Interviewee: Blanka Mazimela
Nationality: South African
Occupation: Producers, DJs
Current Release: In Silence on Bantwanas Kollektiv
Recommendations: Please listen to FKA Mash's music you will never go wrong & also read the book titled 'The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.
If you enjoyed this interview with Blanka Mazimela of Bantwanas, visit his their facebook page, soundcloud profile, youtube channel or instagram.
If you're interested in fining out more about Blanka Mazimela's partner in Bantwanas, read our Ryan Murgatroyd interview.
When did you start writing/producing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started writing music in 2005. It wasn't really writing but was all these ideas budding in my head, different melodies. My earliest influences came from my eldest brother who collected music. This pushed my passion for music big time. I started collecting and listening.
Music has always been a coping mechanism. The sonics became a feat that I aspired to do one day. Music has always been greater than my thoughts.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
Having spent a lot of time under Ryan Murgatroyd's wing, it was only natural for me to learn from him. As I began producing more music it became more apparent where my strength was and that was in composition & soul. The transition was in trying to paint a picture of who I am, where I come from & where I intend to go. Coming out of that shell is something I'm still amazed each time I look back at my music.
When making music it really needs to be authentic. I've learnt that when you follow your own intuition and believe in your dopeness, it really sets you apart from the rest of the people in the industry.
What were your main compositionaland production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
In the beginning, I was over composing music. I would have 40 different elements in a song which was beautiful but I think I was overdoing it all the time. I've learnt the art of 'Less Is More' and this technique has really simplified my production process, which allowed me to focus more on the organic sonic response of the elements.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
My studio setup has never changed over the years. Instead, what has changed are some of the plugins I've come to use. Instead of using 15 different plugins I've streamlined it to just 5. Mastering these plugins now is my next development process. I plan to be the master of my craft.
Having some analogue gear has also ensured that I keep up to date with the new developments in the scene.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
Technology will always improve and streamline a process. In my case, my plugins and gear have really enhanced my production process.
Machinery is always good at evolving any process but the human factor will always attach feeling to it. Humans bring out the soul in music.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
I think before going into the studio I have the idea in my head as to the type of element that I need. The tools that I use have these types of sonics. It really is a natural process as I have connected with my tools immensely.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
I think jamming is probably the best form. That's where all the natural ideas are expressed. I am more comfortable when a person is really letting loose and allowing themselves to be immersed in the music. This is long before you think about all the technicalities that follow after like contracts, publishing etc.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I am a Head Of Soul Candi Institute of Music. Naturally I am in the space of music. Between running all our colleges and inspiring young musicians I am always thinking about production ideas. I spend my typical day behind a desk on my headphones so time and time again I produce music but it really comes at different times.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
It starts with a melody. Melodies invoke emotion for me. This really allows me to paint a bigger picture.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Sadness is probably my ideal writing state. This is normally influenced by a series of events in my life. I never write good music when I am happy. I think this translates well into the music.
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
In the studio there's no audience just a bunch of us with all our crazy ideas. Seeing people respond to all the studio ideas is an experience unmatched. Like a bass drop and vocal placement but upon seeing people respond to it is just phenomenal.
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
For me it has to start with the composition. The composition will produce the sound. This process should never overlap or be over thought.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
The ability to see a place and having the perfect soundtrack for it. Take a roadtrip for example when you drive on the road passing little towns and seeing new places there's always this idea in my head about the perfect sound that would describe me seeing this place for the first time.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role, and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
It's about letting out the inner emotion. Something that people can't see but can hear once the final product is done.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
Music will always be the sound track to life. You appreciate music differently at different stages of your life. I would not change anything about the music. It should just adapt to the times.