Editor’s note: This is a guest post by my good friend Bukani Duba. He is an artist, songwriter and producer. His last project The Sweet Science is available here. Connect with him on his Twitter or Facebook. This is part 2 of a 2 part series. Click here for part 1.
1. It is better to define yourself than to be a ‘made man’.
Calm down, I’m not talking about the Mafia’s ‘made man’, I’m talking about one who is created by the industry. One who is advised to create a whole new persona – a new image, so as to rack up publicity. His music is whatever the masses want and his rep is created and carried by the label.
Last year, I would hang with Zwai Bala, the Z from TKZee and frontman of Bala Brothers Productions. I would sit in on his meetings, gaining first-hand experience in the dealings of a seasoned veteran in the industry. We’d have studio sessions and I learned more than I ever thought possible, from my former mentor – and what a mentor he is. But one thing that always stuck with me was the stigma of being ‘Zwai’s boy’; everywhere I went, people recognised me as that – I had no rep of my own. I had not earned the respect of the contacts that I made – there was no reason for them to remember my name. I am eternally grateful for his mentorship, I would not change a thing, but I knew that I had to make my own way.
Record labels do that to the undefined ‘diamond in the rough’. If you don’t know your style, know yourself or how far you are willing to go for fame (your limits), they will define all of that for you.
The real reason we make music is to self-express and hope the listener identifies with what we’re saying – the message we’re portraying. How tragic would it be if you didn’t even have your own voice for that?
2. I don’t feel like I’m ready just yet.
There’s nothing like getting into that sweet spot of creating your own music and actually being able to make a living out of it. South Africa is a strange crowd to deal with and the industry is fickle. The trends are all over the show and to try and follow them would always leave you one step behind – so instead of following, one must lead. That’s what I’m working on. I’m still developing myself as a singer-songwriter, instrumentalist and record producer. Maybe I’ll make it or maybe it’s not ‘written in the stars’ for me but there’s always room to grow and learn. I want to gain as much experience and knowledge about where I’m going before I decide to take off. You wouldn’t go overseas without contacting someone you know over there, or trying to find a safe place to stay, researching the good, the bad and the ugly about where you are going, would you? So it shocks me how many people would walk so blindly into the ravenous entertainment industry – it’s ravenous, believe me, I worked at SAMRO last year; you would not believe the amount of rip-off deals (would-be record deals) I saw, that people ignorantly signed. But I digress.
3. Others made it without winning a competition
The bulk of the industry is made up of artists who worked hard and grinded for their fifteen minutes. They know what it took to get where they are, so they don’t take it for granted. They are proof that it is possible to make it, hence this emphasis people put on TV competitions as the golden ticket to success.
So in conclusion,
TV competitions, it has to be said, have given numerous successful artists their ‘lucky breaks’ and who’s to say that it won’t happen for you or someone you know? Just remember that luck is 2% opportunity and 98% preparation; luck favours the prepared. I’m just gonna let God work on me and trust that I will become the man and musician that He has meant for me to be. I could be years off the tangent or I could be closer than I think. All I know is that when I’m ready, you’ll know…
In the meantime, it would be remiss of me not to mention that I am working on a new concept EP / mixtape – called Material due for release later this year, dealing with the issue of Materialism and its subsequent themes.
Also, feel free to add your opinions on this topic in the comments section below.