Name: Kgaogelo Moagi aka Master KG
Nationality: South African
Occupation: Musician, producer
Current Release: In the wake of Master KG's epic hit single "Jerusalema", Master KG released "Shine Your Light", a collaboration with Akon and David Guetta. It quickly gained one million streams within its week of release and has by now amassed almost ten million plays. For Master KG, these successes are not a means to an end, however. Instead, they allow him to spread African culture worldwide and create a platform for understanding between different cultures.
If you enjoyed this interview with Master KG and would like to find out more about his music, visit him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tiktok.
When starting out, many artists want to "change the world" with their work. What was this like for you? What were some of your early ambitions and in which way were you able to realise them?
When I started out, all I wanted was for people to listen to my music because they enjoyed it. I felt as though if people could give me a chance and listen to my music, then they would never let it go. Luckily, I was given that chance.
I never thought I would be this global star, it definitely came as an extra for working really hard and also not thinking much about fame, letting the work and the music create the opportunities I’ve received.
One ambition of yours is to take African culture worldwide. You certainly achieved that goal with "Jerusalema".
‘Jerusalema’ is an African song through and through. All the elements that we used to create that beautiful song were pulled from different parts of Africa, and the world is loving it! We’re just being ourselves, and it’s inspiring to see how hungry the world is for it. We have the opportunity to tell the world about our languages, our dances, where we come from, and really express ourselves.
What was it like to have South Africa's president namecheck your song in a national address?
It was incredible, it took the song and lifted it to a different level. I feel like its the kind of song that is going to live forever. Even in 10 years to come, it can be something for people to look back on and feel fondly about it, especially during a really hard time, it was something that brought us joy and made us proud. I’m really grateful to have been a part of that.
To me, what makes "Jerusalema" stand out is that it is precisely not recorded like a huge club anthem, but with a lot of feeling and a gentle mood.
I remember that I was in a place where there was a lot of negativity going around. So I wanted to create something that would keep me going, with a lot of soul and spirituality. That’s when I went to the studio and started making the beat. I was sitting there listening to it afterwards brainstorming about who I could put on the track and Nomcebo Zikode came to mind. I knew her voice was going to take it to where it needed to be. I called her and she came to the studio, we discussed the direction of the song and co-wrote it. The lyrics themselves are easy to sing along to and it doesn’t have too many words, but we started recording it piece by piece and it came together so smoothly.
There is something dream-like about the music …
I always try to focus on the positive. Obviously there is always going to be a bit of negativity and negative opinions but so many people loved the song. I heard from a lot of people that reached out and let me know the song was making their life easier on a daily basis. Just by bringing some different energy to their day and allowing them to feel blessed. That makes me feel blessed at the same time, that I can have that affect on someones day. That hope and that positive mindset makes it stand out and act as a healer, which makes me so happy.
Can you please tell us a bit about your own sense of African identity – and how it motivated you to take an artistic path?
I was born in the villages in South Africa, I’m not from the city. I grew up in the Calais Village in a province called Limpopo. It's really beautiful there, and it helped me learn a lot growing up. We didn’t have a lot, we didn’t have TVs but we had radio. It wasn’t an especially nice life, and growing up was really hard, but we did grow up happy.
Growing up in the village really inspired me to work harder and never let the fact that I’m from the village stop me from doing what I love and what I want to do. When it all started, there were a lot of people who said it wasn’t right and wasn’t for me, that it was the kind of thing people from the urban areas work towards, and to stop playing. It was enough to make you stop, but I was inspired to keep going. In the end, my music is mostly inspired by where I come from.
In which way do you feel your identity concretely influences your creativity?
My identity and my creativity are tied together very closely. I am constantly inspired by where I come from, and the people that I grew up with and continue to meet. All of these people and experiences affect who I am as a person and they make me whole. They feed my creativity and they keep me joyful.
What are elements from African culture that you would like the world to know more about?
So many things, but if we talk about music, one thing is the Bolobedu sound - it’s just so beautiful and I can’t wait for it to gain more attention. Bolobedu is very personal to me, there are a lot of Bolobedu artists that have come before me from South Africa that are legends, but that the world doesn’t know about. It’s my job now to take those elements of my culture and let it shine. I mix it up with modern house and dance music, and I try to create magic out of that.
There’s also a new sound in Africa called Amapiano - it’s a new wave of house music that I feel if people give it a chance they are really going to love it. I can’t really talk about Afrobeats because that one is already out there, it’s already a vibe that everyone around the world is jumping on, but Bolobedu and Amapiano are the next big things.
There was an interesting comment on Youtube to the "Jerusalema" video: "People saying Master KG makes South Africa proud should stop it. Master KG makes Africa proud!" Why has it been so hard to achieve African unity – and what are ways that it could work, do you feel?
I feel like the more we come together as African artists, the more collaborations we make, the more love we show one another and the more appreciation we give one another, the more this will allow us to go even further. I think there is a lot that already unites us. I wouldn’t say that we’re divided but I do think that what we’re doing as musicians can help.
For example, for the "Jerusalema" remakes I went all the way to Nigeria to work with Burna Boy. Africans getting together like that is a beautiful thing and I think it took the song even further and the world loved it even more. Working together like that can really make a difference.
If you compare the work you're doing with your output as a musician, in which way do you feel as though music can also bring about change and lead to tangible improvements?
Music is a great way to spread the word, to use your voice is a powerful thing. My music is more about love, unity, and hope, so I believe that no matter what mood someone is in, when they listen to my song they will feel better. If there’s hate, it will change to love; if there’s division, it will change to unity. Listening to music changes a mindset, allows people to change how they feel about certain things and adjust their mental states. Music can change a whole narrative.
I think that the more we work together, working across borders and social boundaries the better music will become. We can all learn from one another, from different styles and sounds, and those can come together and create something so beautiful and different. Collaboration is always the answer and to feel inspired by what someone else is doing is so positive.
Do you feel it important that artists become more engaged with the political/ecological/social challenges facing us?
Artists are in a unique position where they can raise their voices and people will tend to listen. You can communicate your thoughts in the lyrics in your songs. We have a lot of people that look up to us and listen to us, so it’s important to understand that our platform has substance, and that we need to be careful but can also be bold with what we create. Our voices are important, but our actions need to mirror what we say, to show we actually mean what we are talking about - lead by example.