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5 Minutes With House Music Dab hands Punk Mbedzi

We caught up with South African House Music maestro Punk Mbedzi ahead of his set at the SELECT SESSIONS

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Punk Mbedzi
Photo Credit: Punk Mbedzi via Instagram

He will be setting the decks ablaze at the upcoming PUMA Select Sessions in Braamfontein this Thursday, September 6th. And House music maestro – Punk Mbedzi took a moment to reflect on his come up, unpack the genesis of his sound, as well as his creative vision for The Rhythm Johannesburg – a project he founded.

You’ve made a name for yourself in house music circles, and your sound could be described as House/Indie, Dance /Electronic and Afro beats. Do you prefer variation in your style and why?

I have always tried to be versatile with the music that I produce and not box myself into one style. I prefer variation in my music because I’m always trying to improve my sound. Usually, I draw inspiration from different genres and try to implement it into what I’m doing.

RELATED: SIR LSG, KAT LA KAT & PUNK MBEDZI TO PLAY SELECT SESSIONS 

Known by your DJ name Punk Mbedzi, it’s said that music is your staple diet. Who are you listening to right now?

There is a new wave of fresh talent coming from South Africa from artists like Kususa, Argento Dust and FKA Mash. They are pushing the boundaries of what Afro House should sound like, which is refreshing to hear.

Hailing from Polokwane, you began producing at age 16. Any tips for local up-and-comings?

From an early age music has always been a passion for me. A very important thing I would share is to never lose faith and try by all means to keep the passion burning – that’s the only thing that will keep you pushing. It’s also important to educate yourself about the music industry and the business behind it.

You’re the Event Director for event production series, The Rhythm Johannesburg. What’s your vision for this brand, in one or two sentences?

I would like to build a brand known for really great music. Regardless of the status of the featured artists, it should set a global footprint for being a place where people know they can discover fresh and good music.

You’re hosting September’s instalment of PUMA Select Sessions in Braamfontein. Tell us what people can expect on the night?

From the first artist to the last, it’s set to be a musical journey. Although every artist is distinct in their sound, there will be cohesion in what the music brings.

Select Sessions 6 Sept Artwork

 

Interviews

INTERVIEW – Tshego Dishes On ‘Pink Panther’

Organic. Melodic. High Quality. Musical

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Now that Tshego’s long awaited Pink Panther album finally has a release date, everything has fresh hues of pink all over.

It’s quite a definitive season for the singer, who recently inked a record deal with Universal Music.

Although the album, which has kept the same title despite its long and adventurous journey to the market, has been a long time coming, the King Monada feature on the first single was a dope blindside.

A whole King Monada, on a Tshego song. You love to see it.

“I never want to be boxed in. I always tell my fans not think they can go for more No Ties on the album. If that’s what you are expecting, you will be sadly mistaken!”

Sonically, the artists couldn’t be further from each other. But, says Tshego, the flow engineered itself perfectly. “It was a very clean and organic process”, he tells QuenchSA, detailing tales of how he reached out to the Malwede hitmaker.

He’s thrilled about the critical applause and buzz around No Ties, which not only sparked the heaviest trend for the Garden hitmaker, but has also produced his best charting single debut to date. “It feels like, finally, people get it. It’s not that they didn’t get it before, but it feels like it’s finally time”, he says of the crit.

You are known for blending different flavours. Do you think No Ties finally captures your sound?

I feel like No Ties captures one piece of it, you know? I never want to be boxed in. I always tell my fans not think they can go for more No Ties on the album. If that’s what you are expecting, you will be sadly mistaken! (Laughs) In terms of the sound, I haven’t even placed it myself, but I know there are certain things you’ll be able to identify my sound with.

My sound is very musical, high quality and melodic. I’m very melodic and energy driven. So that’s my sound, but to find a genre for it… I haven’t been able to do that yet because I love moving in between as many genres as I can.

I read somewhere that you are the Prince of RnB. I was thinking RnB? Okay? I wouldn’t think of your sound as just RnB…

There are so many guys in South Africa right now who are proper RnB singers, so to call me the Prince of RnB when I’m not even trying to do that is a big compliment! I accept it. But, it’s definitely not what I’m trying to be known as because I’m just not putting a title on myself.

How did the collaboration with King Monada come about?

