We were first introduced to Busiswa Gqulu, famously known as Kalawa Chikita, as that strong, confident voice on DJ Zinhle’s My Name Is. Since then, Busiswa has made one club banger to the next– from Lahla to Ngoku – and has proved that she is a force to reckon with. We sit down with her to chat about her Channel O Africa Music Video Awards nomination.
Who is Busiswa?
I’m a spoken word artist or poet, born in Mthatha. I spent half my life in Durban, though. I’m a bubbly person who keeps a really high level of optimism every day. I’m signed to Kalawa Jazmee Records so you can call me Kalawa Chikita.
How did you get into the music industry?
I’ve been doing poetry since 2004 when I was in Grade 11. I’ve performed at corporate events, small poetry sessions, campus talent shows, festivals and even hosted my own monthly poetry event at the Bat Centre in Durban called the 1st Word Sessions. During that time, I met a friend who introduced me to DJ Clap (in UHURU now) and Sir Bubzin. They were making house beats in their house so he suggested I try doing my poetry on their tracks. They were later signed to Kalawa, and Oskido heard the song I had done with them called Syaphambana. The song was released on the 1st Kalawa Jazmee Dance compilation in 2011, and I was called to record My Name Is later that year. Oskido thought it would be a good fit for a strong female like DJ Zinhle to be paired up with an assertive voice like mine. I wrote the song, recorded it and a few months later I moved to Joburg. The song was a hit and the rest is history. I love performing. I’m plotting my growth in the industry and I plan to stick around.
You are having an amazing year with your music, what does this Channel O Africa Music Video Award nomination mean for you?
This is probably my biggest achievement this year. Along with being named in the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans. The acts I’m nominated with are Africa’s biggest at the moment and they’ve all broken records of some sort. The nomination is an encouragement to me to keep pushing – it assures me that I’m doing well in a cut-throat industry.
How would you feel if you won?
To be honest, I feel like I’ve won already. To be rated with Davido, Beatenberg, UHURU and P-Square? That’s a win for any upcoming artist.
How do you feel about being nominated in the Most Gifted Dance category?
I’m a new artist who’s nominated with Davido, UHURU, P-Square and DJ Clock: I feel like a WINNER!
How can your fans vote for you?
Ooh yes, they can vote on the WeChat app up to 100 times. They can also go to www.channelo.tv to vote for me in the Most Gifted Dance category.
You were nominated in the same category in 2012, are you more confident about winning this year?
My Name Is was DJ Zinhle’s song and so I consider this to be my first award nomination. I’m a bit of an awards show fanatic (I record all of them and watch them 20 times), so I’m just happy that I’ll be there sitting on the good seats. (Laughs)
Can we expect any performances from you at the Channel O Africa Music Awards 2014?
I HOPE SO! Side Note: If anyone from the Channel O Africa Music Video Awards organisers is reading this… (Chuckles)
If you had to create a category of your own for the Channel O Africa Music Video Awards, what would you call it?
Most Gifted Artist to Look Out For… It would be nice if big awards shows make it their mission to showcase unsigned talent in some way, instead of only getting the biggest artists on the red carpet. Channel O already plays a lot of videos from new artists, it would be cool to incorporate that into the awards.
How are you able to make such amazing club bangers?
(Laughs)My producers are a bad influence. I’m kidding. We just get into the studio and have fun and make songs about the topics we talk about. People can relate, so they decide that it’s a banger.
How has the attention from people been for you?
The hardest part of my journey, I must say. I love walking on stage and hearing people scream (I LOVE IT!)… But in everyday life, it’s a little harder to get used to it. I’ve realised something though: people have memories attached to songs so if you make a song they like, they have a memory of YOU. So I’m patient with people who want to chat or take a pic on the street. I appreciate what their support has done. My life has changed and I live life being grateful to these same people.
What keeps you humble?
Life. God. Lessons from my mentors (Oskido & Professor tell me to be humble quite often). I don’t know if I’m humble. I’ve met millionaires and big stars who are more humble than me.
With the year almost at an end, how are you feeling about your music and the impact that you have made in 2014?
I definitely feel like I’ve progressed. I feel like I became a familiar voice in 2012 but I became a familiar face in 2014. People are starting to understand the kind of artist I am and what to expect from me. And it feels good to be endeared. It’s a part of why artists do what we do.
Ngoku was a dance hit, can we expect any other releases from you in the near future?
I have an exciting new single called Lahla, which just got its iTunes release. Singles are definitely working for me, but I have a lot of music sitting in the studio with producers like Mono T, UHURU, Pex Africa and others at Kalawa. I hope to refine some of it and release a project before the year is over. It’s a busy time of the year for any label so I’m working hard and keeping my fingers crossed.
Speaking of Lahla, it was recently named the most requested song on Yfm, did you anticipate its growing popularity?
Never! But my producers actually told me before the song was released that it was something special. I can’t wait to see just how right they were .
We know Lahla was made in good fun, but what message would you like to send out to everybody who is loving and listening to the song?
As women, we suffer from insecurities. What this song says is: Don’t be so afraid to be judged that you live in a box. Set yourself free! Dance hard! Live hard! They will think the worst of you and call you names like uyalahla just because you’re not afraid to take to the dance floor. But you know your journey and you’re just celebrating it. That’s why I have a rap verse about my own journey in the song. I celebrate how far I’ve come. Download it and tweet me @BusiswaNgoku and let me know, what message did you take from it?
Would you say there is wide recognition of new-age poets/artists such as yourself?
There are some individuals making strides, but Mzansi-style performance poetry still has a long way to go. People still see it as a “boring”, Eurocentric art form. But it’s booming among young people all over the country, in all types of languages and styles too! I hope it grows the same way that stand-up comedy has grown as an industry in the country: where lots of people pay to see poetry shows at fancy venues, and poets can be full-time working poets who wear suits and shop at Rosebank from poetry gig money.
What can we expect from you in the near future?
Some more spoken word, dancing and maybe a debut album in the next six months. I also plan to use my platform for the causes I believe in, including children, education and empowering young girls who consider me a role model.