The Godfathers of Deep House SA aka Masia Mashapa and Victor Ngcongwana are a name I first discovered earlier this year. In South African house circles they are royalty. If you hadn’t heard of them (like me) then time to read on with special attention. Their social media following is gigantic, their website a massive source of traffic and their subscriptions services cutting through in a market place most of us know is one of the hardest to actually sell any music within. Their viewpoint on deep house is almost a spiritual mantra - one that resonates with audiences and marks them apart from many others as they look to develop local content and distribute it to international audiences. Given their status I’d didn’t actually think I’d get a chance to interview them… but true to their values of helping promote South African deep house they agreed!
There’s a definite spiritual feel to the things I’ve read on you two - is that something important to you?
Let me start by explaining why we call our music Nostalgic Deep House. Just the sheer meaning of nostalgia evokes positive memories of a place you have been to and would like to get back into that space again. Our kind of music that we produce is designed to give you that nostalgic effect.
It could be simply put as music for reliving of a past time, which is usually a more positive light than the reality of that even may have been. This is true spirituality (soul and body connection). Our nostalgic music does not only bring about emotional and spiritual comfort, it brings physical comforts too, making one feel warmer and increases one's tolerance to unfavorable weather conditions. Which is why you can dance to our music in the cold or any weather condition and still feel the vibe.
Having said that, we wanted to produce the kind of music that fuses into any human environment, whether you are in a boardroom discussing a billion dollar deal or you are studying your quantum physics subject, or chilling with friends while playing the music that does not distract you but complements any human environment you find yourself in, irrespective of the emotional state you find yourself in. In my opinion, the feedback we get from our music videos we publish on our Youtube channel, indicate that we are in line and in tune with our vision to create nostalgic moments for our fans and followers of other genres. In the last month Digital Mind State, an American Tech company was launching robot DJs and our music was selected to show case how the system worked. It is interesting to know that one of the university Professors lecturing blockchain in America uses our music videos from Youtube while lecturing. It’s an affirmation to us that the music does fuse in any environment.
Our nostalgic music fills one's being with strong emotions while going back in time in one's memories not only to improve one's self-esteem, but to give you an anti-depressant effect. That’s why our fans call it exclusive music. It goes beyond fun of the moment. Nostalgic memories and experiences build a sense of social connection, enhancing self-esteem and more.
How did you both get into house music?
We come from a township called Atteridgeville in Pretoria South Africa. Historically black people would resort to music to deal with the political effects of the then system of apartheid which sought to oppress the masses at the time. Our township was one of those places where comfort was sought comfort in Jazz, Blues, Disco, Gospel, Pop and Funk. I guess that’s where the love for music came from. Continually being in the company of our parents and listening to what they were listening to at the time. There was a club in our township called Pat4, run by a guy who I Call the Grandfather of Deep House Music in South Africa. His real name is Patrick Shabalala. He was the guy who truly introduced us to what was house music at the time. He was one of the few club owners who would go to lengths to buy vinyls when it was not fashionable to do so. During those times it an era of music cassettes. He was buying the vinyls and charging people to record music for them.
At the time it was cool to buy an empty cassette and go to people like him to record at least 10-12 tracks at the price of one vinyl. Looking back one now understands the role we played at the time to promote piracy and as result impact negatively on the music producers. It was during my first year at varsity that I bought my very first vinyl. I.O.U by Freeze using my school fees money cos I was so in love with track at the time and it was cheaper to buy it. My vinyl collection started from there. When I got my first job, I went back to the Grandfather to ask about the names of the tracks that I was recording on cassette from him. Once I got the names and where to buy them, the house music addiction.
