“Now is the time for Africa to shine, to present our culture to the world.”
Master KG, the South African DJ-producer behind global hit “Jerusalema”, sees bright prospects for Afro-pop.
Even at 25, he knows what he is talking about.
He made the whole planet dance with a song in a Zulu dialect which he composed while his compatriot Nomcebo Zikode laid down the yearning lyrics, a plea for unity and the coming of the New Jerusalem.
The day AFP met Master KG in Paris on one of his trips to Europe, the musician is wearing a yellow-and-blue jacket emblazoned with the words “Wake up Afrika”.
“We’re just getting started. We’re getting on the right path … with Afro-beat and Afro-pop, we will hear more and more African artists around the planet — there is room for everyone,” enthuses the young man, still a little shy, his bespectacled face tucked inside his hoodie.
Indeed, the term “Afro-pop” often comes up in the mouths of prominent DJs such as America’s Diplo, the powerhouse of the Major Lazer electronic-dancehall hit machine.
Artists like Burna Boy from Nigeria or Fally Ipupa from the Democratic Republic of Congo are building reputations far beyond Africa.
Master KG, whose real name is Kgaogelo Moagi, has been ranked by Forbes Africa as being among the 30 most influential personalities aged under 30 on the continent.
And he has just released a new track, “Shine Your Light,” with two star DJs, the Frenchman David Guetta and the Senegalese-American Akon (on the Elektra/Warner label).
– Life-changer –
“Yes, ‘Jerusalema’ changed my life,” Master KG told AFP. “I am here in Paris talking to you! I would not travel the world like I am now without this song.”
The hit has racked up more than 210 million plays on Spotify and more than 415 million views on Youtube. Stars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Janet Jackson have praised him on social networks.
“When I look at the statistics, the numbers, it always surprises me, no one could have predicted this,” he comments. For eight weeks towards the end of 2020, “Jerusalema” was the most frequently searched track on Shazam, a software programme that identifies a song that is playing.
The success story is well known. Released at the end of 2019, the single got a new lease of life when it went viral on TikTok, garnering seven billion hits. The choreographic dance challenge in the video then spread across networks, from nursing assistants in France to monks in Italy.
“I would never have thought that the police would be able to dance to my music,” laughs the musician, who shows no signs of developing a big head, despite the luxury cars exhibited on his social network channels.
“I already had success before ‘Jerusalema’, unrelated of course, but then everything becomes more comfortable. The song is gonna generate income for the rest of my life,” he said frankly.
– ‘Village kid’ –
In South Africa, Master KG has bought a house for his mother and built one for his grandmother. And life has also changed for his chosen singer, Nomcebo Zikode. When he contacted her to lend her voice to “Jerusalema”, she was thinking of giving up music. Instead, she has just released an album.
Master KG also has a recording studio near Johannesburg, which is an unexpected success for one who describes himself as a “village kid”, born in Calais, a small town in the northeast of South Africa. He is amazed when he is told that a French town has the same name.
Master KG lived with his mother, a hotel employee (his father is a teacher), and got into music when an uncle gave him his first computer in 2013. He has already released two albums, which he considers more like a cluster of singles.
The third, which he hopes to present at the end of 2021, will be more “constructed, prepared”.
“For the title of the album, the fans must help me, help me find a title, it will be an album from South Africa to the world, rich in the encounters I have had,” he says.
When told that he risks receiving a colossal number of proposals, he laughs. “There’s bound to be one that will stick”.