I can never stress enough the importance of creating musical works that are relevant to your community and region. The concept of âthink local, act globalâ not only applies to business but to an artistâs music and personal branding too. Unfortunately in South Africa there seems to be a proliferation of new artists that âthink global and pretend to act global.â They live in the sky and create music that is obviously designed to appeal to a New Yorker or an ATLien (a resident of Atlanta, term coined by Outkast,) and then wonder why their music fails to attract a South African audience. Thatâs because they fail to CONNECT and make music that is relevant to their immediate community.
The market sees this type of artist as a âwannabeâ and an impersonator that is too busy trying to mimic their favourite âAmerican artistâ. The market does not relate to their stories, energies and packaging; even their slang usage is more âEbonicsâ than Tsotsi Taal.
I had the opportunity of working with both Skwatta Kamp and Pro Kid early in their careers. The one thing I learned from both these acts was the importance of representing your true self. Through their music and presentation, both these acts were representing elements of the South African kid growing up in the townships. Pro KidâsÂ âUngaphelâ Umoya SonâÂ is a great example of a record that connects to the South African audience. On the record, his message of inspiration is specifically designed for a township kid going through hardships and its references are also things we can relate to; things we have seen, experienced and lived.
ThebeâsÂ âBula BootâÂ is another great example. Black South Africans have their own way of partying that is unique to us and this record captures that uniqueness to perfection. I can completely relate to it, and I know the majority of Black South Africa can too. Now thereâs nothing wrong with making records aboutÂ âpoppinâ bottlesâÂ and that sort of thing, however, you have to be mindful of the fact that most peopleâs reaction to your record will most likely beÂ âA se mo States moâ (translationâ: this is not the States).Â Fans donât want imported concepts and ideas from their South African artists; they want music they can feel and relate to.
Remember the formula? CwF (Connect with Fans) + RTB (Reason To Buy) = Success.
If you connect with fans, they will want to hear more of your music. In turn, radio stations will increase your rotation, so will music TV channels/programs.Â Promoters will want you at their shows. Brands will want to use you for endorsements and sync your music in their ad campaigns. Thatâs how you WIN!!!
We all know Kwaitoâs success story. Look at the core of what made the South African youth fall in love with the genre and you will realize that it went beyond the beat and the chants. There was a strong emotional connection; it was our own thing, it gave you a different feeling. I can say the same thing with the early 2000s Hip Hop scene, from Skwatta Kamp and Pro Kid to Hidden Force, H2O, Morafe, Tuks and others.
That was the only time South African Hip Hop artists regularly sold albums in large volumes. Skwatta KampâsÂ âMkhukhu FunkshenâÂ went platinum and so did Pitch Black AfroâsÂ âStyling Gelâ, Pro KidâsÂ âHeads & TalesâÂ shipped 15,000 units, and so onâŠ Pro Kid was part of a Smirnoff campaign for their âStormâ brand; he was also the face of the MTNâs campaign for the SAMA Awards. Skwatta was doing big things breaking down doors and putting SA Hip Hop on a whole different level. Right now Teargas, Mi Casa, Big Nuz, DJ Cleo and others are running the game and dominating charts, sales, awards, gigs and etc. They all make music that connects.
Next time you hit that booth, think about whom you are making music for. Â As the late Dr Mageu would say,Â âA se mo States Mo!!!â
#FWYH,Â LOCAL IS LEKKER!
Hit me up:
Till the next one.