My house music vinyl collection started from there and I never look back grew until I got to the stage where it became much easier to buy music through digital platforms like Traxsource, Beatport, Whatpeopleplay, etc. My all-time favourite at the time was and it still is, Move Your Body – Marshal Jefferson (The House Music Anthem), followed by Kenny Jammin’ Jason’s Can U dance, Jack the Groove by RAZE, Trentemøller - Late Night Cab Driving
With the advent of digital platforms, I got a lot of exposure into house music which now had transcended into deep house music. Listening to Deep House music from ashore just brought out the spirituality in me that I attached to music ever since. Deep House Music to me was like Gospel, it brought me inner peace and each time I would listen to artists like Larry Heard, Frankie Knuckles, Kenny ‘Dope” Gonzales and many others, there more I got self-reassurance that I chose to love the right genre. Deep House. Personally, my parents were Jazz enthusiasts, which is why even today we tend to gravitate towards music with more instrumentation and lesser lyrics. Through time artist like the JAZZ Masters came into the fray and managed to bring out a combination of these genres into much more jazzy melodic and funky beats.
It was those digital platforms that then exposed me to a lot of South African Deep House Music Producers I never knew about. Fast forward to today, most of the producers I got to know about from these digital platforms are now part of The Godfada Recording Label.
What have been your greatest influences?
The era of internet introduced me to one of the best mixes I have ever downloaded: Guest Mix #14Coffee Table Tech – Mixed by Estimulo. He made me fall in love with the site DeepRhythms. For me he is one of the most outstanding deep house music artists of my time. It was through that site that I got to know many deep house artists like Chris Gray, Trentemøller, Da Rand Land, and many more. Most of the vinyl collection I have was influenced by the artists I got to know from DeepRhythms site. Each time I put up a mix, I have Estimulo’s style in mind. He is my greatest influence.
Deep house for me was for chilling at home. Being a people’s person, my joint was always frequented by people who love deep house music. We would often make some short videos and posted them on Instagram for people to just have taste of the kind of music we were playing. Some time in 2013 a friend of mine was having a birthday party and he requested me to play at his party. I took my partner with (DJ Spring) as he was already a club deejay and was comfortable playing for large crowds unlike me. That was my first appearance in a large crowd. The people were so amused with the kind of music we played and asked us if we could do more of that. This was confirmed when we had a follow up gig in Durban at Eyadini. Based on the overwhelming response we got there, and the demand for our services after that, my partner convinced me to join in and do more of the gigging.
We then decided to formalize that through an establishment of a record label that would specialize in strictly deep and nostalgic sound. With the brand gaining momentum and following, we decided to recruit other young and talented producers to produce what we now call nostalgic deep house. Things moved so fast that we decided develop a distribution channel of our music through our online store as well as our music app.
Why is deep house so big in South Africa, what makes it so popular there?
South Africans are a dancing nation…Historically, it has always been our way of forgetting about the challenges we faced in the country due to the political climate that prevailed, which sought to divide people according to race. During those times we saw the emergence of what we call revolutionary songs, which served as a cry and consolation and hope for the people of south Africa. These revolutionary songs had rhythms and vibe, and just like deep house music, they talk to the soul as they were about suffering, and hope. Something that connected the souls of many around the country. It was cry for peace and deep house offered just that. Peace and tranquility.
These musical connections tend to happen more in person than online because only a third of the country has broadband access, making regional movements like The Godfathers Of Deep House SA, local styles and showcase parties all the more salient. What makes it even more popular is the fact that many upcoming youth have found hope and inspiration in artists like Black Coffee and then entered the deep house music production space with the hope that it would bring fortunes to them. This increased the level of competitiveness amongst the young and upcoming producers who really started flooding the market with deep house music. Deep house is music of choice in most of the clubs around the country.
You’re DJs and producers what is your first love of the two?
As label owners, what do you find are the biggest challenges in the SA market and then taking that international?
The single biggest challenge in the South African market is the culture of entitlement, which lead to most consumers thinking that because music is a commodity to share, it should come at no cost to them. This in turn leads to a lot of piracy due to the unwillingness to pay for our product.
With deep house music not being mainstream, you find that deep house artists have to form a lot of Deep House Movements, like ours, which we used as channels to popularize the genre. Deep house music gets limited airplay and by default limits the exposure to the music consumers. Interestingly enough a lot of content that is aired by the broadcasters in mainly from outside countries, or international if you like. This further constraints local content generally from being popular. But the entry of new deep house movements into the market ensure that deep house is dug out of the underground to the forefront.