Very easily man, Instagram! His song Malwede had been out for a little bit and he was trending around that time. My mom knew about it. I was travelling to Mafikeng that day. I sent him a DM. When I got home, I told my mom. I told her I’d just DM’ed this guy, hopefully we can do a song together. Then he DM’ed me that night and I was like ‘yo, mom, he actually DM’ed me back!’ (Laughs). I actually posted it on my Insta Story the day he FaceTimed me and sent me his verse on Whatsapp. It was a very clean, organic process. He’s a very, very humble guy.

It’s a collaboration most didn’t see coming. The individual sounds couldn’t be further apart, but you made it make so much sense. Did you have a specific vision for his verses before hitting him up?

Nooo! Literally I said ‘bro, listen here’s the song. This is my hook. I want you to be here, and here, and here. If you want to give me a verse, it’s up to you. Feel it, it’s up to you.’ He sent it back with that and I was like, perfect! End it right there, no changes.

How did you decide on this being the first single?

I took it to a lot of labels, like four of five songs to a lot of indie labels, distributors, to like… literal A&R people and my friends. I was sending them a pack of five (songs) and they would always come back with ‘this one has to be the first single! These three over here are crazy, but this one is definitely the one.’ It’s the one that’s always come back as being the one.

Tell us a bit more about your departure from Family Tree. Is everything okay there?

Everything is Okay, man. It’s just business wise, the way I like to deal with things is on terms. It’s just like when you sign a contract with whatever company, there’s a term there. Whether it’s a year, 12 months, 6 months, you have a term. You are expected to do this and you are expecting x amounts back. That’s the way I like to live my life and with Family Tree, it was just another one of those terms. I had to give this an x amount of my years and I when I reached the cap, I had to find a better situation and grow.

That’s what happened. I reached my cap. Family Tree helped me a lot in terms of the touring. In terms of touring, that’s where Family Tree really catapulted me. Without Family Tree, I wouldn’t have been where I am now in terms of my performances and my energy on stage. But yeah, it was just time, business wise. Family Tree was signing into Universal and I was getting interest from Universal directly. I had been having conversations with them three years prior to that, so when that happened I thought man, let me just sign direct.

Why so much pink? It’s everywhere. All the time! 

I’m big on organic. That’s another one of those things that happened organically. It first happened on Hennessy. One of the outfits had the pink VANS with the teal in it. Then I had on pink shirts, a pink GANG shirt and a pink cap. People instantly reacted to that and kept coming back to me like, ‘yo, that outfit was sick.’ So I tried it again on Garden. Pink dog, pink Limousine, pink outfit, pink everything, which was even crazier.

It became cleat that it gets a reaction from people. When you put the marketing and branding together you understand that to build a brand, you have to market it. If this pink is working well as a marking tool to build the brand, why not? It’s gold. I couldn’t leave it alone. But, at the same time, it’s not like I don’t like pink.

Why the title ‘Pink Panther‘?

It’s because me and Gemini (Major) had a similar sounding album title. I saw him post it on Twitter and I immediately called and asked him what the hell!? Bra, don’t you know my album is titled blah, blah blah, and he’s like, ‘Ja, bra but it’s not the same!’ I was on loud speaker and Les happened to be in the room and he was like relax man, just call yours Pink Panther, trust me. (Laughs) I was like you… are… actually… right!

Tell us everything we need to know about the Pink Panther album? 

The features are people whom I consider friends. Nothing was forced or planned. In fact, none of the features was in studio with the features, except Focalistic. That wasn’t even a full studio session. I just made the beat there and put the melody down. He went home and sent me his verse back. It was that comfortable, where I could be just like ‘Yo, Riky I got something. Listen to it and tell me how you feel about.’ He hit me back, he felt great. He put down a verse and sent it back to me. Thabsie, same thing. She’s always told me we have to work. So as soon as I thought I needed a female artist, Thabsie was the first one I went to. Well, Rowlene and Thabsie.

Kwesta… I remember Durban July weekend. I was like ‘Yo, Kwesta, I’ve handed in the label copy. I need you on this song. He was just like ‘Bro, I don’t even have to listen to the beat, I’ll give you the answer now. Yes!’ The Tuesday after he returned from the Durban July, I had my verse done. Same with Thabsie, that same Tuesday, done. Who else… Tellaman, Fokalistic, Frank Casino…

Half of it is features and half is just me. I wanted to give you enough of me. I know I’ve killed my fans with the features man! I think every single I’ve dropped, except Dem Ah Wind, which was a street anthem, was feature heavy, So that’s it – it’s an intimate vibe. You know with me, everything is always high energy, quality, melody, music and organic.

