Zakes Bantwini is a formidable force within the South African music space. He is a respected musician in his own right and made a massive impact in the A&R space as well. After a short hiatus, the star is finally back with a brand new studio album. The singer recently released ‘Love, Light & Music 2’ and has found a way to blend his love for house music and various other international influences into his most creative piece of work yet. This week, the star chats to me about the new album, working with Hugh Masekela and having his wife, Nandi Madida, on the record.

Congrats on the new album. The new record is the second chapter in your ‘Love, Light & Music’ chapter. How are the two albums similar?

They are not similar but rather related. Both have been produced and crafted by myself, however they were each inspired by various times in my life.

The album has an international direction sonically, it seems. What influences were you inspired by this time around?

My time at Sony Music Africa as Head of A&R gave me the opportunity to work with international talent and listen to artists from across the world. Fela Kuti is an inspiration sonically as well as the house movement that is picking up so rapidly internationally!

‘Bang Bang Bang’ was well-received. Tell us a bit about the message behind the song.

I wanted this song to have stadium status. I wanted it to be a song that would be sung by hundreds of thousands of people. It needed a simple, catchy melody with an African beat. To me, this is a blend of South and West African influences.

Many songs off the album are quite emotional and vulnerable. How important is baring your soul in your music?

I wouldn’t say it’s important for everyone – but it is for me. As Bob Marley said, “The good thing about music is when it hits you, you feel no pain.” This is how I want people to feel when listening to my album. No pain but rather an escape – even if just for a moment. The music carries your through and sometimes brings out emotions that you never know were there.

You worked with Hugh Masekela on a track off the album. What was that experience like – especially since you both come from different genres?

Bra Hugh is a walking book of wisdom. He is more than just an inspiration, he is the foundation of what is happening in South African music today. So, I felt like I was working with a founder and a pioneer. I only hope that one day I will inspire people the way he has and continues to. This was an experience I will never forget. With all that wisdom in one room and jazz being the foundation of house music, the genre didn’t matter!

You’ve been very vocal about artists’ obsession with awards and fame. Do you still think this is a major factor hampering the growth of South African music?

I don’t think that awards will affect your career. If the song is not strong, no award can help it dominate. However, when you happen to win one based on merit, then it’s great for growth of the industry.

Your wife, Nandi Madida, wrote the first verse on ‘Love & Pain’. Does your relationship change somewhat when you’re in the studio?

No, not at all. I wanted to talk about the vulnerability of women in love, and I asked my wife, who is in love with me, to write about women and how they experience and feel pain in the most honest way.

Now that the album is out, what’s next?

We are working hard to push the new album so we will have loads of shows nationwide. I’m also working with a new management team, SJN Agency, and planning my 2018 world domination!! Watch this space!

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