Musician and record producer Master KG — AKA Kgaogelo Moagi — seems to be on an upward trajectory second to none. This year alone, his single Jerusalema went viral online, even getting a shoutout from South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.
At the crux of lockdown, Ramaphosa encouraged South Africans to celebrate Heritage Day by participating in what he described as the “global phenomenon” of the Jerusalema dance.
The single, which features the incredible vocal stylings of Nomcebo Zikode, has buoyed the spirits of people all over the world during this pandemic, inspiring a signature dance challenge and highlighting the emphasis on community that makes South Africans so spirited and unique.
Indeed, the Limpopo-born 24-year-old regularly pays homage to his own heritage through his music, often singing in Khelobedu, the Lobedu dialect. He has been experimenting with music production since he was in his teens, releasing his first single, Situation, in 2016, after years of doggedly honing his craft.
Jerusalema first topped South African charts in December last year, but the popularity of the track (and the dance sequence subsequently created by an Angolan dance group) soon spread like wildfire and inspired tributes from the world at large, who embraced the #JerusalemaDanceChallenge during some of the hardest and most stringent months of lockdown, when many of us were feeling down and dubious about the future.
Healthcare workers and soldiers have been recorded dancing to Master KG’s 2019 masterpiece, while the song has also garnered recognition from celebrities such as Janet Jackson and Cristiano Ronaldo. So strong was the cultural impact of the song in South Africa that arts and culture minister Nathi Mthethwa named Master KG and Zikode cultural diplomacy ambassadors in July this year.
And then, as if breaking the record for being the most-Shazamed song in the world wasn’t enough, Master KG went on to snag the award for Best African Act at the 2020 MTV EMAs. We chatted to the dynamic artist about how he defines success and celebration after a year of triumph after triumph, under the strangest of circumstances.
How did you feel when you found out you’d gone viral?
I felt blessed, and I loved it. It was all overwhelming, but it was amazing being recognised globally, and also having a song that had a positive impact during a global pandemic.
Was there one particular moment when you thought to yourself, “Wow, my younger self would not believe this?”
When I got my first 100-million views on YouTube. It was like I was dreaming, seeing all those numbers under my name.
How have you celebrated your incredible achievements this year?
I love celebrating with my family, because they’re the reason I kept going, even when it wasn’t easy. So every chance I get, I go home to Limpopo.
What is the most interesting thing that you’ve learned about yourself this year?
That I am a very patient person, but when I want something, I work hard to get it.
What do you love most about being South African?
When you’re doing good, you’re celebrated.
How did you beat the lockdown blues during quarantine? Did you find lockdown productive, or the opposite?
It was productive, but I was also badly affected since I couldn’t go anywhere in terms of attending gigs.
Do you have any hidden talents?
Maybe I do! I still need to discover them.
Who is your greatest professional or personal inspiration?
The late Bojo Mujo has been my inspiration since I was a kid. His music had a big impact on my decision to make music, especially the type of music I’m making.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to the young aspiring artists who look up to you?
Work hard, be patient, and stay true to yourself.
What do you do to unwind?
I play video games or I go out for a spin, since I love cars.
Where do you look for fresh inspiration?
I listen to various genres of music, and watch different types of TV programmes and movies. I get so many ideas after listening to or watching something new and different.
What are your ambitions for the year to come?
I want more of my music to reach greater heights, more opportunities, awards, and more collaborations!