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.
Ohpis is more than just a DJ. You cannot afford to limit him to one field of creativity, speak of him as a one-dimensional creative and box in him as a creative. He’s more than that, he’s a trail-blazer of note and a symbol of hope for the creative community in eSwatini. A forward-thinking creative, with great visions and plans for Africa and its people. His tools? The arts. With the arts as his main tool of ushering change and shifting perspectives and culture, he is hell-bent on building a legacy that will be remembered forever in Southern Africa and the world.
eSwatini’s creative revolution is led by people like Ohpis, who want to show the world that Africa is where true innovation lives. Call him an entrepreneur, a visionary and a pioneer, but don’t ever limit him to one sphere of business or creativity – his capabilities far exceed any convention. We got the opportunity to speak with the talented creative about his life, inspirations, influences and business features. Peep the interview below.
First things ﬁrst, we’d like to thank you for your time. It’s an honor to have you on our platform as a longtime friend and frequent collaborator. We know quite a bit about you, but some of our supporters may not know who you are. Please introduce yourself.
Thank you for having me, I am truly honored to be featured on “Nusoulove”. I am Ohpis, a Swazi based DJ/music curator that got his start in the city of Chicago, USA. I’m a part of this really cool collective from eSwatini that spans the world, MotherLand X.
You’re from eSwatini (formerly known as Swaziland), a country small in size but a huge role player in advancing creativity in Southern Africa. From literature, music, clothing and fashion, eSwatini is respected and celebrated for its creativity. Tell us about your upbringing and how it continually inﬂuences you as a DJ?
Growing up in eSwatini as a kid I was all about doing exceptionally well in my academics (of which I was for the most part). Before jetting off to college, man was dead set on going into the world of financial accounting (BREH!) and leading a life I thought would be best for me. To be very honest it was only after leaving the country did I realize what I wanted and dreamed of doing with my life. The main reason behind this discrepancy is because in Swaziland, as a kid you’re only expected to go into “safe” career fields such as being a doctor, or a lawyer, or the financial world in my case. You already know the spiel. Kids who entertain the “crazy” idea of going into a creative field as a career choice are discouraged by their parents and society. So a good part of my youth in school was me doing good by those expectations. During college, I was miles away from these “pressures” and could actually dedicate some of my time towards music.
Long story short, in 2015 my mates and I decided that we needed to put in a decent effort into our “creative” sides, whilst collectively building this baby of ours we call MotherLand X. With the parents we have, we have really had to put in a good enough amount to show them how much this all means to us, and why it is so important that we continue doing so. As a DJ, I try to bring in music the crowd might not be quite familiar with but still not lose them; so I guess this goes in hand with my life long yearning to do different and not just blend in and play what all the other DJs are playing or expected to play. So far it’s been working out fine.
Electronic music is an undeniable force in Southern Africa and a lot of acts in the region are breaking into the international space and succeeding. As much as that sounds amazing, the industry knows that there is still a lot groundwork required to build a solid industry where artists can eat. What’s your take on the landscape of electronic music industry in Southern Africa and what role do you play in it?
I am huge fan of the genre and culture. I was really immersed into the scene during my time in the US, from attending those larger-than-life festivals, to following my favorite DJs/producers every move in the game.
Returning home to a sea of so much talent in electronic music made me feel excited, not only for my return to a vibrant scene, but how I would try to get involved with every single one of them, whether it was through creative collaboration, or even if it were just a friendly “dap”. The landscape of electronic music in Southern Africa is strong and is in safe hands, basing it off of the few incredible producers I know well enough or have spent time following.
