Welcome to the World of Art!!
In the midst of everything that we are going through as a country, all we can do is to hang on to things that help us grow and keep us happy at the same time. Alter Kay shared his own views about what is going on around us, and shared his discomfort about certain decisions that are taken by the officials on behalf of the whole country. Like he stated, people who drink alcohol tend to get wild- we have been witnessing high numbers of drunken driving and gender based violence due to alcohol consumption. It is sad that children are growing up in an era that glorifies alcohol and overlooks all the negativity that comes with it. I trust that we will learn from all these statistics of recorded deaths due to car accidents and gender based violence. Sometimes, it is wise to learn from other people’s mistakes- alcohol is not the source of happiness that the society makes it out to be, so stay away from it, kids. Anyway, this weekend is carrying yet another information-filled online conversation between myself and one of the most committed artists that I have ever came across. Without wasting any more of your time, let us get straight into it….
Getting to know the Artist..
Today we are chatting with Bonani Mahlathini, a 16 year old Grade 10 student from Greenpoint High School. I can’t think of Bonani and not smile to myself, because my mind plays different scenarios of the times I have spent with him. When he first joined Iingcambu Zempumelelo Creative Arts Family, he came to prepare for a session he was invited to perform in.Being the Word Artist that I am, I don’t deal directly with children who do Music (during reharsals), but I remember hearing Bonani’s testimony after one rehearsal session where he was telling us that he had found family in us. I knew right there and then that Bonani was not only going to stay for the duration of the preparations and the session, but he was here to stay. He went on to tell us that he had always been treated like an outcast, because he is different from the rest, and he was happy to meet people who embraced his uniqueness.Because we love unique people who are not apologetc about who and what they are, I asked Bonani to describe himself in his own words;
“I am a very active person. I love being outdoors, meeting new people and making new friends. Lastly, I am a music addict”
An entire addict. That has got to be the deepest expression one can ever think of, to give a vivid description of his love for something.I stand as a witness of how much this young man loves and knows music, not only his own music but also music made by different artists too. There was this other time that he arrived early for the rehearsal sessions, and he grabbed a chair and sat in the office while we continued working. The meaningful conversations that he engaged on, with my colleagues made me realize that he knew the industry, almost inside out. My heart always smiles when someone shows interest in knowing more about the industry they are in, it shows that the person takes his work seriously.
For someone who is addicted to music, I couldn’t help but ask how long it takes to write a song;
“I normally take about two days, but I sometimes take up to about a week-depending on the concept I am working on. I never rush my creativity, because I am a perfectionist and I want things to turn out beautifully”
“My love for art started long time ago in 2015 when I was 11 years old and at that time I didnt really know what I wanted to be in life , I felt like a lost person with no purpose in life. I started playing sports like how most children did and I thought soccer was the career for me but then still when I played soccer I felt incomplete like there was something missing. I then stopped playing soccer when I was in grade 6 which was the year 2016 and then I started feeling the pressure of choosing any career cause people were asking me what I wanted to be in life. I then asked my close friends Phila and and Siphosethu for advise on choosing a career and then Phila said to me that I must look into what I like doing on my spare time and what makes me very happy when I do it . I then noticed that I loved writing music. I would mostly remix celebrities music and insert my verses in their songs and then Phila and Siphosethu named me with the stage name Kingslay which I’m currently using. I have seen how music impacted lives and how it impacted my life too, so I also wanted to have that positive impact on someone else and also inspire people with my life story thats where my love for art began. I am involved in both Music and Drama”
At some point in our lives, we all find ourselves searching for our true purpose and it is a very important phase in a person’s life. For children like Bonani, the journey to self discovery started at a very early age and that leaves them with an advantage of advancing in their true calling while they are still very young. For someone who is a Hip-hop Artist, I couldn’t even begin to imagine what could be the source of inspiration. We all know the pressure in the Hip-hop industry, and I assume that everyone is always working hard to be on top of the list of good Hip-hop Artists. I asked him what inspires him to write;
“I’m mostly inspired by current events in the world, including my own experiences, past and present experieces. I am also inspired by my own feelings and how I deal with certain issues.Lastly, I am deeply inspired by people who try to make a better world for all”
It is always believed that people who find inspiration in the world around them are mostly people who write to educate about something or to advocate for something. People who find inspiration in the world around them are always aware of their surroundings and are very much able to use their tools to fix parts of the society that stand to cripple the Black child, even for generations to come. With all that discovery of the fact that I was dealing with someone who knew and understood the purpose he was created to serve, I asked him to tell us more about the messages he is conveying with his music;
