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Muzi. Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

Muzi’s ‘Afrovision’ Album is the Soundtrack to "Real-Life Wakanda"

We talk to the South African producer about his latest record Afrovision, one of the best albums of the year so far.

South African artist and producer Muzi released what is one of the best albums this year. Afrovision lives up to its name—the artist blends his electronic production with sounds from various parts of the continent, including afrobeat, Afro-pop, kwaito, hip-hop, house, among others.

The album features like-minded artists such as Una Rams, OkMalumKoolKat, Seaba, Black Rose, Langa Mavuso and Tiro.

After bubbling under for a few years, and scoring production credits on albums by South African hip-hop artists such as Patty Monroe, Riky Rick and Reason, among a few others, Muzi is slowly claiming his place in South Africa's exciting music scene.

The producer is a bubbly character, and his music represents him accurately, from his dress sense to what he's trying to achieve in his journey.

We caught up with Muzi to discuss Afrovision, his influences, his thoughts on South African music, working with OkMalumKoolKat and his history as a rapper, among other things.


You used to stay in Berlin. What were you doing there?

I went to learn. I wanted to learn more about electronic music and I wanted to see the scenes, and experience it from where they say it came from.

What did you come back with?

With ideas. I needed to be back home. The people I needed to inspire, I wasn't seeing. I felt, especially towards the end of the two years, very disconnected. Like, I'm tryna do black music, but I'm surrounded by white people.

And there's this prevalent perception that artists like yourself are celebrated more abroad than here at home. What do you make of that?

I think it's because of the way the market is set up. The market here is really genre-specific. It's either you're doing hip-hop or house—gqom being under house. So there's that, but there are always people who are always trying to find that cutting edge, new shit, that maybe in SA it's not the case. Here, the market seems to be a lot safer. They are trying to find what already works, instead of breaking new grounds.


Do you think artists could be doing more to change that?

Yeah. We could be. There's no tour circuit, that's like the first. Artists in South Africa get booked, but they don't really book themselves and do a whole tour. So maybe I do one show in Cape Town, another in Pretoria, also the small cities, and then you get your following that way and build your circuit. So artists could be doing that instead of crying, if promoters are not booking you, be your own promoter. Find ways to book out a venue, even if that means you just doing a house party and performing there.

With this project, you reference a lot of music from the continent. Not that you never did that with your previous work, but it's so blatant with this one. Was that something you'd always wanted to do, or you just stumbled upon it?

I've always wanted to do it, I just didn't know how to. And I was not confident enough to do it. I loved electronic music because I, as a producer, could just go out and perform. But in hip-hop, the producer is always at the back, and you give all your music to an artist, so they might not respect you. Going to Berlin, coming back immersing myself ekhaya, and going to Kenya, and doing all these things, reconnecting as I felt disconnected when I was abroad, I got confident enough to do the music I have always wanted to do, after growing up listening to Chicco Twala, Hugh Masekela, and all those artists.

Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

And the singing on some of the songs? Was that always a hidden talent you had?

My voice, it is an instrument vele. So that's what I was using it as. Sometimes the idea needs that level of expression. And at times I feel like I'm the only one who can pull it off, with regards to that song. It's all about me finding ways to express myself. Sometimes features can add on, and sometimes they can take away. So I decided to feature myself. One other reason is because I couldn't afford features. (Laughs)

So that means the way you made music changed, especially in terms of setup?

I've always had these little vocal things, even on Boom Shaka, but they weren't prominent. It was a fear thing. But now I've grown up. And some people say the music sound mature. Even though I still got a rebel in me, I'm not that rebellious kid I used to be anymore. I just wanna make music I can play for my mom, or play while driving or some shit. I was just trying to express myself, using all the influences I have to make an honest project.

Read: Future Africa Wants to Make Traditional Sounds Cool Again

And with the different types of sounds that you tap into in Afrovision, is there a specific sound that you were gunning for?

