It is said that House music is a universal sound that moves everyone. However unlike Hip Hop, it has always been challenging to pinpoint traits that make House music identifiable as a ‘culture’. Molebogeng Mangoale had a sit-down with Surreal Sounds Record Label owner Katlego DJ Swizz’ Ngoepe and DJ and producer Bonginkosi Hlongwane aka Bokkie Ult, to discuss house music culture and their new music project #WeLive4OurMusic.
I meet with Bokkie Ult and DJ Swizz on a Friday afternoon at the rooftop of Amaros - a popular nightclub in the central business district of Pretoria. Although I’m here to discuss their new musical movement #WeLive4OurMusic, our conversation quickly moves to an interesting discussion about the business of music and house music culture.
“House music does not have culture but there is unity. Where would you start if you wanted to create a culture for house music?” Bokkie Ult asks.
“Culture brings unity. With culture you can identity things such as a movement. That’s where you find a movement. I think we need a culture [within house],” says DJ Swizz.
The gentleman contend that in order to understand if House music has a culture, it is first important to define what ‘culture’ means within the context of music. I for one have always thought the one thing that unifies the House music industry, particularly the fans, is the love for the music. House heads share a deep passion and loyalty for the genre. For those that connect to the music on an even deeper and spiritual level, they find solace, mindfulness and contentment in it.
The two DJs state that House music is not necessarily what one sees but what is heard. “We already have the culture, it’s the love for the music,” they finally agree after much discussion on the topic.
“I can’t say a song defines the culture of house music . For me it all boils down to the collective of the people within the house music industry,” Swizz adds.
He further adds that house music is boxed in, that there’s no unity within the industry. For a man that’s been in the industry for quite some time and has been through his fair share of challenges such as being broke and running an independent record label with limited resources, I pay close attention.
“It’s tough being an artist in South Africa. I think a lot of the times, money is being directed to other areas and not to art.
Even radio stations have limited platforms where the type of music that we do as a record label can be played. So that’s why it is advisable that one has their own platforms where they can push their own brand.”
He says music artists should be smart about how they channel the marketing of their music and brands. They should also think about how they want to reach other audiences that have never heard their music before.
Bokkie Ult, who’s also an independent artist, says he understood beforehand the challenges he would face in the industry and that he had mentally prepared himself for them. “I understood what was best for my brand, I decided to focus on my DJing first by entering competitions [when I started out].” A graduate from the Soul Candi Music Institute, he says one of the most important things he’s learned as a young artist is the importance of reinvesting his profits back into his music. Here is his advice to upcoming artists in the industry:
1. Know what you want
2. Be very clear about your vision
3. Surround yourself with a strong team
For now, the two DJs are focused on their multi-genre musical project #WeLive4OurMusic, an initiative from Surreal Sounds in collaboration with other artists and independent labels. They describe it as a collective of musical creatives be it House, Hip Hop, Jazz or any other genre and the focus is on just doing music. They released an EP last month in collaboration with Redbull Studios.
Click the link below to listen to it: