeccable with the end product being nothing short of sensational and their lyrical content was on point with room for improvement. A major shoutout to DIREKTOR ALPHA and Focus Tales TI who snapped on the visuals. The visuals are fresh and clean with the setting blending perfectly with the grimy yet lo-fi beat and hard delivery from the rappers(who are trying to prove a point), encapsulating the whole concept of a cypher. This is a great way to start the year by Swazi Jive after a silent 2019 and an exodus of most of their artist. Credit to all the rappers featured on the cypher, we hope to see and hear more from them.
Dance music culture plays a very important role in the youth culture in the kingdom of eSwatini. Over the years, the culture has provided many young people from the small country avenues through which they can use to express themselves and move the world. The house music scene in the country is one of the strongest in the African continent and as small as it may be, it has a massive influence on the innovation of the scene with the talent and ideas it produces. Driven by a spirit of unity and community, the scene is shaping the sounds of tomorrow. For the scene to be where it is (a healthy space which allows for growth), it needed passionate purveyors of culture in the form of movements and collectives that all have a vision of promoting progression. The Beats & Bass Movement is one of such movement and they have a fascinating story, view of life and music, and passion. We spoke to them to find out more about what their movement is about, their plans and vision.
For those who aren’t familiar with who you are what you can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Beats & Bass is a duo consisting of Khethumenzi Mthande aka “Katz” and Banzi Kunene aka “Bsquared” who are equally responsible for managing the podcast. The two first met back in 2013/14 within the music scene in Swaziland. In 2017, Beats and Bass published its first podcast, and have done so monthly till present day. Over the few years, the pair has established a more mature following from the type of music they play. This growth has resulted in a new partnership with Jelele FM — an online radio station. The Beats & Bass Movement aims to continuously improve its branding and marketing to keep their supporters exultant. Access to the podcast is via the podcast link or streaming via www.jelele.com.
What were the events that lead up to the the establishment of The Beats & Bass Movement?
The Beats & Bass Movement was formed in 2016 by two well-known eSwatini spinners, Sphelele Mhlanga aka “Jazzinsoul” of Ol’tymers Sessions and Khethumenzi Mthande and has been active since then till to date. A popular Shisanyama around Mbabane called Solanis had started hosting strictly deep and soulful house sessions every Saturdays. With the growth of the sessions, more followers wanted to access to the recorded sets of the sessions. At the time, there were no platforms to share the live mixes/sets, so that gave us an idea to create Beats & Bass Movement.
In 2017, the live sessions come to an end and we shifted our focus to mixtapes for the podcast. The plan was to release two main mixtapes and a guest mix from spinners of our choice who relate to the kind of sound we liked. Jazzinsoul moved on and focused on Ol’tymers Sessions. Bsquared was first introduced to the movement as a guest. He made his first mixtape and with its success, we requested a second mixtape a few months later. He has since fully joined the movement as an equal partner. So working together made sense
and was seamless as we knew each other from the past and he has been active with the show from the 7th show to date.
What inspired the movement to support the fusion of all the vast genres in the music culture through your sound and mixes?
Growing up, we were both exposed to a huge variety of music from soul, jazz, gospel, kwaito and R&B, which made our musical palate more balanced. As we got older and started playing, we fell in love with the deep and soulful house sound. Our musical influence also came from DJs who got invited to play in eSwatini for festivals, to name a few, the likes of Vinny da Vinci, Christos, Rocco, Fresh etc. As the internet became more accessible, we got the opportunity to listen to other podcasts like the Deeper Shades of House by Lars Behrenroth. It therefore became easier to start a podcast after we had seen others successfully doing it.
Eswatini has a small deep house community, and in it, people have different tastes. Our podcast has therefore been structured in a way to cover the diverse music culture. B’squared believed that by giving the masses mixtapes with music people are yet to know will help us became the go to podcast for listeners who want to enjoy upcoming deep house music. So every month, we record mixtapes with new music that we found interesting and that people will start enjoying in a month or two in the club scene. This also give us enough time to compile more good music to put out there to the people.