If you go through my phone, you'll find a lot of voice notes. The music comes to me. I don't even use keyboards or anything like that 'cause I feel like it fucks with the process. I hear the song in my head. The beat for "Sweet Chocolate," I heard it in my head. We were recording Una Rams' verses when Seaba started humming the chorus, and I'm like, 'yo, record.' So it's always natural. I've never sat and thought, 'I'm making afrobeat,' 'I'm making house.'


Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

Do you collect sounds, do you sample?

I do collect sounds. Just like recording random guitars emgwaqweni, whatever. I've made beats for a long time, what I do is I sample myself. So, say, I had a nice beat that had a really nice progression, but I couldn't express it fully then, so I take it and sample it. That's why some of the songs, have that oldie feel to it, because I have sampled an old beat of mine.

With a lot of artists who go to Europe or America, they always feel pressured by that environment and people to express their African-ness, did you ever feel any of that while in Berlin?

Yes. It felt like I was alone. My manager and I would count how many black people we'd see. So I felt like I had to represent, but it wasn't really pressure from Europeans; I didn't try to be as tribal as I could. It was just like a pressure of me representing my people, which translated into the music.

In terms of the response to the album, were you expecting it to be this positive?

I read a book, I read it like The Bible, it's called Ego is the Enemy. So I let go of things like that. I just make the dopest art I can, and then after that, I let it go. Gone are the days when I was still attached to my art after releasing it. You gotta allow people to receive it how ever way; some will love it, others won't. The reception has been super great, but I knew I had a dope project because I had put my heart and soul in it.

How do you pick the artists you collaborate it? Is it about whoever is accessible?

It's usually accessibility and relationships. I like working across, like if I know that you're a singer, I will be like, 'come through, let's hear,' it has to be organic to me, because that brings about a good song.


What are your thoughts on where South African music, especially black music, is at the moment?

House is doing great. There's anew wave of black artists that aren't scared to be themselves, the likes of Una Rams, Langa Mavuso, Espacio Dios, Jackie Queens, Da Capo, Culoe de Song, Black Coffee. There's a lot of artists expressing who they are in a modernized way, meaning that we are growing as a people, which is cool. Our music has always been dope, don't get it twisted.

I'm also a fan of hip-hop, and I wish that it was joining us on that. In 2014, it happened. Like, I was hearing a bit of kwaito, but it was modern, and then we went back to copying.

So when you started making beats, were you making hip-hop?

I started off as a rapper. My brother used to rap. At home, one of my brothers used to play hip-hop, another used to play R&B;, my mother used to play gospel, and my daddy used to play electronic music, so I have always been influenced by all that. But hip-hop is where it started, because it was easier and less daunting compared to other genres—you can just get a mic, and be good in poetry, then take it from there. I started off rapping, but then realized I wasn't that good at it. I was in a group, Witness The Funk, so I let the other guy just be because he was really good at rapping.

You were part of WTF?

Yeah (laughs). I felt like Moshine had to rap and shine, and then I ended up leaving to do my thing.


Where did you record this album?

I recorded most of the songs in Durban. Some, in East London (Eastern Cape); I went to the Eastern Cape, I was trying to get away from the noise, to get away from the city. I rented a spot for like, two, three months. I would probably do it again. I understand why Kanye and them go to Wyoming and all that. You need to respect the time when making an album. If I make another album, I wouldn't do it while I'm touring or on the road, I will respect that process, and devote all my attention to it.

How long did it take to complete the album?

Approximately 15 months.

The title Afrovision is pretty dope, and it captures the music. How did you come up with it?

It was just trying to find words that explain what me and many other artists are trying to do—us telling our own stories, like, this is the vision we have for Africa, not the vision you keep telling us about. This is me adding my 2 cents to the whole landscape of really dope African acts. So I'm saying, 'this is the music that's coming out of Africa, I'm not the only one, hence there are features.'

And the artists featured on there, are for that vision.

Yeah, that's why the new wave is so exciting to me. It's less copious culture; it's more like real-life Wakanda vibes. I like saying that. (Laughs) Bu t Black Panther really brought that to the forefront.

When Black Panther came out, you were done with the album?

I was. So it was like, 'oh yeah, we all on the same vibe.' It's like a collective consciousness thing.