In Botswana as far as future bass electronic music is concerned, you guys beat me to it and rightly hailed Flex Tha Ninja as a hidden gem in Gaborone; again, I couldn’t agree anymore. Amobeatz, is another dope future beat producer to really look out for from that region as well. In South Africa’s Johannesburg, KaeB to me is unmatched in his production prowess (yes!). eThekwini, there’s Muzi and he’s really got something revolutionary going on with his sound; I am huge fan of his “Muzi Monday” remixes and DJ edits. [eSwatini] Vuma, as my MLX compadre and one of my longest friendships, it’s been incredible witnessing the man’s progression in creating his own unique soundscapes within the electronic music scene. A close mutual friend of ours once described his music as sounding like “hope”. Rendition, my other MLX compadre, blends hip hop, electronic dance, and soul to create his own unique soundscapes. From record producer, to sound designer, to ad/film scorer and now recording artist, what I find most inspiring about man is his unwavering ability to just create. Devin Dee and Wordsmith Felix I like to refer to as the kids; are not afraid to experiment with production and this is primarily why I regard them so highly in the burgeoning Southern African beat scene. !Sooks has his own unique soundscape that balances Tech, Afro Deep and Deep House, all the while making you wonder how he did that. Tendaness’ singles JIKA and Love Me alone are two incredible examples of his work, that combine electronic dance elements with a texture reminiscent of eSwatini’s urban vibe. He’s not only playing an important role in reinforcing the quality of music coming out of the country, but also how the outside world perceives it. This is by no means a complete list of who to look out for! But do yourselves all a favor and spend some of your time scoring their Soundcloud pages, to get a good head start!
My role would be to shed as much light as I possibly can on these guys and their dope music. And also help in sharing their music to the rest of the world because of how good I feel some of it is.
You’ve lived in the US for a few years, which must have been a life-changing experience that broadened your horizon. Tell us about your time spent in the States and how it ultimately inﬂuenced your taste in music and your DJing?
Studying and living in the US really opened me up to some amazing people, cultures and experiences. It was the life changing experience that gave me enough insight and curiosity to at least give DJing and a purpose in music a try, I kid you not.
First two years in college, I would always be the guy picking what music would be played at our little dorm-room parties with my host of international friends. Third year in college, I started playing relatively bigger crowds, so that would be fraternity/sorority formal after parties; playing at the local bars (shout out to the Wooden Nickel and Gabe’s bar). First time playing a club in Chicago was in the spring of 2015 and that single moment was important in propelling me into doing more gigs publicly.
In between all of this and college, a group of my closest buddies we called “the fam” would try to attend these larger-than-life electronic dance music festivals with what little money we had saved up. I remember my first big concert experience was the DJ Carnage tour stop in Chicago. It was at this show I fell in love with how big and remarkable the production of it all was. It was an audio-visual experience on steroids. I was hooked. Festival tickets were always more than what your average college student could handle, but you definitely got your money’s worth after it all. And so whenever a DJ/producer we really liked came to the city, we would make it a mission to get “the fam” there. More so, it made me think about how there were little to no shows back home remotely close to that level (thank God for Bushfire man).
That strong initial support system I had, coupled with playing at a couple Chicago clubs AND my festival experiences really influenced how (and what) I play today.
MotherLand X is also one of your babies, a label you co-founded with some of your closest friends. Why did you see the need of building your own label and what keeps your team uniﬁed under one banner or mission?
At the time we were all in our college years, thinking about how cool things (such as creative opportunities, festivals, and general support for the arts) were States’ side, and how far things back home still were relatively speaking. More specifically, for the beat maker/music producer in eSwatini it can be really hard to grow and progress in the scene, let alone stay afloat in life. So first and foremost we felt like there had to be a change in how the producer was placed in importance. We came together in aims of first looking out for one another then spreading that gospel to whomever vibes and generally understands what we are about. Starting out we wanted to curate our own shows to also put producers on, but that has had to take a chill pill for the time being. What keeps us going is the support we have for one another, within and outside of the camp. MLX has now grown in its reach around the continent, and we couldn’t be any more happy and proud with our baby.
As a DJ, you’re introducing people to new sounds in eSwatini and you’re also slowly breaking into South Africa. How do crowds respond to what you play?
Man, the crowd reception at gigs is what also really keeps me moving with digging and sharing new sounds. I’ll be honest, sometimes I am met by a crowd that might not vibe with some of the new sounds I try to share, which is cool, and it is a part of the learning and understanding process. However, when a crowd understands and responds to the music and vibes I’m sharing, that to me is some of the most fulfilling experiences in this journey. So I could say it depends on the type of event and the type of crowd it attracts. I recall playing a KOP x HABITAT warehouse-type block party in Maboneng for all the cool eccentric kids out there, and it was probably one of my personal favs as far as crowd reception is concerned. A lot of the kids there listen to a lot of different music because they were vibing throughout my set. On the flip side, some of my least receptive crowds have been at lowkey bar type venues here in little eSwatini. The crowds there just want their house, GQOM and/or deep house through and through. A couple of the times I’ve been booked to play there, it’s been tricky to say the least lol. But hey, guess it’s my job to sway them into trying out other stuff, because there’s so much music out there.
