The Phone Yam hitmakers on being discovered by Alfa Kat, navigating newfound fame and how they let destiny lead their way to success.
One of the biggest perks of amapiano being a fairly new genre is that it's allowed for unbridled freedom of expression and an exploration of sounds, presentations and influences that are characteristic of the birth of anything new. This newness, and curiosity to explore, contrasts what's happening in other popular genres like R&B, pop and hip-hop, where songs have become repetitive, calculated and bland.
There's a vitality that runs through amapiano and at the helm sits its female vocalists. From the most recent addition to the mainstream, you have Dj Lady Du, as the vocalist behind the ancestral chanting on "Umsebenzi Wethu", to the meteoric rise of Kamo Mphela who about two years ago was just a great dancer with a dream, to the very solid moment in the limelight that DBN Gogo is enjoying.
Women in amapiano are having a beautiful moment and amongst them are Banaba'Des, the Pretoria-based duo made up of Miss Pammie and Unkle Blue who were brought together by their collaborator Alfa Kat. They are the voices behind "Phone Yam", the song that spurred the viral #TililiChallenge — most popular on TikTok.
ALFA KAT - PHONE YAM FT. BANABA'DES (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO) youtu.be
Immemorial society has always had a fascination with "bad girls" and women who swing the other way on their Madonna pendulum. These women have been a ceaseless source of (artistic) inspiration and songs have been sung, stories written and wars waged over them. The Banaba'Des "feminine touch" is rowdy, fun. Their energy can be equated to that of the late South African pop legend Brenda Fassie answering the question, "What do you do for fun?" with "I drink Hansa beer and fuck!" While she was still "The Brilliant Brenda Fassie", she always drove home the message that you can be brilliant and still stay true to who you are.
The delivery of Banaba'Des' lyrics, and the lyrics themselves, are coquettish by nature and reminiscent of Moonchild Sanelly's influence. Moonchild once came under online fire over her "Midnight Starring" verse, due to what some described as an unfortunate blurring of lines between what's socially acceptable to say in a "baby voice" and what isn't — especially in South Africa, a country with one of the highest numbers of sexual assault cases against minors worldwide. It's a solid argument to make, albeit a sliver of the whole picture.
As a duo, Banaba'Des seem to have a knack for knowing when their addition is "just enough". While their contribution to Alfa Kat's "Yebo Malume" featuring Costa Titch is essentially backing vocals, they add an undeniable flavour to the song. And just like with "Phone Yam" and on "Amstel" they even drop some bars. A solid appreciation for what's to come would easily stem from their verses on "Danko Zalo 2.0", on which they both provide solid, Spitori laced bars as part of an all-woman cypher. *(Spitori is a blend of two South African languages, Setswana and Sepedi, spoken mainly in Pretoria.)
Danko Zalo 2.0(ft Hanna, Sauwcy, Banaba'des, Gemma Fassie, Benzo, Leezy, SkolleyWood, Buzzi lee,LGT) www.youtube.com
We caught up with Banaba'Des about their plans for world domination . Take us through the origins of Banaba'Des and how the name came about.
To be honest, the name Banaba'Des was inspired by Destiny's Child. We tried to translate it to Banaba Destiny (meaning Destiny's Children in Setswana) until we settled for Banaba'Des, which made perfect sense. It fit snuggly with the fact that the term Des'e (which means to be good at something) originates from Pretoria, and we're both from the city. We both understand its core meaning!
What inspires your music?
Musically, we are inspired by the Kwaito era that included legends such as Boom Shaka, Bongo Muffin and Arthur Mafokate closer to home. Internationally, it's really vast but we are drawn to musicians who have a new outlook to how they create music — the likes of Doja Cat and IAMDDB (UK). Overall, we are inspired by everyday life. For instance, "Phone Yam" was inspired by one of our friends looking for their phone while we were in studio.
What are some memorable moments you've witnessed that were soundtracked by your songs?
Even though "Phone Yam'' debuted during a challenging time for artists, we can say that in a weird way that added to its success because everyone was living on social media and that helped the song gain some traction. Seeing stars like Somizi, Zodwa Wabantu and Ndu from BlaqDiamond to school kids all participating in the #TililiChallenge on social media platforms really made a huge difference and it helped the song gain traction organically. It showed that the love was genuine love. That was a big moment for us! P.S. Funnily, we both got robbed of our phones, at different times, a week after the song's release.
Has Banaba'Des' rapid rise changed your love lives or how guys pursue you? Especially in light of the music and some misconceptions about you as people, that perhaps stem from your stage personalities.
Unkle Blue: Mjolo (dating) is difficult. Everyone is in the DMs. Banaba'Des just grew unexpectedly and coming into fame already in a relationship would've been shaky right now. Not only is my life changing, but I would've automatically changed my partner's life too. I'm personally aware that there needs to be a certain level of stability within the relationship for it to have a chance at survival. And this is the opposite of what people seem to understand or want to offer truly.
Miss Pammie: My relationship has gotten stronger throughout this whole experience. My partner has been very supportive through it all because when you're a new artist, people tend to be nosey. We both decided to keep our relationship private so the audience can mostly focus on the music rather than my personal life. There have been some people who hit me up — even ex's I haven't heard from in years — but I don't pay them any mind. We're on to bigger and better — from Pitori (Pretoria) to the world.