On the album, on the song "New Day," you worked with OkMalumKoolKat, who a lot of people have cancelled since his sexual harassment case. And every artist who works with him is seen as a rape apologist of some sort. What do you make of that?

[His case] is a very serious thing. It also exposed the toxic masculinity that we were brought up in. It's easy to point fingers, but at times we also have to look at our lives and ask, 'were we actually brought up like this?' Especially with hip-hop and the environment it brings. For him, though, because I've known him since his Dirty Paraffin days, not as a means to excuse him for what he did, but I think his apology was in actions. He wrote that letter, and it didn't go down well. But I think his apology was in his actions, and I had to respect that he wanted to do better. I respected him for that, instead of going back to whatever mindset he was in at that time. When I met him in Durban to talk about "New Day," he was doing a series of shows against women abuse. We chopped it up, and he wanted to do better. Even though it wasn't my place to forgive him, I had to respect him for that.

Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

What do you think of the culture of canceling people?

I think it's hypocritical. Because people on the Internet, they try to act perfect until they're caught for some shit. Obviously, people think different things, but everyone should be allowed the chance to grow. We all have our own bullshit. People who talk crap against cheating, for instance, you find that they themselves are cheating, but the public just doesn't know. Not to say that people shouldn't be accountable or responsible, but people learn differently, none of us are perfect, so I'm not gonna judge.

You are independent, but you also have a deal with Sony Music Entertainment Africa. Please explain that.

I'm still independent. The deal is just licensing and marketing. I have a team in the UK, a label called K7 that does my marketing and distribution there. And then for sub-Saharan Africa, I have Sony.

And then in terms of touring?

I have a booking agent in London called Earth Agency. I have an 8-stop UK tour this month.

What are you working on, moving forward?

I'm gonna drop another version of "Questions." It was actually the first version, it just didn't flow well with the album. I'm gonna drop that via Red Bull. And I'm working on season 2 of #MuziMondays. I also wanna do limited edition vinyl. And a bit of merchandise.

Follow Muzi on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, and stream Afrovision below and/or download it here.



Photos

This Is What Rotimi's 'Walk With Me' EP Listening Party Looked Like

The Nigerian singer held an intimate listening party on the eve of the release of his new EP, 'Walk With Me,' at Brooklyn's Okay Space.

Walk With Me, Rotimi's new and highly anticipated EP, dropped Friday—giving us a seven-track peek into who the singer and actor truly is sonically.

The night before, the Nigerian-American crooner gathered over 100 tastemakers and day-one supporters to Brooklyn's Okay Space—the shared gallery space between Okayplayer and OkayAfrica—for an intimate listening party celebrating the release, as well as his music video for "Love Riddim" which also dropped this week.

The night was simply a vibe—folks enjoyed libations and bites from The Suya Guy, with sounds by DJ Tunez. Rotimi opened the gathering up with a thoughtful prayer, with the music video reveal to follow. The singer then walked the audience through each track from Walk With Me, opening up about the creative process of how each track came to life.

Following, Rotimi engaged in an even more in-depth Q+A session with OkayAfrica's arts and culture editor, Antoinette Isama, where he touched on his experience touring with Wizkid back in 2011, his thoughts on the continued rise in popularity afrobeats is having in mainstream music, his hopes for the future and more. Tunez then ran the EP back when the party ensued, as the project is full of tracks that are worthy of being on repeat.

Listen to Walk With Me below, and be sure to take a look at photos from the listening party by Nerdscarf Photography.

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Film
CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 16: Director Ladj Ly and Almamy Kanoute attend the photocall for "Les Miserables" during the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival on May 16, 2019 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

How To Survive Cannes Film Festival As a Black Filmmaker

A film festival is intense by nature, but Cannes is a whirlwind.

Cannes Film Festival is one of the world's most prestigious gatherings bringing celebrities, filmmakers and actors claiming to celebrate the world's best film. Although the festival is way behind Sundance or the London Film Festival regarding diversity efforts, it remains the place to be if you're a filmmaker—especially a Black one.