Tell us a bit about the selection process for deciding on what your artistic approach is in pursuing new ideas and concepts especially with regards to having guest mixes?
Well, we don’t have a solid rigid selection process on guests but the sound is our main basic influence. Our aim is to stay true to ourselves as well as the movements tradition of being a strictly deep and soulful house publisher. But now and then we accommodate sub genres like bossa nova, neo soul, trip hop and electronica thus the guest DJs’ style of play is the first most important factor in the guest mix selection process. We also have a platform where music lovers can make submissions for their mixtapes. This platform is via an open email address which is firstname.lastname@example.org. So far, we have published a few mistapes coming from this platform, mostly we approach the DJs ourselves. These are individuals who inspire us with the type of sound they play and is also a great way for us to learn from them. We recently started to exploring the idea of working with other podcasters. By doing so, this allows us to extend our brand as we also do guest mixes for other shows. The most recent relationship was with a duo based in Pretoria by the name Lovesouldeep Experience.
Who would you love to collaborate with on future projects both nationally and internationally?
The Antidote Music would be our nationally selection. This music label has produced amazing talent, the likes of !Sooks, Mzwaa, Secret Souls who are doing well locally and across the borders. Working with them would be a blessing as we can learn a thing or two from their experience. They have been to more gigs and made good networks with other people we would love to work with in the near future. For now, our international selection is too colourful to mention, we would like to work with a lot of guys. But our main concentration for now is us. We still want to keep working hard, learn to stay consistent and creative, and with that, see where the growth process leads us. Maybe we might stand a chance to penetrate the industry and present our music taste to the world. For a mid-term milestone, a feature on BestBeats.tv would hurt. And yes off course, other radio stations in South Africa to play some of our mixtapes. Maybe one day we would host our own radio programme as part of the growth process.
What do you feel is unknown to the general public about the music industry and culture of Swaziland? What do you want to make people aware of in relation to the spaces you are moving in?
Eswatini is a very small nation. In saying so, the number of places where one can go out for fun are a handful, thus making the deep house community small. We do not have a lot of joints that are strictly for deep house, as a result, getting paying gigs is a hustle as most of these establishments opt for resident DJs. We believe the country has a great potential, music wise. We need to broaden our creativity to come up with crazy ideas and new concepts that can benefit both the artists and fans. We have started collaborating with other fellow DJs. This idea behind that is to create unity and the support structure when each of us host events. The unity amongst ourselves will be very vital in order for us to grow the following of the genre. With time, our network will be massive and we can expand and venture into other concepts.
Could you briefly describe your DJing process and how your music evolved since you first started playing together?
[Katz]: As Katz, I fully began playing in 2014 after learning to use CDJs. From there on, I started playing in various clubs within the kingdom with other fellow DJs. I used to play dance music at the time. With time, I eventually found a music genre I felt comfortable listening and playing which is deep and soulful house. A few years later, I became a resident DJ at Solanis Shisanyama for 3 years playing strictly deep and soulful house. This is the very same place I met Bsquared for the first time, as previously mention. At the time he was based in Pretoria.
[B’Squared]: My journey began back in 2008 when I went to varsity in Jozi. I had a few friends who loved house, and so I started my house collection. At the time I wasn’t playing, just a few indoor parties with friends, nothing major. Fast track to 2010, I moved back to Eswatini, bought my first PA system and that’s where it all began. Back then where I came from, a DJ would play the whole night. I used to play deep house, commercial house, old school house, kwaito etc. A few years later I moved back to GP, that’s when I decided to only focus on soulful and deep house. As and when I visit home, I would get a chance to play. This is how
Katz and I met. Ever since we’ve know each other, we have always kept it true and loyal to deep house.
We believe in taking time to do anything really. We spend days buying new music online and listening to it. Tracks selection for any mixtape plays an import role when making your final recording. More time is spent on creating combinations of tracks that work together to produce the kind of sound you hope to achieve. It’s like telling a story, your selecting needs to project the way you feel and how you want your audience to feel when they listen to your mixtape and live sets. Therefore, having sufficient music helps ease the job of selecting what to play.