Is there any song you can’t wait for your fans to hear on the album?

Yeah, but I feel like I will put pressure on it if I say it now. There’s a lot… I want them to hear the whole album. I can’t wait…

And it’s a hotly anticipated one. Part of that is how loooong we’ve had to wait for it. Are you nervous about delivering to satiate expectations?

I think anyone would. It’s the number one thought when I go to sleep and when I wake up. Now that the album is in, I’m having very critical thoughts. It’s like yo, eish! That verse, I was rushing on that verse. Maybe I was talking nonsense on that one (laughs). It’s a lot of critical things but I understand that now it’s up to God. Whatever is gonna happen, I put in the hard work, the time and I’ve done everything that I could do as Tshego. Now it’s in the next phase of life and God is going to let what ever is meant to happen, happen.

You haven’t been in the news for any weird scandals, or tweeting trash, or anything like that…

Nah… The thing is, you guys miss it. I could name a couple, but I won’t. There’s been situations where I had to leave Twitter for months. There were situations where people affiliated to me had to close their accounts because it got hectic. But this is like five years ago. There’s been certain personalities on Twitter, whether it’s DJs, who have tried to come at me. But my character… I just let things die. I won’t entertain it, especially on social media. I’m not gonna tag you, if you’ve tagged me. I’m not reply. I might subtweet…

That’s what I’m getting at… are you intentionally trying to maintain a clean brand or is it a reflection of your authentic character?

No, it’s really how I am bro. I’m a very loud guy! I’m loud, proud and stubborn. I’ve had, in the past, some anger issues. People don’t know that side of me because it only comes out in very serious situations. That’s why I don’t wanna bullshit. When you wanna talk, let’s talk. There shouldn’t be games.

A lot of artists do leverage the drama to promote what they are selling. Are you just gonna allow just the music to do all the talking?

Not just that, because I’m also trying to venture into other things. Like fashion. I wanna get into the music business in the corporate side. Like music libraries, the publishing side of the business. I also wanna score for movies. So I wanna get into a lot of things. Now I want to focus on the merch next. The Album’s been handed in and taken care of. We are doing the PR runs, that’s been taken care of.

Besides you getting angry from time to time, what else will surprise your fans about you?

I’m a really sweet, humble guy. I can be very soft spoken and I can match your energy.

What can they expect?

They can expect the next level of myself in the industry. Whatever genre that you put me under, expect the next level of it.

Pink Panther premieres August 30th.

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Interviews

INTERVIEW: K.O Talks Cashtime, SA Hip Hop & New Album

The rapper distills his legacy and teases new album while shedding light on Cashtime catalogue

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Photo: K.O via Instagram

If we had our own franchise of David Letterman’s Our Next Guest Needs No Introduction, K.O would have been at the top of the production wish-list.

While his rich catalogue of timeless classics and definitive bars have underscored his ascension to the crest of the culture, he’s one of the few influential figures in Hip Hop who’ve shunned the splashy displays and trappings of fame.

Perhaps it’s because the genesis of his fame dates back to an era when rap mushroomed outside the parameters of the mainstream pop zeitgeist, producing a wave of artists whose survival depended on sheer artistic brilliance, rather than their ability to dazzle elsewhere.

K.O, Moozlie, Maggz, Kid X, Ma-E all appear on the Cashtime ‘Now or Never’ album, now on all digital platforms. Photo: Supplied

In 2006, when Teargas blew up, the hooks of celebrity did not really attend to the emerging slew of rappers who went against the grain. Not Skwattakamp, not ProKid, and certainly not Teargas.

There were just not many opportunities and platforms the rappers have now. Back then, Hip Hop itself was the misunderstood ‘cheese boy’ everyone in school thought would snitch and sell out the authenticity Kwaito had cultivated and owned.

“What I have coming up is gonna be appreciated on a large scale, just based on where I am. I’ve found my feet again.”

Of course, we now know that was not true. Hip Hop became the new leader, and K.O was at the forefront of that revolution.

Just like the now mainstream genre, the rap juggernaut didn’t just top charts and take every award, and the coins, he pioneered a whole new distinct sound and an original wave that melted township street heritage and Hip Hop. The Skhanda sound, and the merch that followed, positioned him as the ultimate disruptor.

But despite all his success, K.O has managed to sustain an enigma about him. This is part of the reason our chat with him was all the more exciting – you are chatting to one of the g.o.a.t’s, trying to clear a bunch of things and dive into a world from which one of the greatest Hip Hop movements emerged.