I, myself, am a Black French filmmaker who was invited to Cannes as part of their scheme for young film lovers—3 Days in Cannes—open to anyone between the ages of 18 and 28. The scheme, which launched in 2018, requires young hopefuls to write a cover letter showing their passion for film. It ultimately gives young people the opportunity to discover the international selection of films showed at Cannes.

READ: Black Women Are the Future of French Cinema—When Will Cannes Catch Up?

Being in Cannes for the first time was a wonderful experience, but it can be tough to navigate as a Black filmmaker if you're not prepared for it. So, here are top tips.

1) Don't be a person of color—especially if you're Black (Just kidding. But still.)

Cannes is a beautiful, posh city in the south of France. It is part of the Provence Alpes Côte d'Azur, an administrative region where the far right party Rassemblement National (formally known as the National Front) hits record-breaking highs. Despite the fact that the festival is incredibly international, at times it can feel pretty racist, like a sunny, idyllic version of 1960s Alabama, where a party of more than one Black person gets routinely rejected from some clubs/bars/restaurants. On top of that, the staff and some of the security working at the festival can be incredibly aggressive and rude to you and in French. If you don't understand it, it's even more confusing.

To avoid it, try to stick to the official Cannes parties, or hang out in international hotels like the Miramar or the Radisson Blu Hotel—which are used to an international crowd. You can also stick to parties at the various country pavilions near the Film Market.

2) Stick to the African Pavilion

At the festival, most countries have their own pavilion. But because the festival believes Africa is a country, all 54 countries are gathered in one pavilion. This pavilion also includes the Caribbean, since Jamaica, as life would have it, is also an African country. In the African Pavilion, there was even talk on how to submit films if you're a filmmaker of Indian descent (despite the fact that India had its own pavilion).

You're not African? That's okay, no one cares. Pan-Africanism is still alive, I guess? Thankfully, out of the many pavilions, I did find the African Pavilion was the best one the most welcoming and whose schedule was the most open and clear. Because Cannes is such an exclusive festival, most of the parties and talks won't be communicated outside of those who are supposed to attend.

The African Pavilion, however, requires you to sign up to their newsletter. You then access their app where you can see the schedule, the talks to attend and the party they planned. The only downside is that they were understaffed, so some talks and events were cancelled last minute and with limited communication.

If you're a Black French filmmaker, speaking English is a must to get the most out of the pavilion. If you're an English-speaking filmmaker, try to make friends or meet people who speak French, as some of the talks/discussions might not have professional interpreters.

Also, go to the events organized by diversity in Cannes. Now, if you're a Black filmmaker who would rather not stay in the community for fear of being pigeonholed? Unless you're part of a talent scheme run by the festival...good luck getting others to support you.

3) Be ready to WAIT to see films and to party

On average, I waited 1 hour 40 minutes for each film I wanted to see in the official selection program. And I purposely chose not to see the famous ones like the Pedro Almodóvar or Quintin Tarantino's films. I also waited almost two hours to see a film from the Un certain regard selection and didn't get in—despite my pass. Now, Un certain regard has the most highly sought after films, even more so than the Competition, because they tend to select the best among indie international films. To get in for sure, you need a "Un certain regard" pass, so they need to invite you themselves. Even if you have a ticket at the counter, you might not get in unless you wait two hours (standing) or choose to attend the early screening or the late ones (and still, you should be ready to wait 1 hour for these).

You need a pass AND a ticket to see the films from the official selection and walk the red carpet up to the Grand Théatre Debussy. For the ACID, Director's fortnight, Semaine de la critique, and the Official selection's films not shown on the red carpet, you just need a pass—and to be ready to queue for at least 45 minutes.

I wouldn't recommend getting the Cannes cinephile pass as it has a low priority. I saw people waiting 2 hours to see a film and not getting in, while people with professional Black passes arriving 10 minutes before the screening walking past them. Because the Cannes festival is for professionals, they have, unfortunately, priority over members of the public.

Now, with the parties at Cannes, word on the street is that they are not as legendary as they used to be. Even if you get invited to one, you still need to wait an hour. It's not because they are over capacity, but rather they feel the need to pretend that they are. Unless you're a VVIP. And if you're one, why are you reading my article?