“The message I am trying to bring to the people with my music is that, never give up, even if you go through the hardest obstacles. Just know that you were built to be strong enough to withstand all the challenges that you are going to face in your life. People must love you for who you are or not love you at all, always remember that. Also, I always try to bring happiness to the listener through my music”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. I mean, we are all entrusted with superpowers by The Most High, and it depends on how one uses their powers. If you stand tall in the midst of a challenge and understand that you are able to survive and make it through, nothing will ever stand on your way. Bonani has discovered his at an early age, and that brings solution to the society because his music will change the mentality of his peers. I asked him about his achievements so far, whether big or small. I always tell people that every little step towards your dreams is to be celebrated. I personally always celebrate even the smallest of steps or milestone because it counts. If it makes me better than the person I was yesterday, then it counts;
“Well, I can share the highlights of my career so far, as a way of refleeting on the journey too. In December 2019, I had my very first radio interview at Kumkani FM and it was all made possible by the World of Art Movement. Another career highlight that stands out, was performing on the monthly sessions that we post as Iingcambu Zempumelelo Creative Arts. That platform has helped me grow as a performer, and my writing has improved because the sessions requires one to create all the time in order to show up with different material. Through those sessions, I have also learnt how to generate my own income as an artist and not depend on Funding in order to survive as an artist. Another career highlight is having my song, West side connection ft J. Summit, reaching 1000 views on YouTube. I know these may seem small, but to me they are a big deal. I appreciate the fact that a thousand people took their time and streamed my song. I am also grateful to J. Summit for ensuring the song is a banger.”
Bonani mentions another very important lesson that artists need to align themselves with in order to survive- the ability to generate your own income as an artist. Art is a career and we can’t shy away from the fact that artists need to make a decent living. Artists need to learn to make their own money, without depending on funding. There are many ways of generating income as an artist, but one just needs to think out of the box.
The industry.. .
We all know that Hip-hop artists are known for being full of themselves and are party animals,so I asked Bonani what he thinks causes that;
“Mostly, it is peer pressure because certain people expect a rapper to have a wild image and not be simple in order to be considered a legit rapper or to be accepted as a rapper in this generation. Youngboy once said and I qoute ‘you brought your change up , they brought your name up’ ,meaning you have to change who you are if you are simple in order to be recognised and that mostly leads to artists using substances and going to parties just to fit in”
The sad reality of the industry. I guess even the those artists who are still dreaming of getting into the industry will learn a thing or two about the industry, from children who learnt how the industry works from an early age. The worst mistake one can ever make in the Hip-hop industry, is to foresake your true self and adapt to a disgrace of a character that causes pain to his family. Grateful to Bonani for that esson there, I trust that everyone now understand the pattern that is designed to destroy people when they get into the Hip-hop industry. Upon realizing that Bonani clearly understood what took place in the industry, I asked how he conducts himself;
“I’m different from other hip hop artists. I say this because I have been blessed by God with friends who do not use substances. I’m not the type of person who thinks using substances is a cool thing and by having friends who don’t use substances, I don’t get peer pressure to do things I don’t want to do”
There, he does it again- he is embracing his uniqueness. Being different makes one really special though, and that’s exactly how Bonani is. I asked him what he would say to a child who wants to get into the Hip-hop industry if he were to tell that child about the industry;
“Well, since I am also still learning, I would tell them to always open room for learning in order to grow within their crafts. I would also tell them that the music industry is not only about the glitz and glamour, like they show us on TV. There will be hard times when you will feel like giving up, but I remind myself about my love for what I do. That is what everyone needs to do in order to survive- keep in touch with their purpose. Learn never to give up on your dreams, no matter how difficult things are”
Believe me, Bonani is right about those moments of feeling like giving up. Those moments are real, and everyone goes through those moments. What matters the most is how you deal with those kinds of moments. It always boils down to knowing your inner strength. If you don’t know how strong you are, you will never stand firm against anything. Take that very seriously, because when reality hits, such words would make so much sense.
Art at home…
Bonani mentioned how he was always treated as an outcast, I asked if his family is supportive of his craft. I believe that if the family is supportive, what the world out there thinks doesn’t matter;
“My family is supportive of my Art, but they sometimes get worried that I might turn out like other rappers and misbehave.”