K.O seeks to preserve the piece of history created by the Cashtime entity with new move. Photo Credit: Supplied

The rapper talked frankly to us about the importance of evolving as an artist, adjusting one’s creative sails in the very vast waters of an ever shifting soundscape, the details on the newly re-published Cashtime catalogue, and what lies ahead in his music and street apparel careers.

Congratulations on Skhanda Republic and the Cashtime catalogue being republished on digital streaming platforms. Though, why now?

The music was down for almost a year… since last year. The reason was because Cashtime was being distributed by Sony Music. And then, sometime last year, the contract and partnership between Cashtime and Sony Music lapsed.

By default, Sony had to take the stuff down. We’ve spent months on end trying to find a new home. We could have easily decided to renew the deal with Sony, but we decided because we are an independent label, we should explore more options.

In the end we settled with Africori, the guys who are now responsible for looking after the catalogue. It’s literally just a business decision. Once we were happy with what was being offered, we decided to move forward, which just happens to be now.

There are so many questions around the Cashtime catalogue, which includes some previously unreleased tracks, now resurfacing back into the radar. What does it really mean for everyone involved?

It doesn’t really change much because as you can see, everyone is sort of doing their own thing now.

Stuff that is out there is stuff that was released while we were working together. It’s solely based on servicing the continuous demand for that piece of work and history. Whether we are in business together now or not is beside the point because everyone is now invested in their own individual business efforts, myself included. I’m not a Cashtime artist, I’m doing other things.

In terms of relationships amongst ourselves as former colleagues and business acquaintances, there is no issue there. It just doesn’t mean that we are gonna start working together as Cashtime moving forward. It’s a piece of history that we wanted to preserve and that’s what it is.

Skhanda Republic is your quintessential masterpiece. It’s what Thriller was to Micheal Jackson, and Purple Rain was to Prince. Do you obsess about trying to top it? 

No. Artists go through different phases in their lives. Times change and so do artists. Trying to recapture a certain feel is difficult. I can literately go into the studio and try to create a song that will sound like that album, but it won’t resonate the same.

It will now just be a repetition of what I did in the past. It’s almost like… you know when they say the first cut is the deepest? That’s because it’s a new feeling at the time.

Once you try to give someone the same feeling using the same thing, you are unlikely to achieve the same results. The only thing I can do now is forge ahead and make a new classic that marks the chapter where we are in 2019… where I am right now. Something that encapsulates the current mood.

When people look back 5 years from now it should almost be an audiovisual album, so to speak, that whenever you listen to the music… it triggers the feelings of 2019.

That’s what that album did. When people look back, they say, ‘Oh, shit! That was probably SA Hip Hop at its peak!”

… It fitted that period. Especially with what was happening with the Kwaito influence at the time.

In 2019, If I can try and use the same elements it won’t resonate because people just aren’t that excited about that Kwaito vibe anymore. I need to tap into what’s happening now in order to create the next new classic and that’s what I’m currently working on.

Music has evolved a lot in the last two years. What are your thoughts on the SA Hip Hop landscape?

One thing that’s kind of missing is, we are not that big of risk takers as we used to be in terms of style and the music that we are making. We are just sort of tapping into, ‘Okay, this artist has a song that is happening right now, or amapiano is happening right now… How do I make an amapiano song? There’s Gqom happening now so let me do that.”

Like, people haven’t been as daring as we used to be. No one is saying, ‘I don’t care what people think but this is what I want and feel could change the game’, and then doing that and breaking the chain. It creates the next revolution of SA Hip Hop. A lack of that has kinda held us back.

It also reflects in how things look right now. We hardly have big SA Hip Hop songs on the charts, and that is because the audience is not stupid. They can see. When we are putting in the hard work to wow them, it shows in how much they consume the culture. But if we are comfortable and complacent, and also just playing it really safe, it affects the numbers.

It also reflects in how artists blow up and fizzle just as quick… 

Yes!

But you’ve managed to be relevant and authoritative for so long. What can you tell the up and coming cats about longevity? 

You need to be a fan of the culture. Like, through and through. You can’t expect yourself to evolve with the times if you don’t embrace change. Just because people are singing on a Hip Hop beat you think  ‘I’m rapper, why should I?’ Once you start seeing things that way, you will find yourself falling behind.

It’s about adapting all the time because times do change. New artists keep coming out and there’s always a new style of music our people are gravitating to.

