In the spirit of Kasi Times’ motto of motivating, inspiring and empowering young people, Maxhoba isn’t a surprise candidate for an interview. This all-round entertainer amongst other things, sings, writes music, scripts and script translation, and also owns an entertainment company known as Hobacity.
Maxhoba started out in a group from the Eastern Cape that didn’t quite make their fame breakout a bit over ten years ago. He then went to working and touring with some of South Africa’s greats. He holds teaching and helping South African musicians grow, close to his heart. Hobacity and KBM entertainment have ventured into a production where they’re trying to bring back the live music trend by taking a live show called Back to The Music all around SA. So, after watching a spectacular show and a great performance, I wanted to know more about this guy, and here is what I found out:
Kasi Times: When was your first break into the music industry?
MaxHoba: It was in 2001 when I started working with HHP. We did the Harambe Project and that really started things out for me. It opened a lot of doors for recognition, not only among the youth but other people started taking notice. A lot of people know my stage name, Maxhoba, but don’t know my face.
KT: How do you think the market has changed from when you first entered the music scene?
MH:What I see is the focus has shifted to the money above quality delivery, from both the artists and recording companies. The record companies might have always been about making money, but I miss going to gigs and seeing other artists there to support the performers, not only when they themselves are performing. I’m very happy though about the state of the lifestyle of hip hop, but not the music. There are still a few cats like Khuli and AKA that still do good music.
KT: What word do you believe best describes your artistry and why?
MH: Let’s say I’m a “passionate” musician. I’m truly passionate about music and growing the music industry. When I was younger, the people who ran the industry were probably 10 years older than I am now, and to me that says we’re very close to being the ones that are running it. So if we don’t learn more and teach others after us, we’re going to end up where the Brenda’s and Mahlatini’s found themselves.
KT: How do you think working with some of the biggest names in SA hip hop has affected your career?
MH: I got a lot of experience from it, for instance, dealing with crowds. I was lucky to go through the ‘groupie era’ when I was still young. I can’t imagine only hitting the industry now as an old man in his 30s running after girls. I also learnt about time management and appreciation. And, because I didn’t only work with Hip Hop artists, I obtained knowledge from a different side of the industry, such as when I worked with Bra Don Laka and Ntsiki Mazwai.
KT: What, between launching your career and establishing your entertainment company, proved to be the most challenging?
MH: Well, the singing and music thing are straight up gifts from God. I didn’t have to go hustle anybody or need somebody to come and teach me how to sing; it just happened. The entertainment company is still struggling even today; firstly investors don’t come to the plate as our industry is still viewed as risky. I started the company in 2008 and now we permanently employ 8 people, so we at least created jobs.
KT: Do you believe you’ve done enough to ensure that your name is recognisable in social settings?
MH: This might kill me, but I honestly don’t work for that. I had the opportunity to brand myself as that but I prefer people saying: “I love that song I just don’t know who sings it;” as opposed to saying: “Hey, there’s that Maxhoba guy, konje what does he do?” I prefer the music to do the socialising for me so I always have myself to come back to, and leave just the music in the spotlight after an appearance.
KT: How did you get involved with “Back To the Music” and what would you like to achieve with it?
MH: I started it with Kabomo because we realised that in Joburg there aren’t a lot of performance spaces, or any visible support for soul music, be it just soul or neo or hip hop soul. We did the first show in Newtown, and although the turn out wasn’t great, we created a platform for showcasing. A lot of soul artists are rather being featured on hip hop tracks rather than doing what they want as they’re told they will struggle. So hopefully, we can change that and uncover a market for it.
KT: What will get people excited again about live music and give themselves a chance to experience what we’ve experience since “Back to The Music” started?
MH: We’re doing a national tour and have invited a few potential sponsors to our shows. What we’re trying to do is take it everywhere around SA, and even back to eKasi just to remind people that live music can still make it. I think if we got a bit more help and support from the media, it could help reviving the culture of live music – not an article from just one publication. Social media has proven to be a critical marketing component too. Now the only person that’s been embraced is Kabomo, and we’re trying to get more musicians out there.
KT: What has been the biggest influence on the effect you want to have on your audience?
MH: I got a lot of coaching from Ringo Madlingozi over the years on how to approach a crowd. I’ve always been okay with handling my crowd, but it’s just another aspect of it. I learnt that when I perform, I should act as though I’m in my room or doing it in front of my family. The songs I write also taught me a lot about myself. I write songs when I’m in a zone, and it’s influenced by a memory or a story I’ve heard.
KT: What aspect of your life brought you to where you are now?
MH: I was born in Welkom and was very fortunate to have known Oyama; that’s one of SA’s biggest imports. So I got the opportunity to be coached by the lead singer and producer, Alexis Fako. As a kid, he would take me to rehearsals and sometimes I’d take the mic and just jam when they were on a break. I never ventured into it young because of my old-fashioned parents, but I also was one of the kids who did the SABC’s remake of We Are The World.
KT: Finally, what would you say you enjoy most about being an entertainer?
MH: I enjoy being on stage. If I could get someone else to record for me, leaving me to just perform, I would. It’s live and immediate interaction, so if I do something wrong, I walk away knowing right then what I did wrong. I believe that initiatives such a SHOUT work because when you hear the song and lyrics, you want to go out there and do something too.
KT: Most of the artists or entertainers I meet say the live performance is what they look forward to in their careers, so it seems the majority of them are in it for the performance, but Maxhoba actually did something about it. Creating a space for yourself and others, to feel comfortable and explore their talents is honourable. Go out and support “Back to The Music” near you; you won’t regret a second of it. Maxhoba will also be representing South Africa in Thailand on the 25th of May. SA STAND UP!
- by Gugulethu Leeto
Follow her on Twitter: @GuSquared