Who are some of your inﬂuences in the DJ world?
DJ Doowap for her colorful, eclectic vibe and her energy filled sets. Joe Kay for his groove and track selection powers. Zeds Dead for their out of this world production and live performances. RL Grime and Lunice for their pivotal influences in the trap EDM subgenre. DJ Lag for pioneering GQOM to the world. Diplo for his role in pushing so many vibes in his career, and how that also opened so many doors for other talented DJs/producers in the game. Skrillex for his ability to collaborate with so many other artists both in and outside of EDM. OkZharp for his sound and how futuristic it still sounds to this day. Flat White because Flat White. There are a lot of DJs and producers around the world I draw inspiration from.
You recently played at one of the biggest music and culture festivals in Africa – the MTN Bushﬁre Festival. How does that make you feel? It’s no small feat and is something that you’ll surely remember forever.
It makes me feel like I am doing what I should be doing with my life, which makes me feel really good. Playing at Bush was the highlight of my career so far and that has shown me I can do more. It really makes me feel like I have what I like to call Super Powers!
What do you think of the African festival culture? Now that you have performed at one of the biggest festivals in Africa, what more do you want to see in festivals in the continent?
I think it is amazing that we can even talk about an African festival culture. There is a quite a lot of diverse options to choose from (granted you can afford to attend), a lot I am still to learn about. Southern Africa alone has quite the vibrant festival scene, from Bushfire and Hipnotik festivals in eSwatini, to Ultra Music Festival in both Johannesburg and Cape Town, to the Azgo Festival in Mozambique to Rocking the Daisies again in SA. Not to forget Oppikoppi! It is pretty cool that there are festivals in our own backyards, festivals that are not only comparable to ones abroad, but also offer more in the way of a vibe we as Africans can relate to. I personally find that incredible, and proud to actually be able to invite my international homies to festivals this side. My very close friend and longtime manager Meaghan Burns came down from Chicago for the Bushfire Festival and to say she was impressed is an understatement. I would like to send a huge shout out to the brilliant minds, creatives and corporations behind these big music and arts festivals in the Motherland.
I can’t really say what more I would want to see in festivals in the continent as a consumer. However, as an artist, I would like to see more efforts to include more up-n-coming lesser known acts. Bushfire for example has this really cool initiative that basically does this in a nutshell; every year local artists are given the opportunity to compete for the shot to perform at Bushfire. Three of the most promising acts are given a slot at the festival which to me is incredible. That’s what I would probably want to see more in African festivals.
What more can we expect from you as the year goes?
More gigs hopefully outside of eSwatini, more dope progressive content from the team, more music to share with you all and definitely doing a lot more of what I love.
In closing, where can people ﬁnd and support you online?
On the socials mainly,
Facebook – @ohpis.mlx
Twitter – @ohpis.mlx
Instagram – @ohpis_mlx
SoundCloud – @ohpis
Mixcloud – @ohpis
Thank you so much guys, genuinely love what you guys do and what you stand for. Thank you so much for the feature.
Maboneng-based producer/rapper, trust B1, partners up with Teddy, an up and coming rapper from Alberton, to release a short EP called Theory of: Savage Youth. The two musicians form part of a bigger, Joburg-based creative collective, called Dipopaai and this release serves as a reminder that you cannot afford to sleep on them. The EP features producer-rapper duo, XMPL, on a song called THAT which is a stand-out track from the EP. Love rap music presented in a unique way? This tape is for you.
