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15.05.2017

The Mixtape Vol. 108

Mashayabhuqe on digital maskandi, saying sorry, famous friends and his new video KwaDukuza

Mashayabhuqe KaMamba has been featured everywhere from Fader to The Guardian and cites inspirations as diverse as Bon Iver, Busi Mhlongo, James Blake, Kanye West and Madala Kunene.

Having burst onto the scene with his debut album, The Black Excellence Show, Mashayabhuqe invented a new genre – digital maskandi – which married traditional Zulu folk music and warm Shembe harmonies with trap basslines and autotune.

Since then, Mashayabhuqe’s collaborated with everyone from Aewon Wolf to Thandiswa Mazwai; opened for Young Fathers; and played Afropunk Paris, alongside the likes of Angel Haze, Michael Kiwanuka, Morcheeba, Petite Noire and Saul Williams.

KwaDukuza is the digital maskandi pioneer’s third music video, but the first he didn’t direct himself. The collaboration came out of Mashayabhuqe and Lebogang Rasethaba’s appearance as influencers in Standard Bank’s Make One Day #Today campaign where Lebogang surprised Mashayabhuqe by committing to make a music video for him, as part of an apology for not being a great friend at a time when the director was struggling with work-life balance while launching his career.

Watch the video, listen to the Mashayabhuqe exclusive mix he made for The Way of Us and read our interview with the artist after the jump.

What's your sound story?

Digital Maskandi is deeply rooted in Mzansi. We are bridging the gap between the 80s and the millennium kids, bringing a cultural and spiritual perspective to the alternative scene here.

Digital Maskandi is a blend of Zulu traditional folk music (Maskandi) with heavy 808s, bass-synth and vocals with autotune. This is a reflection of what used to be our pride as a nation, pride as a tribe, or at least I'd like to think so.

We exist in this modern world where everything has been watered down and marginalized, classified, so the sound has helped us to view our surroundings and background differently and inspired a lot of South Africans to channel their energies into this space where being yourself is the "first option" on the menu or a priority.

Are you a man alone or do you have peers in this genre?

I'm a man but the "alone" part kills me. I'd like to believe there's more of us in South Africa right now; this style is for the nation and I hope we are all fighting to take it to the world. At least that's what I'm doing. I love everyone who makes Digital Maskandi.

What do you want Digital Maskandi to achieve?

To become the harbour of South African alternative music. Which means: more soldiers, Soulmaskandians, Trapmaskandians and Digital Kids who are not necessarily brought up in the same settings as Zulus but have their own values and experiences they are ready to share with the world through music, whether they use English or Pedi or Venda or are fans of South African music.

Tell us about 'KwaDukuza' and how it was director Lebogang Rasethaba's way of apologising to you.

'KwaDukuza' was designed to highlight the harsh conditions and violence in our beautiful taxi industry in Mzansi.I 'm talking to the South Africans; the issue isn't just about my town Stanger (KwaDukuza) but the entire nation. I am not saying stop living your life, don't smoke or wear mini-skirts or get tattoos, you should still live, but remember there is fire in the mountains. It was recorded early in 2015 and we parked it for a while. It's a real life thing: everyday struggles in the taxi business. The aim is to rebuild our image of public transportation in Mzansi. Not everyone who's in the business is angry, violent and always wanting you to stop using your "Sandton, Manzimtoti" English. I myself have ambitions to venture into this business.

Lebo's my dude. He's been involved in so many campaigns involving some of my friends, peers and other corporate stuff. He's been supportive and introduced me to Spoek Mathambo in 2014. Lebo promised to shoot my 'Shandarabaa' music video and he was excited about this; then we waited and and and and and and waited for Lebogang... There were meetings and more meetings but nothing happened. I was starting to distance myself because I was confused as to what to do? But that wasn't the case. I've learned one thing in Joburg: it's not always about what you want. Sometimes the timing can work in your favour. Or not. So fast-track to 2017: We're both involved in the Standard Bank Make One Day Today campaign and for weird vibes him and I were paired, since that was the campaign’s angle, pairing "influencers". That's when he just went off and waxed lyrical about the love for the movement and his pledge was to amend our friendship and shoot the video. I told him what I had in mind and within 48-hours he had already prepared a brief and sent it to me and my team. 

What's the most elaborate apology you've ever made?

I think it was in my teen-days. I had to wake up early, like 4am, to go look for cattle because I couldn't find them the night before, as a way to show my Grandfather that I was sorry.

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