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.
Venda-born and Pretoria-based artist, Una Rams, finally releases his long-awaited Wavy Baby EP. A six track follow-up to his 2015 release Pink Moon EP – a project that catapulted him into the South African music industry. The new EP features C-Tea, Seyi Shay, Misa Narrates and Thabsie.
In country as diverse and culturally rich as South Africa, representation and visibility matters. Una Rams, a young, creative and proudly Venda musician from South Africa understands this very well. Armed with that understanding coupled with determination and passion, Una Rams navigates the South African entertainment industry confidently as an outlier. Some, mostly industry insider and critics, can even go as far viewing him as an anomaly, but not just an anomaly – one that we never knew we needed in the entertainment space in South Africa.
When Una Rams first broke out in late 2015, the music landscape and state of creativity in the country was mundane and uninspiring. A teenager nearing his 20s at the time, Una Rams was full of promise and potential, with world underneath his feat he vowed to release music that would make people uncomfortable. The South African listener had to be stretched, the listener had to be challenged as the style and content of the music he was making was different and something unheard of at the time. Una Rams was daring and this was seen in how he married how he looked with how he chose to communicate his emotions through the music. At the time, his look could easily ruffle the feathers of cis men with fragile masculinity and that, in all honesty, was glorious and so necessary. It is clear that Una Rams was ready for a brave, new and changing world and not only that, he was hell-bent on showing us what was possible in this new world: in expression, style and creativity.
2016 came and Una Rams attracted industry recognition and praise like bees to pollen. Youth-focused media platforms that have a sizeable audience in South Africa like OkayAfrica and Zkhiphani, wrote think pieces about South Africa’s new promising talent. Mind you when all of this was happening, Una Rams was also a student. The education he received was not only limited to the lecture halls at the University of Pretoria where he read for his Bachelor of Science degree in computer science. Una Rams was being educated about the inner workings of the music industry, life and most importantly he was figuring himself out as an artist, more importantly as a young man.
Call it destiny or luck, this kid was cut out for greatness. What else could you expect from someone who has an older brother who is a force to be reckoned with in the South African pop realm. The sounds of Tondi Rams were not unfamiliar to the airwaves of big radio stations like Highveld FM, Jakaranda FM and 5 FM. The pride of Venda, breaking down boundaries in the urban entertainment space. Through the carefree nature and the creative efforts of Una Rams, Venda pop was taken to new heights. The Black Coffee co-sign and tutelage starts to make sense.
Una Rams deserves to be included in any South African cultural innovator list alongside the likes of artists like Sho Madjozi, OKMALUMKOOLKAT and Petite Noir – artists that have completely shaken up the local music industry. As much as he does not sing or rap in his mother tongue, the work he does forces us to pay attention to Venda creatives, which is good. Listening to Una Rams forces one to reflect back to a time where Percy Mukwevho stole the hearts of South Africans with his angelic, pre-teen boyish voice. Una Rams is defining a culture and teaching young creatives about the importance of representation, and he does this so effortlessly because he is living out his truth by being himself in a world that hates individuality.