What are the dynamics of your relationship and how does this influence your art?
We are friends first, who respect each other as individuals and so happen to love the sound we both play. To maintain the balance, we believe in being open minded and having proper communication with no filters and if the situation allows so that we can move on to our shared vision. What keeps us grounded is always reminding each other of the fact that music is greater than both of us combined. So we try to be as humble and dedicated to being better than the previous day. This helps us to focus on the music and keeping our followers pleased. Happy followers give us confidence to explore more and keep us excited to want to
present the next sound.
Has branching out into clothing impacted your brand, if so in what way?
Yes, branching out into clothing has been a positive impact. This marketing tool has helped us positively reach more people who are interested in the Beats & Bass Movement. Their continued support has pushed us into broadening the merchandise designs for people to choose from. To help spread the word to other people, our latest designs incorporates our podcast link at the back of the t-shirts. Curious people not familiar with the movement will use that as an opportunity to check us out.
What can you tell us about your upcoming projects?
To keep our Podcast going and keep working with many DJs who offer us guest mixtapes. We are also working towards doing a minor tour in Durban in Aug/September. From there, we join our musical brothers Lovesouldeep for their anniversary at House 22 in October. The biggest thing we looking forward to is hosting our second event for the year in November with a few international guests.
On the 20th of May eSwatini born and raised musician, Mzwaa, released his highly anticipated EP titled Right On Time. Designed, crafted and structured as his official introduction to the game; determined to leave an impression and the fact that it is released by new label venture, Antidote Indie, made the EP ever more special with its timing sublime.
The contents of the project are telling and contain perspectives, feelings and ideas of a Swazi youth that is hell-bent on getting his hands on anything he set his eyes on and in the same breath, everything that the world said he was not going to get. He raps, he sings and effortlessly displays an ease only seen in those who are rooted in their purpose, comfortable in their skin and confident in their abilities. It is heard in how Mzwaa trusts his voice to deliver messages that his peers in his country and the world beyond his country’s border can relate to. It is quite clear that for Mzwaa to reach this level of confidence and ability, he had to put in his ten thousand hours making the timing ever more special — it took him time to get where he is and the release of his comes at a perfect time in his life, when he is ready.
Six tracks of beautifully produced songs featuring notable talents such as Velemseni and Young Grixxly as well production from Vuma, Brainz and Alexandros Hatzinikolaou.
The kingdom of eSwatini has experienced a renaissance of the house music genre, subsequently being the kingdom’s chief music export, with a number of local artists making waves not only in Africa but the world at large. Secret Souls, a collective of five friends who are connected by their shared love of music shall not be left out when talking about the renaissance. This is not your average boy band, these lads definitely know what they are doing and have left a number of people gob smacked with their production.
Working as a unit, Secret Souls always pushed to startle us with their production that has led to them releasing music under top labels like Antidote Music, Deepstitched, Kolour Recordings just to mention a few. “We have 5 members that work seamlessly and tirelessly to shape up the brand. But also, we owe our existence to a lot of other people too. The people who create the best environment for us to succeed” the group says about this amazing collective unit. “They are too many to mention, but our core members aren’t, and they are; Qiniso Motsa, Mpho Motsa, Simphiwe Dlamini, Samkeliso Dlamini and Sibusiso Sibandze. We are best defined by our signature sound, which is electronic deep house, minimal techno and anything experimental” they elaborate further. Brought together by the love of music, they never expected that they would eventually have a such a huge impact on each other’s lives and play an imperative role in eSwatini’s house scene. “We were brought together byDeeper Shades of House back in high school and we deeply desired to be on the show. This desire gave birth to what you know today as Secret Souls” explaining how they met.