For any parent, raising a Hip-hop artist must be very challenging. I asked how he is handling his family and how are they reaching common ground;
“I am still in a process of explaining my life to my parents and trying to convince them that I am not like the rest of the Hip-hop artists. I know it will take time, and I am willing to commit to making them see that I am not just doing music for the fun of it.”
Communication. I don’t know for how many weeks have we bee putting emphasis on the importance of communication. Guys, it is very important to explain your passion to people around you. Remember, not everyone will see your vision. It is then your responsibility to make your people see what you see and stop expecting them to support things they don’t understand. Taking Art home is a very tricky thing to do, because you can never really know what to expect as an outcome. Through all of that, we must always make it a point that our voice is heard without even enforcing it.
Visiting the future…
We all have that one person in our lives that we always look up to. It may be for different reasons, but we always imagine ourselves as exactly like those people when we reach their age. Sometimes you visit your future through looking at everything that you wish to have in the future, and imagine having it all. I asked Bonani who he looks up to, because I believe it will give us a clear indication of how far Bonani is heading.
“I look up to Kentrell Desean Guilden, known by his stage name Youngboy, an artist from Louisiana Baton Rouge, America. The reason why I look up to Youngboy is because he has never given up on his dream of being a rapper since the age of 8 years. He got his breakthrough at the age of 16. Nothing stood on his way of getting what he wanted, even the fact that he grew up without a father never stopped him from building his future just the way he wanted to build it. His music is basically therapy to me, because of his ability to express his pain through his music. I find healing in listening to his music because he speaks to my soul. I also find inspiration from his parenting skills, to become a better parent to my kids too one day. When he found out that his other son was not biologically his, people advised him to leave the woman and cut all ties with the child too, but he chose to continue raising the child because he had already created a bond with him”
As I said earlier, the people we look up to say a lot about us and the kind of people that we are going to become one day. I asked him where he saw himself in the future;
“I see myself having an impact on so many people’say lives through my music. I see myself making a great living through my Art and financially supporting my parents. I see my dream campaign of community development getting off the ground and helping people to get off the streets and getting jobs to earn a living. I also see myself funding young entrepreneurs to launch their businesses to create employment. I will be doing all of that under Black Art Entertainment, and we will be international then. I will also pay my dues to the Wold of Art Movement for being such a great influence in my life”
Bonani is such a great dreamer. At the age of 16, he knows who he is and where he is going. I am blown away by the fact that he sees Black Art Entertainment as an international company. Let me quickly remind you guys about Black Art Entertainment; do you remember Sange? Yes, this is the same Black Art Entertainment that Bonani is talking about. As the World of Art Movement, we take pride in seeing that our children are already implementing their dreams. Every empire was once an idea at some point, so Black Art Entertainment will definitely rise above all odds. He also mentions that he will pay his dues to the World of Art Movement too. I don’t know how, but I guess I will just have to wait and see. We all know that the World of Art doesn’t charge a cent from the children who are registering under it, so I cannot wait and see how he will be paying his dues. One of the challenges we face as people who work with children, is coming across children with big dreams but who don’t fully understand the fact that one has to put in the work. Knowing Bonani and his dreams, I knew he had a trusted method to achieve all of that so I asked him to share his method with everyone;
“There is no other way than working hard to achieve my dreams. I know I will have to step out of my comfort zone and go an extra mile for my brand in putting it out there”
There you have it, hard work is the secret weapon to fight against obstacles that may hinder your success.
Message to the peers…
“Young artists should stay away from drugs, because drug use will result in them misbehaving and getting into trouble. Drugs are also a no-go zone because they are dangerous to our health, and they lead to death. I would also like to tell the young artists that they should always keep their private lives private. Make sure that each and every step that you take today determines a better future for you..”
As we enter into this new week, may we carry all the messages that Bonani shared with us. May we put our fighting boots on release our inner strength. Also, let us not forget all he said about substance abuse and it’s dangers. I’d like to extend my vote of appreciation to Bonani for sharing everything he has shared with us. I wish him nothing but the best on his journey..
You can follow him on the following platforms;
Facebook: Bonani Bear Mahlathini
Artist of the Week: Bonani Kingslay Mahlathini
Article by: Cinga Dyala
Photo credit: Photos supplied by the Artist