I can never stress enough the importance of creating musical works that are relevant to your community and region. The concept of ‘think local, act global’ not only applies to business but to an artist’s music and personal branding too. Unfortunately in South Africa there seems to be a proliferation of new artists that ‘think global and pretend to act global.’ 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. That’s because they fail to CONNECT and make music that is relevant to their immediate community.
The market sees this type of artist as a ‘wannabe’ and an impersonator that is too busy trying to mimic their favourite ‘American artist’. The market does not relate to their stories, energies and packaging; even their slang usage is more ‘Ebonics’ 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 Kid’s “Ungaphel’ Umoya Son” 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.
Thebe’s ‘Bula Boot’ 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 there’s nothing wrong with making records about ‘poppin’ bottles’ and that sort of thing, however, you have to be mindful of the fact that most people’s reaction to your record will most likely be ‘A se mo States mo’ (translation”: this is not the States). Fans don’t 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. Promoters will want you at their shows. Brands will want to use you for endorsements and sync your music in their ad campaigns. That’s how you WIN!!!
We all know Kwaito’s 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 Kamp’s ‘Mkhukhu Funkshen’ went platinum and so did Pitch Black Afro’s ‘Styling Gel’, Pro Kid’s ‘Heads & Tales’ shipped 15,000 units, and so on… Pro Kid was part of a Smirnoff campaign for their ‘Storm’ brand; he was also the face of the MTN’s 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. As the late Dr Mageu would say, “A se mo States Mo!!!”
#FWYH, LOCAL IS LEKKER!
Hit me up:
Till the next one.