Artists like Black Coffee, DaCapo have done the country a favor by making it easier for the international audience to have a sense of our kind of music which resonates very well with the international consumers. Also international Djs like Ralf Gum, Andy Compton, Atjazz, Lars Behrenroth have brought some sense of validation to our consumers that our country’s local music is good enough and can compete with the best out there. It therefore becomes much easier for the local labels to penetrate the international markets.
What we have done as The Godfathers was to open an online radio which we use to promote deep house music internationally. Our Online Radio has presence in 154 countries around the world. Just over 60% of the world. Most of our sales leads are generated by our online radio as well as Youtube which is a very popular international platform to promote content and has a very large music community. We are also taking advantage of the established DSPs out there by publishing some of our content through their channels to increase exposure to our brand to a wider audience.
What are your top tips for people wanting to get into DJ’ing or production in South Africa?
Love, Passion, Commitment, Systems. Our philosophy in business is that you need Discipled people, Disciplined thoughts, and Disciplined actions. Without any of the above, one may find it very difficult to advance your God given talent. Stay focused if you believe you are born for this. Never let anyone determine your worth. You are the calculator of your worth. Part of our training for dj-ing and music production is the incorporation of 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. We try to inculcate a principle centered approach to music as we believe it is a great career that can generate much needed revenues for financial stability and economic sustainability. We believe artists should treat the music career in very much the same way as footballers take their soccer careers as a full time job that requires continuous training and practice if you are to be the best in that space. Take yourself seriously and take your music career seriously.
What’s your usual preparation for a set?
When we prepare a set, we at all times select music which is either released on our annual 300 track album or the music that has not been released before on any platform. Like seasoned soccer players once we have done our track selection we do rehearsals making sure there is appealing sequence in our playlist. We want to give our fans a nostalgic experience of deep house. This ensures that we play seamless flowing sets at all times. All our sets are then recorded for review in order for us to determine how we can make subsequent sets better. Irrespective of where we play or who we play with or when we are going to play according to the lineup, we are always confident that once we get on stage, the audience is going to listen to something new. We call that moment The Shazamless Zone.
Favourite places to DJ?
Mostly in Gauteng and Western Cape events and township clubs, as the crowds that come to our shows don’t just love the music, they love to dance to it.
You’re Godfathers App’ is such a unique idea - tell us what it’s all about?
The era of technology has long been with us. We have seen other DSPs using apps to distribute music and lately building artificial intelligence around helping users with the refined selection of music based on their tastes. We opted for creation of an app to address the needs of deep house music lovers, who have a different taste of music, nostalgic deep house music.
The economic conditions in Africa leave much to be desired if you look at the successful musicians in our country. Many artists get into the music industry with the hope to deliver music to the fans, as well as create the capacity to earn revenue.
The current music value chain is designed in such a way that the people who make the music get paid the least money when the money flows back within the ecosystem. This results in many artists losing interest in the craft because it satisfies only one aspect of what the artists want. The financial aspect based on the current system makes it almost impossible for artists to earn a decent and sustainable lifestyle.
The domino effect of that is that a country’s arts, culture and heritage gets lost along the way as these financial realities keep new entrants from really doing what they fulltime, but rather part time in order to supplement the revenues that are generated by the craft.
To this end, we decided we would develop a music app that will be able to generate revenues for us directly without middlemen. We decided to develop an app that would be responsive to the deep house lovers who do not have time to spend surfing the internet for hours looking for good music. Music with longevity. South Africa has adopted mobile devices much quicker than the traditional desktop environment which requires that you are more home based to buy music. It therefore makes it easier for the music lovers to buy music on the go and listen on the go.
This approach ensures that we have control of the revenues that are generated by our production as and when it happens without having to wait for middlemen to tell us how much was made. It further ensures that music lovers get exceptional quality music at an even better price. Above all else, it has increased our exposure to 7.5 billion people since our app is available on world platforms, AppStore and Google Play Store, which are available internationally.