This dynamic collective is birthed and centered on music rather than each individual being known, as none of them wanted to be solo DJs. Secret Souls is a unique brand and name as a whole, one that came about after serious brainstorming. “After major brainstorming, Secret Souls was the name we decided.” they explain. They believe it was the right choice as the name Secret Souls stuck with them and introduced them to the people yet keeping their personal identities hidden. “But looking back in hindsight now, we chose well indeed. As we grew in our craft, we also grew into our name. This is mostly true because our sound relies on unearthing new sounds that have been rarely explored. There are dark elements in our music as well, and what’s darker than Secret Souls huh?”.
Using multiple monikers is a common thing in the music industry as it is often seen as something that helps with determining alternative channels of reaching audiences, Secret Souls adapted that often releasing music under the moniker Continuum. “Continuum is actually the product of a beautiful mistake, but that’s a story for another day. We have since turned it into a great asset, another outlet for our creativity. In essence, we decided to use this new moniker to experiment more with our own sound, without being bound to a single genre” they share more insight about their other moniker. “We use it to branch out to different genres as well, helping us prevent stagnant growth within our music. You can expect absolutely anything and everything from Continuum. We choose to see Continuum as more of a creative space, however, rather than just a different name for the group” they explain.
From listening to the popular deep house podcast Deeper Shades of House to being featured on it, they have been able to work as a unit to combine their personal inspirations with group inspirations and the result of that has been breathtaking music. Collectively inspired by growth and being equal to the challenge of accomplishing their targets as a unit, they strive to be the best which has accelerated their growth and keeps their music fresh and exciting all the time. They attribute all their success to the great mentorship they have.
With a remarkable discography, they are back with another release entitled Xperiment. A spectacular LP, flawless from the first song to the end. Featuring talented vocalist SOLR, Xperiment will definitely make it to any avid music lover’s playlist with the beautiful production the project carries. “Interestingly, we made the first version of Xperiment in one week. Why 7 days? One track a day was the plan. They weren’t supposed to be full tracks for release. The idea was to synthesize and arrange loops that are not quite common in a short space of time without the luxury of thinking too much about what is conventional or not for house music”, sharing insights on the latest LP. “Ideally, that was going to produce a fresh sound for our house jams but due to the excitement of the discovery of this electronic sound, we kind of just let the project circulate amongst our friends. We sent it to 2lani The Warrior of DeepStitched after listening to it he hit us up and told us he liked the music, and wanted to release it. So we polished it up, and added two more tracks to it with one with a vocal feature from SOLR which has become one of the most well received tracks from Xperiment” they elaborate.
Due to individual commitments, they seldom spend time together but have been able to dish out diverse, world class music. Individually writing melodies, leads and basslines has helped them curate a unique fresh sound that producers working on their own may never achieve.” We circulate melodic loops, and MIDI stuff, or even project files among ourselves until a cool 6 to 7-minute arrangement is agreed upon. We then send it to our Head of Production, for those bells and whistles, and final mixing” they explain. “We then master the tracks ourselves and send them to the label. However, we do send mixdowns to other engineers who may have been contracted by the label” they say. Defining their style as fractal, each of their releases starts out as experimental projects by either trying to capture a specific sound, or chasing a particular mood, or even trying to bring light to a specific element within the music, with each individual working on their strengths. One guy will submit a melody, someone else will pull up with a completely abstract soundscape or a method of arranging a drum loop. All these components are moved around, from project to project, until the right melody fits the right rhythm.
With a number of releases under the legendary 2Lani The Warrior’s DeepStitched, they are appreciative to Sakhile Brainz Mkhonta of Antidote Music who was influential in propelling their music to great heights as he organized a listening session with the whole Antidote Music team and subsequently helped them with reaching out to a number of labels.