MotherLand X Presents: Hennessy by Tshego (The Remixes)
MotherLand X is back with yet another remix pack. This time around they challenge six up and coming producers from Southern Africa to remix Hennessy, a smash hit by South African artist – Tshego. This remix pack is an easy listen, perfect to soundtrack your friendly get togethers with friends. A mixture of joints you can party to and ones you can chill to. Dope project. Check it out!
bENNY wOODS Feat. Vitu & Serenity Karima – Play My Way
Hungary-based artist, bENNY wOODS, links up with our very own Cape Town-based MC, Vitu, and US-based songstress, Serenity Karima, to deliver a funky tune. Play My Way is testament of the internet’s power of connecting creatives from different parts of the world. The song offers difference in an industry flooded with similar-sounding songs. You can play this song in any situation, and you’ll surely catch a vibe.
LEO Feat. Flowahh – ENOUGH
Pretoria-based artist, LEO, is slowly creeping up on our radar. With a unique style and sound, he is building a buzz that will set him in up in the industry. He comes through with a beautiful sensual tune titled ‘ENOUGH’ featuring a flowahh, who lays incredibly beautiful vocals on the track. This track is dope. Peep it!
2017 was the year of the remix, with Motherland X releasing a slew of stellar remix packs. From the Venda Pop Star himself Una Rams, to the Mzansi Mnandi pioneering duo XMPL, the goal was to collaborate with local talent and work on amazing songs that transcended the pop culture wave.
2018 isn’t going to be any different. The crew at Motherland X is back again with another remix pack to kick off the year, this time collaborating with South African singer/songwriter SOLR, for her debut single “Fall.”
Each bringing their own vibes, the guys deliver a variety of styles from Slotta’s laid back melodic trap banger, to Martin’s Afro House infused rendition. Devin Dee delivers an experimental composition filled with intriguing melodies and a hard hitting sub 808, with Vuma closing out the pack with an amazing blend of future bass and smooth R&B notes.
The production on this remix pack is world-class and impactful, with a clear artistic and creative direction. The MotherLand X team was able to curate an experience as the remix pack carries a consistent and well thought-out theme. In its core, the remix pack is electronic with ambient textures borrowed from various, prominent modern genres. The production manages to highlight SOLR’s vocal prowess and thrusts her before the ears of the listener, which is great because her vocal range shines through beautifully.
It is always wonderful when the African diaspora connects, be it within art, business or politics. Pushing in unity, with the understanding of where Africa is and the work that is required to lift the continent up to its much deserved glory, is necessary. Africa is rich in potential and so much to offer to the world, and Africans are not waiting, they’re not complacent waiting for a savior from the West or East. It is almost of as if the ancestors of Africans, who suffered painfully under 400 years of brutal oppression and colonialism, are blessing the current generation of Africans and gifting them with tools to bring innovation to the world.
Take African millennials as an example, smart, connected, filled with purpose and oddly enough very distracted. Besides of all that, African millennials are driven and they know what they want, and that with that being said they seek to live out their lives in a way that is not limited to any boundary. They run to the internet to share moments. They run to the internet to speak their minds. They run to the internet to build. And lastly, they run to the internet to connect with other like-minded people and through these connections – history is made.
To make history, effort is required. Something beautiful happened recently when HF, a Ghanaian artist, connected with the good people from MotherLand X. After hearing Rendition’s Becoming EP, HF was prompted to make contact with the MLX camp. Talks of a collab project began and the men kept their heads down proceeded to plot and work. The project was to be named HFX. Now take a moment to take this in: a creative connection involving Ghana and Swaziland. Countries were not the only thing that was connecting in this situation, genres were also being fused. The fusion of Hip Hop and electronica is not new, but it is something that is not particularly popular in Africa, so what HF and MotherLand X is borderline groundbreaking. Experimentation is prioritised as HF showcases his artistry with him staying true to the traditional way of doing Hip Hop as an MC – lyricism coupled with storytelling and conceptual themes.
HF takes ownership of the vibes created by Rendition as he eloquently cruises over the beats produced by Swaziland’s best kept secret. It’s as if HF was instructed by a higher power to spread his message far beyond Ghana, inspire African kids to self-starters and he did all of this by using the internet. To some, this project may be seen as another project that will live on the internet, but to the people that were involved in the making of this project – boundaries where pushed. The people that this project will reach will be surprised and delighted, as what HF and Motherland X attempted with this project is new and genre-bending. All in all, the project is a great effort and vital stepping stone in connecting African creatives, a move that is part of MotherLand X’s plan. We needed this project. We needed to see how limits were going to be tested and pushed. We needed Swaziland to connect with Ghana and we needed this to happen towards the end of 2017, so we could set ourselves up for what’s to come in 2018.