Your music is packaged for you by music lovers who understand your needs better based on the years of experience we have had in the music industry. At the same time our producers do not have to wait for months and years to receive the revenues generated by their production. The App encourages our producers to dedicate all their time doing what they love most, without the worry of where their next meal will come from. This results in our producers delivering higher quality productions as they improve their craft on a daily basis and doing a lot of inhouse collaborations that lead to creation of music with a difference as it is a fusion of different styles put together. The power of synergy.
With the advent of blockchain technology it has become even more lucrative to deploy technology that further enhances the opportunity for artists to earn more revenues within 24 hours of generating the royalties, while at the same time eliminating piracy which has for a long time eaten up the potential revenues artists could have generated. As the Godfathers we are not afraid to use technology in the music industry and we have now embarked on building a blockchain based streaming platform to further minimize the opportunity for piracy while maximizing revenues for artists.
This development is done in conjunction with our US Partners PeerTracks, which uses SounDAC blockchain to stream content and collect streaming revenue of artists thus ensuring that they have revenues that can increase their capacity to continue to produce even better-quality music for the fans. Our technology will be fully functional in the 2nd quarter of 2020.
How much do you put into your social channels and do you think that’s crucial these days or are your gigs the thing you think brings people to you?
We have a lot of following especially on Facebook (225k followers, 194k likes) and Youtube (33k subscribers and 48 million views. We endevour at all times to publish quality music on our channel and we have seen organic growth on these two social media channels. We believe that with the advent of the 4th industrial revolution we should begin to make a serious investment on these channels as more and more people especially youth begin to gravitate towards technology. And we would love to be the face of music in technology.
We prefer mostly publishing our music on youtube than performing at gigs. Although gigs to pay handsomely, they are quiet demanding as opposed to platforms like youtube which provide passive income effortlessly and beyond your gigging or playing times. These platforms at the same time offer our fans an opportunity to relive the moments buy simply downloading our content and playing it at the comfort of their spaces. Our social media platforms also offer opportunities to aspiring producers to promote their content using our channels while at the same time enriching our music catalogue.
What’s been the highlights of your career so far?
The highlight of my career was when Peertracks Inc, a blockchain streaming company partnered with us to put African content on a streaming platform that ensures that African artists are paid within 24 hours, as well a world-class brand like Pioneer DJ Institute partnered with us to train people in Deep House Music Production. That shows local and international confidence in our brand.
What other labels are killing it for you right now - tracks you’re playing and loving - especially from SA?
Mate - Thulane Da Producer
Invictus - Healthy Mix DustinhoSA
Spiritual Xpreience (As One) [Feat. Zak Leigh] - Enosoul, Zak Leigh
Unity - Enosoul
Cloud Nine - Kelvin Momo
CPH4Pierre Johnson & Chris Jay
Stay True Sounds
Track Lazy Days – Dwson
Money & Power - Pierre Johnson, LaTique
Any DJ’s you think we should check out?
TIM A Deep, Buddynice, Rodney SA, Amen Deep T, Enosoul, Sculptured Music, Chymamusique. Vinny Da Vinci, Kid Fonque, Da Capo, Jazzuelle, Pierre Johnson. Chievosky The 13th.
What’s on the cards for the next while - gigs to watch out for?
2019 - The 4th Commandment 2020 GMT Album Launch.
Every year we release a 300 tracks digital and a personalized USB version of the of the Album. The launch happens every year on the 16th December. Our first 300 track album was launched in 2016. We annually rotate the event across the country in order to be in touch with a fans and clients out there. So far we have released three albums and done events to launch them in Soshanguve, Brits and Hartebeespoort.
This year’s launch is very exclusive and special in the sense that we are launching an Elite True Nostalgic fan Club. This is a group of fans who are dedicated to fully supporting the movement by purchasing our 4th Commandment 2020 Album which costs R1750.00/$120. Similar to the previously released GMT Albums, it also contains 300 Hot!!! nostalgic tracks.
The launch will take place at the private residence of Masia The Godfather and the elite fans will have an opportunity to spend 10 hours with The Godfathers and their closest circles. Our Album which is also a loyalty card, ensures that you get 10%-25% discounts at selected stores that are part of the sponsors for the Album. We have limited space for only 120 elite fans and access will be granted on a first come first basis.
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