The God of Art: Mashayabhuqe

From his early days in Emandeni, to his later years in Eshowe and now finally Johannesburg, Mashayabhuqe considers himself a child of the new South Africa rather than rooted in a specific location. “Hence my Instagram handle @MrSouthAfrica because I have no one place I can claim as my home. Every place that I’ve been or I’ve stayed or grew up in has influenced me in a certain way,” Mashayabhuqe notes. During the early years it was his father who would introduce him to new sounds, from the ballads of Johnny Gill & Gerald Levert to local sounds such as TKZee, Thandiswa Mazwai and Sipho Gumede. “My dad was always that person that collected music and he never stopped.” Later on artists such as James Blake, Kanye West, Justin Vernon, Bon Iver & Polica plus local acts such as Dirty Paraffin and Spoek Mathambo played a huge influence on him and his decision to express himself musically.

Given the name Mashayabhuqe by his father, which translates to ‘god of art’, and KaMamba, a reference to his paternal great-grandmother, his first foray into music was as part of the Durban kwaito group AMABHUNGU. Soon he felt the call for something greater. “When I was in the band I knew for sure that I was never comfortable in that situation. It was never enough. I wanted to break through and learn more. Not only about just music or art, but about humans and what’s happening around us and who we are exactly, why are we here and where do we come from?” Mashayabhuqe remembers.

Photograph by Ben Moyo

With his 2014 debut release ‘The Black Excellence Show’ he introduced the world to his Digital Maskandi sound, a combination of traditional Zulu music and the electronic, 808-heavy & auto-tuned sound of now. Heavily influenced by Busi Mhlongo his motivation to make the record was not commercial. “For me it has never been about making songs for radio or making songs to please anybody. For me each and every song has its own story and it’s a thing of making the song define who you are and what you stand for and why you’re here on earth.”

For his latest release ‘Nguniversal’ Mashayabhuqe’s aim was to introduce himself and his sound to the world while breaking the language barrier that singing mostly in vernac brings. “Those vibes where it’s not about the language anymore but it’s about the mood and the direction and the vision of the music itself. All these places that you go to while you’re listening to the music.” Featuring the artists QonVocals and UncleStann, Mashayabhuqe will be releasing a deluxe version with extra songs. “The beautiful features on the deluxe edition will blow your mind.” Launching on the 25th of August at the Tennis Club with support from the Kalashnikov gallery, he aims to create a memorable performance. “I just wanna ensure that everyone enjoys the music live. I’m trying to perform for a special hour.”

Looking to the future Mashayabhuqe is aiming to take over the globe. “With ‘Nguniversal’ it’s like I’m ready to do world tours. I’m ready for Coachella. I’m putting it out there for the universe; mother nature never disappoints,” he says emphatically. He also has an album in the works, featuring many of musical friends. When it comes to what Mashayabhuqe wants people to take from his music his message is clear: “Just to remember one thing. I was here not to change you but to give you hope that you’ll be bigger than me and you’ll do bigger things than me. That’s why I’m here.“

Cover art by Ellene Dmar

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