After a very successful remix challenge, MotherLand X has showcased sheer determination as they release yet another impressive body of work. Featuring some of their more prominent artists, the new EP titled PPP has world-class production and packed with different musical styles. The EP is only three tracks deep, with tracks from Rendition, Vuma and Devin Dee, serves as a dope release to draw the attention of electronic music fans.
Following the successful remix challenge and campaign built and hosted by MotherLand X, where KaeB was the creative director and Vuma (one of the co-founders of MotherLand X) was the lead project manager, comes a new collaboration from the two creative geniuses.
The two producers use the power of technology to make their collaborations happen, as Vuma is currently based in the United States and KaeB is based in South Africa. Pure determination and passion is what is displayed with the work created by Vuma and KaeB. Their collaborative efforts bring us a vibe-filled jam called , 0 0 0 0 , as we head straight into the weekend.
Devin Dee is a 19 year old producer/beat-maker from Swaziland, Mbabane. He became involved in the music scene in 2010 when he and his best friend (Wordsmith Felix) discovered Fruity Loops. He was an independent musician until mid-2014, with his craft and skill improved, he was recognised by a collective, MotherLand X on Soundcloud. That was the initial phase where his music career blasted off to space and his musical experimentations came to be. He released an EP last year on Soundcloud called Basement Experiments and it has received positive reviews since its release.
Wordsmith Felixis an 18 year old artist, record producer, songwriter, artist and composer currently signed under Swazi Jive Entertainment. He became a producer solely because he got tired of downloading instrumentals online to rap on. Therefore in 2009, he and his best friend to date, Devin Dee, got a hold of a copy of the DAW FL Studio 7, then known as Fruity Loops. He worked on it for years while trying to balance school and other priorities that his parents had set for him.
In a period of 7 years, Felix learnt and mastered the artistic craft of beat making and now feels confident about his work. To this day, he has been proclaimed as one of the best producers in Swaziland by various talented acts, namely 80Script, Supa CDQ, Oriiginelle etc. Now he has worked on a few records with the likes Una Rams‘ Nobody (Wordsmith Felix Remix), Tshego‘s Garden Remix and a plethora of other songs that can be found on his SoundCloud page. With him being one of the youngest producers and/or artists in the Swazi entertainment industry, he feels he has much more to prove than any other artist. Music is his day job and not a hobby.
As small as Swaziland may be, the country is rich with musical talent especially in the electronic and House genres. The people, like South Africans, gravitate to dance music more than anything as people of Southern Africa generally love to groove and vibe. The people are jolly and demanded to be entertained and with that being said, a call-to-action is sent out to all the local creatives to provide entertainment. This where artists like Slotta come in.
Slotta started his journey in music as a vocalist and learned and perfected his trade at Subjamz studios, where he observed more established artists display their expertise. In 2011, while doing his second year in the Vaal region of the Gauteng province of South Africa, he bought a laptop and installed fruity-loops and started of making Hip Hop beats as that was the dominant genre in that region.
As much as he loved Hip Hop, Deep House was slowly drawing him in and he fell in love with the genre. This was also around a time where he had an urge to broaden his musical horizons as he tested his skills by challenging himself to produce other genres. In 2012 Slotta, had already grown more confident and he decided to send his music to a prominent South African House label, Soul Candi, which did not prove to be successful as the record label was not looking for the type of sound Slotta was making. But this did not deter him from pursuing his dreams.
Listen to the original track by XMPL:
After grinding and hustling, displaying sheer passion, something finally came up. He produced an EP that was released through Deeper Shades of House and ended up forming a genuine relationship with Lars Behrenroth. He further made more music for Deeper Shades of House and cemented his name in the House music scene. With this momentum and the achievements he has received, more opportunities came about as he was picked up by MotherLand X, where took part of the remix challenges that the record label hosts. Slotta also won the inaugural Beat Scramble competition hosted by MotherLand X.