If people are gravitating towards a Nasty C hit, understand why they are doing that and then you find your way around the people.  What can you borrow while keeping true to your authentic self? How do I appeal to a Nasty C fan while also appealing to my fan? That’s how I read evolution.

How have you managed to marry fashion and music so authentically? It never felt like, ‘Oh, he’s getting another bag.’

I’ve always been someone that always kinda had an influence in the streets as far as fashion trends are concerned.

I saw what Caracara did and how we impacted the culture. Having done that, and doing it using brands that I wasn’t even in business with, I figured if I add value to brands that have nothing to do with me then, how about I empower myself and build my own label? It’s how we started back then.

With Cashtime Life and the merchandise, we hadn’t figured out the apparel business side of things. It’s how we ended up being unfortunately hit by by piraters and stuff like that.

Now going back into it, I was fortunate enough to have a relationship with a chain store like Studio 88, who are now selling my brand through 40 stores countrywide.

And that was a result of my relationship with ASICS. So it’s always been about trying to do things differently and trying to grow, not just focusing exclusively on the music. That’s where we are now – it’s not just having a good song or album. It’s also about the other stuff you do outside of that and how you influence the culture and impact the entire game.

Cashtime shifted, disrupted and redefined the culture in a pioneering way. Is there anything in the game that is particularly exciting you about the future of SA Hip Hop right now?

I don’t think it’s happening on a movement level. Artists, individuals are doing big things though. If we need to get back to creating movements and seeing black conglomerates working together, those are kinds of things I care about. I still want to do that…

Let’s look at the future. What’s there? 

On the clothing side, we are currently we have a winter range available at Studio 88. We have a Spring range launching in October. I’m very excited about that!

On the music side of things I have a new single that is coming out in August with a new music video. I’m also working on my third solo album, which I think people are gonna love! I’m grateful to see my current single Supa Dupa making rounds within the game and people still showing excitement around what I’m bringing to the table.

In terms of the album, what I have coming up is gonna be appreciated on a large scale, just based on where I am. I think I found my feet again. I can’t wait for people to hear it.

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INTERVIEW: Actor Pepi Khambule on Moving To Philanthropy

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We caught up with film veteran and ex Backstage actor Pepi Khambule who shares where he is today, what he is up to now and he also weighs in on the #OpenUpTheIndustry movement

When did you realise you wanted to work in the film industry?

I started when I was four years old. I would see something on TV or bioskop, and what would always stay in my mind is how everything was put together. From the film, direction, editing, screenplay, everything. That moment served as a starting point for my career.

How did you first enter the film business?

I started in 1990, screenplay writing. I went from being a runner, an actor one day and a director today. It was not easy, but I always had a goal in mind about where I want to be and what impact I want to leave in this world.

How did you move from being an actor to what you are today?

Today, I am a director for the non-profit organisation Khamoja Heritage Foundation which teaches the youth nationally, be it in rural, slums, and township communities about the film industry, particularly about reinventing story in film.

For years I was an actor, but I feel more can be done for the South African industry, and what I did was to put my efforts in to building something that will benefit others who love film. I sat down and I thought, ‘let’s start educating the future today so that it can be better’

Is there a potential to move to international content?

We should not have to go all the way to Hollywood for South Africa to make it. The aim of Khamoja is to get to a point where South African film becomes popular in South Africa, without the need or acceptance from the international body

How does your work blend the creative and business sides of film?

I simply allow my talent and gift to work so that I can achieve the same goals as that of Khamoja Heritage Foundation. Our goal is also supported by the National Lottery Commission who believe that to succeed in anything you must have passion.

Be passionate about what you want and what you want to achieve, and do not be afraid to share it with everyone. Eventually someone will also believe in what you want to achieve and help get you there.

What skills have you found to be most valuable in film?

Self-knowledge… As film makers and story tellers, we want to share what we feel and think with the whole world, but if within us there is conflict or misunderstanding it shows in our storytelling and often it does not end well.

What do you think should be done to Open Up the South African entertainment industry?

To be quite honest, everyone is doing everything that they can to get ahead in South Africa.  I started out as an actor, but I have learned to use the skills that I have acquired in film, television, directing, screenplay to start Khamoja. People need to learn that no matter what industry you are in, you must create your own opportunities – because you will only get as far as you want to

What advice do you have for people who want to be a part of the South African film industry?

For those that are interested in writing, or have written their movies, and have not shot movies, reach out to us at Khamoja Heritage Foundation on all social networks and visit us at www.khamoja.org and let’s work together to refine the South African film industry.

 

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