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Interview: Master KG Talks 'Jerusalema' and Taking Bolobedu House to the World
Prolific South African artist Master KG talks about the international success of 'Jerusalema' , his next music project and hints at an epic collaboration with a certain music heavyweight.
If you haven't heard about South African musician and DJ Master KG then you have definitely been living under a gigantic rock for the past few months. With the international success of his 2019 release "Jerusalema" featuring Nomcebo Zikode, whether you're in America or Europe, New Zealand or Africa, Master KG is an artist on everyone's playlists––and for good reason.
The 24-year-old Limpopo-born artist is behind the viral #JerusalemaDanceChallenge that has seen fans across the world participating not only for social media but even as "team building" exercises at their various workplaces. Admittedly, as the world continues to figure out what life alongside the COVID-19 pandemic looks like, Master KG's music has provided a much-needed moment of reprieve for so many people other than just South Africans.
Aside from "Jerusalema" however, Master KG has a number of hits within his extensive discography in the uniquely South African bolobedu house genre, a "mixture of Afro house instrumentals and bolobedu melodies usually sung with high-pitched autotune (a staple in the subgenre)". Tracks like "Skeleton Move", "Waya Waya" and "Di Boya Limpopo" have become almost anthemic for South Africans particularly during the festive season. For this, Master KG has received and been nominated for several awards including the MTV Europe Music Award for Best African Act and Best Male Southern Africa at the African Muzik Magazine Awards (Afrimma). And while he was surprisingly snubbed at this year's South African Music Awards (SAMAs), it's quite evident that that was a huge mistake on their part and one they won't be making again.
We caught up with Master KG to talk about the international sensation that "Jerusalema" has become, some of the other major projects he's working on, repping hard for Limpopo and how he's hoping to take bolobedu house to the rest of the world.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How have you been navigating the world of music during a global pandemic?
To be honest, most of the cool stuff that happens is not planned. It's just organic word-of-mouth from people all over the world. What pushes Master KG is that I just try to work as hard as I can, put all the music out there––good music. And, one thing is for sure, people always find a way to make something better in music. The dance challenge, and everything shows just that.
Are you taken aback or surprised by how big a sensation "Jerusalema" has become across the world?
Yeah. To be honest, everything that happened globally with "Jerusalema" is something that I never expected. It's all a surprise. Even on all of these big platforms. I never even thought I would actually get there. I need to be honest. Your mind is around a South African focus. That's where you're looking up to, that's where you know that your music will always win and people will also relate with it, because they understand what you're singing about, as well as the language.
A lot of people have said that it was the rest of the world that made the track into the success that it is now, and that South Africans were "late for that train". Do you agree with that?
To be honest, The song dropped last year around late November and I remember it was number one. On radio it was number one, and also on iTunes for the entire month of December. Here in South Africa, we always have the songs of the festive season and the song that always takes us to the following year. "Jerusalema" was that song for South Africa. Each and every corner, the song was pumping so hard. I don't really think my people were late. I just feel that, until the song came back with the dance challenge, that's something that is like an international wave now. That's the only difference but other than that, the song always started here at home.
Master KG - Jerusalema [Feat. Nomcebo] (Official Music Video)www.youtube.com
Your particular genre is bolobedu house. Do you feel that it's going to become the next international export, in the same way that amapiano or Afrobeats from Nigeria has?
Oh, definitely. It's bolobedu house music whereby it's just a mixture of electro house music, normal house music and deep house. Those are the elements that I'm using. I'm taking from different types of music,but putting it together and making a genre of my own, which is bolobedu house music. At the end of the day, the tempo of the music is the same as house music, though. It's just starting off and then making it different. For example, Afrobeats is categorised in different ways. There's Afropop and Afrofusion and when you listen to it, you can just hear, this is Afrobeats. That's the same as Master KG. It's house music, but it's categorised as bolobedu.
What are some of the artists that have inspired you to pursue your particular genre?