Anyway, despite not being as glamorous as they used to be, they remain so exclusive that if your name is not on the list, you might need to sell your first born to attend.

Thankfully, you can avoid it by being smart. When I arrived in Cannes, I was dead set on going to parties to network. Since almost all of them are invite only, I went to the parties at the pavilions, like the UK one, the American one (which costs 20 euros because Americans are always about their money) and the African Pavilion—that were kind enough to facilitate networking by introducing me to fellow filmmakers. God knows how talking to strangers and building new relationships can be difficult, and they made it easier.

4) Make friends with distributors or people working for the Mayor's office

The whole point of the festival is to sell films. Tickets are sparse for most people, so some badge holders wear their Sunday Best and stand outside the grand theater, holding signs asking for tickets. It makes sense that distributors are incredibly powerful, since they have the power to buy and sell films internationally. They are given way too many tickets that should be given to people waiting for hours outside.

So, if you make friends with distributors, they will always have a handful of spare tickets, even for the big ones that everyone wants to see. They also have tickets for the big parties as well. Press badge holders also have priority since they are responsible for a film good or bad media coverage. So they have a handful of tickets too.

People working for the Mayor's office also have tickets because they work closely together since the festival brings so much revenue to the city. Make friends with them, as well as film students and you'll get tickets. Don't know where to find them? Social media is your friend.

There is also another way to get tickets to films: the staff. For example, I couldn't get tickets to see Mati Diop's Atlantiques. I walked to the ticket counter and saw a Black woman with a great hairstyle. My instinct KNEW I had to tag along. I asked her if she needed help. She was looking for the same tickets. We asked someone at the ticket office if they could help. They said they had nothing. But one of the staff members saw us and said she could try to help us. She came back with two tickets and that's how I got to see the film. I got lucky and was cunning. So be nice with the staff, they can help.

5) Be ready for anything

A film festival is intense by nature, but Cannes is a whirlwind. Since you're spending so much time waiting and walking from venues to venues, you won't have time to eat unless you bring food you've made before hand. You're not allowed to eat inside the theaters and if you walk the red carpet, you food is thrown out beforehand. You can try buying food and drinks in the morning and finish it by the time you walk the red carpet. I'd advise buying it at a supermarket like the pricey Monoprix. Or the nearby McDonald's. It's cheap, warm, almost always open and a great way to socialize! Young filmmakers, as well as those from Britain and the States will come to McDonald's to eat since it's one of the places they know best. Why not strike up a convo there?

Also, don't forget your power bank. Your phone will get out of battery for sure, especially if you post content on social media.

Finally, despite its reputation, the festival is incredibly badly organized. You will be told that your badge is not allowed to watch films at other selections, or you would be given the wrong directions and will be lost in the croisette on your way to see an obscure film.

Chill, be ready to walk and use Google Maps. And enjoy!

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Julie Adenuga: "There Are Young Artists In Nigeria Who Are Changing the World"

In an exclusive interview, the Beats 1 radio presenter opens up about her Nigerian heritage, documenting Homecoming in Lagos, and London being an important hub for afro-fusion sounds.

Julie Adenuga sits at the intersection of two continents.

As an affable tastemaker who transforms banal interviews into engaging conversations with some of the most famous artists in the world, Julie is leading the global dialogue on new music from her daily radio show, which broadcasts to over 100 countries.

The North London native of Nigerian descent hails from a musical family, her brothers are artists Skepta and JME, and has risen from the underground as a self-taught presenter on former pirate radio station Rinse FM to being one of three lead DJ's with her Beats 1 show on Apple Music.

A champion of homegrown talent in the UK and across the African diaspora, Julie is a purveyor of the afro-fusion genre, as is evident in her recent Homecoming documentary, which captured the fresh innovators from the Lagos music scene, and her DON't @ ME club nights, which has featured Ghetts, Lady Leshurr and The Compozers as residents.

Chosen as one of OkayAfrica's 100 Women celebrating extraordinary women from Africa and the diaspora, we speak with the presenter and broadcaster on owning her Nigerian identity, the responsibility of spreading afrobeats and why London is a key location for the genre.

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