Kalawa Chikita Busiswa Gqulu is a South African musician, songwriter and performing poet whose name means Be Blessed. She is famous for her house and electric dance moves and powerful voice. She is in Kenya for Coke Studio Africa and she spoke to Karen Muriuki on her life and music.
This is my second time in Kenya.
I was here for a club performance at Privee in Westlands about three weeks ago. Kenya is a beautiful country full of good vibes. The weather is really good and the people are very friendly.
There’s not much of a difference between Kenya and South Africa. Apart from the fact that there’s a lot of security in here in my opinion. We have taxis, matatus and buses as well in South Africa, plus the city is busy and buzzing each and every other day, just as it is here. Add good food to that list. (Laughs)
I started doing poetry in 2004.
I was in Grade 11 and I have incorporated my talent with house music over the years. I liked to read a lot in my childhood. My grandmother had bookshelves full of books which I think contributed to my love for books.
My singing career started in 2012.
The first time I did a song was in 2012 when some house producers asked me to put my poetry vocals in the house tracks and it worked out. I realised that it was something I could go with.
I’ve had plenty of collaborations, mostly from South Africa, but all around the continent as well.
Some include Uhuru, Oskido, Victor Pedro, and D’Banj. I do a lot of them because I enjoy it immensely. Collaborations have obviously put my music out there because you can’t always do music based on what you like or what your audience likes. Other artistes have audiences of their own and collaborating means meeting these other audiences where you get to share music.
My personality makes me stand out from other musicians.
Also, the fact that I’m a boss on the microphone with my rhymes and I’m not shy. It’s always about fun for me, all about celebrating the femininity, the curves and how sexy African women are. This is what relates me to people at most.
The way to handle fame is to just get on with your life.
But at the same time, remember that the fame is a good thing because people enjoy something about you when you meet them every day. There’s a lot of positivity to take from it. You also get to meet people who are not nice or polite, but it’s just how people are. Different. I just try to draw positivity from the people who inspire me and encourage me to keep going.
Being one of Africa’s most looked out for voices is one of the highlights in my music career.
My biggest achievements in my music career so far are the awards that I have won over the years: The Africa Muzik Magazine Awards (AFRIMMA) and awards for Best Female and the Channel O Music Video Awards (CHOAMVA) for Most Gifted Dance Video.
I have listened to and enjoyed some Kenyan music, even before I came to Kenya. I like Sauti Sol, their music is life, funky, African and fresh. I also enjoy the hip hop that Khaligraph Jones is bringing to the Kenyan music scene, but before that, I really enjoyed Camp Mulla. They were fresh, and really talented. I hope that more young Kenyans are trying to create music that represent them in the world.
I definitely would love to do collaborations with Kenyan artistes.
I wanted to do one with Camp Mulla but the group broke up, unfortunately. I hope to connect with other artistes and be able to make music with them.
Coke Studio is hectic but exciting at the same time.
It’s a new thing every other day, new things to learn from and try. One’s creative juices have to keep flowing though, which is a lot of pressure, but it’s the kind of pressure we musicians are used to. It’s amazing to meet other remarkable artistes and learn their processes, how they work through their countries’ music industries.
Performing on stage makes me realise that music is what I really want to do.
Connecting and meeting people who have memories from my music and thousands of people singing to my music makes me realise that it’s a gift from God, that there’s something powerful about my music and that there is a purpose and destiny connected to it.
The greatest thing I’ve learnt in my musical journey is that one’s talent, craft and perfection matter most.
A person’s physical appearances does not matter if one is focused on talent and craft, and making sure that they are great. Focusing on these two things makes one prepared for the big opportunities ahead which is how I have lived through my musical journey.
Music to me is a universal connector.
It connects everyone no matter the race, colour or language. I just finished my first album called Highly Flavored which I will hopefully release in the coming months. I however want to build a fan base in Kenya now that I have started performing in clubs. I hope to perform in festivals as well to share my music with the Kenyan people.