Definitely the late Bojo Mujo. He was a house music producer and a singer. That's someone who inspires Master KG full-time. He was also doing the same genre. That's someone who I learned a lot from, and I'm just trying to get that feeling from everything I've learned from him and put it together.
We've had the Jerusalema dance challenge. The song has been dominating the charts and it's number one in a number of countries. Have you been able to capitalise monetarily from what "Jerusalema" has become?
Yeah, definitely. I wish, if there was no pandemic, that we'd be talking a different story right now. But here, there are a lot of opportunities that "Jerusalema" is providing on a daily basis. And not only on the income side. There are different artists that I actually look up to that are giving me a call to do one-on-ones with me. People that I look up to, big artists, and so forth. There's certain companies that want to collaborate with me. Others have already started doing something as well. There are just a lot of things happening.
Master KG - Jerusalema Remix [Feat. Burna Boy and Nomcebo] (Official Music Video)www.youtube.com
What are you currently working on, music-wise?
It's actually a deluxe version of the Jerusalemaalbum. That's what I'm working on right now. It's an addition of just a few songs, just to help push that album feven further. I won't put too many additional artists on the deluxe, though, maybe just one artist. Most of the songs that I'm busy working on with this other big artist, those are building up to my next album that is going to drop next year. It's to show my appreciation to the people that are supporting this project by just giving back to them with new music. Some of the songs I've just featured my brothers and sisters from around here in South Africa. There may be one or two surprises from big artists around the world.
I want to talk a little about social media. Ntsiki Mazwai took a shot at you and alluded to Nomcebo Zikode having been "erased" from the song. Did you feel that her comment was unfair?
No, I don't feel it's unfair. People are always free to speak their mind, but certain things need to be addressed in the right way. You can't just write something,whereby it's favouring the other side when you don't even know what's going on in the first place. Sometimes it's better to know the facts first before you speak because some people just want attention. But anyway, for me, it didn't even matter much. I was just surprised. I did want to say that there are a lot of songs that are on the streets and I wish the same way she addressed it, she would also do it with other songs.
You're from Limpopo just like Sho Madjozi, Makhadzi and others. Do you feel like you are really representing Limpopo, especially seeing as it's often undermined?
I'm so proud of my own province, Limpopo. I might say, it's one of those provinces that are not looked at in the same way that other provinces are looked at. People might even say it's undermined in a way. What the province is bringing out is something special though. I'm so proud of my brothers and sisters coming from that side, representing. For example, as you said, Sho Madjozi. She has done so well internationally. Then the Ndlovu Youth Choir went to America's Got Talent. Each and every year, we see artists from that side coming up with these songs that always get the world together which is a huge thing. Not only in Limpopo, but South Africa as a whole. But, I'm from Limpopo so I'm just proud of my province, and what we have achieved. Most of the time, we do it through our own culture. The music's been part of our culture and what we're all about.
Now that there's been an easing, in terms of the restrictions of lockdown, can your fans expect any live performances from you in the immediate future?
Yeah. Already you'll see me going up and down and just having fun with fans. I was already planning to do a Master KG show, but then with the pandemic this year, I didn't want to risk things or break the rules. I am planning big though. Definitely, next year life will be better. But right now, we're just traveling around Africa, and mostly in South Africa. This week, I'm going to Malawi, and next week I'm going to Namibia, then Zambia, Burkina Faso, Tanzania and others. I'm just giving back to the people, in terms of the music. They supported this project with their hearts.
What have you set your sights on, in terms of next year?
Definitely a big tour next year around Europe and all over the world including here at home. Definitely dropping an album. It's been a year or two now. So, probably putting out something new from scratch. I also just want to collaborate with other artists from all over the world and try to grow the Master KG brand to bigger heights.
Listen to Master KG's Jerusalema album on Apple Music:
Listen to Master KG's Jerusalema album onSpotify:
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