Constellation Lupus is the name of their upcoming release, a collaboration with !Sooks — a release that the whole underground fraternity is looking forward to.” We are very excited about this one! We have always wanted to work with !Sooks for a long time now, but we never really had a specific concept or idea. And so, over time, we just let things build up and occur organically. We didn’t want to force issues and do things just because. We finally came up with a solid concept in the last quarter of 2017, where we started sharing ideas and projects” explaining about their upcoming collaborative release. “The title of the project is called Constellation Lupus. Lupus symbolizes the ‘Wolf’ in Latin. And as stated by !Sooks in his recent interview with you guys, “ The wolf represents resilience and perseverance, it represents courage and bravery. The wolf is the inner will to overcome whatever circumstance on is faced with” explaining about the title of the EP. Every deep house lover is ecstatic and super amped about the upcoming release, which will be released in September under Antidote Music.
A collective unit that has made waves and help shape the local underground scene, Secret Souls continue to cement their position in the underground scene and hoist the flag of eSwatini high. The addition of the best house artist or group category in the MTN SWAMA Awards is clear ratification of the growth and importance of the genre in the kingdom, with recent voting results showing that, that category is the most popular with the most votes.
Born Aphelele Gule, Apple Gule is eSwatini’s latest musical export with numerous of his songs making waves across different radio stations in South Africa. The ‘In Your Life’ and ‘Wave G’bye’ hit maker has had a quick rise in the music scene following a string of hits in 2016 along with a collaboration with Mapped Out Squad on the 2nd season of Coke Studio. In 2017, he continued with the same momentum with the worldwide release of Strange Loving Remix of In Your Life through German label Katermukke Records. The reception of the release was amazing and it was given 5/5 rating by legendary BBC Radio 1 DJ Pete Tong. His EP entitled Handwritten was a phenomenal six-track introduction to his artistry.
Currently residing in Johannesburg, Aphelele grew up in Mhlambanyatsi, a small town in western Swaziland. Fresh out of matric he got the chance to do a demo with a friend which propelled him to release his own music as he realised that music was his true vocation. He cites the likes of John Legend, JC Bukenya, Drake and The Weekend as influences and with lucid evidence in his songs. “I’ve always loved singing since I was a kid and I never took it seriously until I left matric” he responds after I ask him to briefly share details of his musical background.
Apple Gule has a unique and distinct sound which he classifies as ‘Soulful Pop’ with the main theme of his songs being the universal theme of love and its ups and downs. “I have very old school method of writing music, soulful music at that but I try to adapt it to new contemporary sounds and music. I don’t want to limit myself” he explains about his song writing process. Fan Girl is the first single from his debut album ‘SWAZiKiD’, a song which was recorded by Ningi Pro with the mixing and mastering by Gregory Nottingham and Robin Kohl at the Jazzworx Studios in Randburg and was play listed on 5FM not even a week after release. It is a follow up to his previous single Wave G’Bye which was a break up song and he was exploring his emotions in a vulnerable place. “In Fan Girl I speak about a story where I have again found someone but I am not ready to commit to her as much as she wants to commit to me” he explains. “In this specific situation she is only after me because of the beginning of the success of my music career. So in essence, I am rejecting her and i just want her to be there to enjoy the music and my company but not ready to start another relationship” he elaborates on the song.
SWAZiKiD is a solid and well put together album with unique sound and traces of pop and R&B with influences of other genre. In this album, Apple Gule worked with talented producers like the certified go-to hit-maker Tweezy,JC, Luka, Unami Kombanie and Sibusiso Mndawe. He also shared that he has had a hand in writing for the likes of Dr Duda of Micasa, Cuebur (SoulCandi), Da Capo, Darque, John Carol, Just Native, Mickey M and many more producers and artists. “I was literally in the right place at the right time and they just believed in me, so I had to prove something to them” explaining how these collaborations came about. Gule has a short track record across stations as his first single I Want To peaked at number 1 on the emerging SA Chart on YFM and Metro FM. He continued with that record as his singles Fan Girl, In Your Life and Wave G’Bye receiving massive airplay and enjoying successful chart action on 5fm and Yfm. There is nothing that is going to stop him from becoming a household name. His tenacity and drive along wIth his talent makes him unique.
Listen Sink O’ Swim, the latest single by Apple Gule.