Cape Town artists struggle to penetrate the market - an interview with Mxizo

| Mary-Jane Matsolo
Photo courtesy of Mxizo.

The Western Cape has many talented artists. But often they struggle to make a living doing what they love. A talented artist who is determined to make it is Mxolisi Moyi a local Afro soul artist that hails from the township of Nyanga East infamously known for its high level of crime.

This 34 year old released his first album in 2010 and his song Ndiku’jongile was a major hit with local radio stations. It was a huge hit over the festive season in many township hot spots such as shebeens and local pubs.

GroundUp interviewed Mxolisi, known by his stage name Mxizo.

GroundUp: So where did your whole journey with music start?

Mxizo: I started singing at the Apostolic church choir when I became a member of the Princess Square Singers (PSS) which was a big Gugulethu choir that won a lot of tournaments. I was a tenor solo of the choir. The choir fell apart when we started fighting over money we would win at tournaments.

In 2007 my friend and I bought sound equipment and started doing promotions. I would be the MC of the events. When that too fell apart a friend advised me to go into the events organising business which I did and in 2010 I met a guy by the name of Pyro who introduced himself as a producer. It was never my intention to sing, I was always better at being the face of the event.

GroundUp: How was the hit song Ndiku’jongile created?

Mxizo: That track happened purely by accident. During one of our events Pyro would play his beats. I remember liking one of the beats he played at one of our gigs at MUM’s place (a shebeen). So when I was home one day with my girlfriend I listened to the beat and sang over it. I was really just goofing around and singing to my girlfriend. But it sounded nice so I recorded it on my phone and took it to Pyro. He was impressed and so we worked on it some more and people really responded well to it and couldn’t believe it was me singing the track.

GroundUp: How well did your first album do?

Mxizo: Unfortunately I cannot say how well or bad the album did because I have no idea. The promoter guy that helped me with the album, Mr Lionel Jamela, heard my song on Umhlobo Wenene radio station and he approached me to do an album. We recorded the album and the name of the album was “Ngu Mxizo lona” titled Ndiku’jongile. From that album I only received 25 copies from Jamela.

The rest of the administrative work of the album was done by Jamela. I really was not involved in the process. He registered my album with EMI and probably collected all the royalties from my album. I knew nothing about the business side of music. I just enjoyed singing and making people happy. That was rewarding enough for me. Because I knew nothing about the industry I never even signed a contract with Jamela and till this day I don’t know how much money that album made.

People warned me about the sharks within the industry, but I didn’t care, I just wanted to make an album.

GroundUp: How did this experience affect you and your music?

Mxizo: I have learned a lot from this experience and as a result when I recorded my second album in 2011 titled “Uyandenza” I made sure that I was hands-on in everything. I didn’t go register my tracks with EMI but instead did everything myself, from promotions to the designs, events and bookings. I travelled to the Eastern Cape and sold my copies. I must say I’m receiving a lot of love and airplay from the local radio stations such as radio Zibonele and my track has even been on the top five on Bush radio.

GroundUp: What would you say is the biggest challenge faced by musicians in the Western Cape?

Mxizo: Definitely the lack of information concerning the business aspect side of the industry. Cape Town has a lot of talented artists coming from the townships, but all the artists are struggling to penetrate the market because there is no support structure that we receive from the big national radio stations such as METRO FM, 5FM and Goodhope. I’m not sure what the reason for this is exactly. It could be political or a matter of us not having a body to represent us here in the Western Cape.

If you look at the artists coming out of Durban they have really put Durban on the map and not only through music but in terms of tourism as well. In Durban the municipality supports their artists and that’s why they are doing so well. Everybody knows that Durban rocks through the promotions done by the artists coming out of Durban. Now everyone wants to go to Durban.

GroundUp: What are you as an artist doing to try to change this current situation?

Mxizo: This year I am doing a Kasi festival and the whole purpose of this festival is to educate people interested in entering the market as much about the industry as possible. We will be having workshops and inviting all the talented beat makers to really teach them the next step after having created a great beat. We intend to approach the City of Cape Town and showcase our talent. We hope they might believe in our dreams and support us by contracting our artists and helping us with a distribution plan so we too can compete and hold our own against the giants in the industry.

Listen to Mxizo’s track Uyandenza.

TOPICS:  Society

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