It was a mild September’s afternoon. Milan had finally cooled down a bit from the blistering heat. Sat in a corner window seat, I ordered a cup of iced coffee, waiting for this impending interview with Muzi. I adore Muzi’s music. He is without a doubt a music wunderkind. At the age of 30, he is already one of the most venerated and talked about musicians in South Africa. He has recorded and produced 4 albums, played several DJ sets in Berlin, done some overseas tours and has even graced the soundtrack of the sought-after Spanish Netflix drama “Elite”. His fine mixture of traditional African music and contemporary electro-techno sounds is beyond avant-garde. Wanting to immerse myself more into his musical approach, I tuned into the tracks from his latest album “Interblaktik” while waiting. With his upbeat African rhythm and overwhelming techno beat, the ever-lasting sweltering summer in Milan seems not to be so unbearable.

Hi Muzi, how are you? Where are you right now?

Hi, I’m good. Thanks. Right now I am in Johannesberg, South Africa.


How’s the weather there in Johannesberg?

The weather here now is so beautiful. Yesterday was really humid and hot but today the weather is so nice. Clear sky, pleasant breeze…


Same here in Milan! I am glad that the weather is nice today on both our ends, and that we could have a delightful conversation in this pleasant weather. I would like to start it with your very iconic stage name “Muzi”. It is actually an abbreviation of your full name, right? What’s the meaning of it, and is there any interesting story behind?

Muzi is short for Muziwahke; the literal meaning of it in my mother tongue Zulu is “Your home” or “Your house”. However, there’s a deeper meaning behind it, which is the person who builds his/her own house or kingdom. So if you look at my career, I actually live up to my own name – I build my own kingdom of music. Also, Muzi sounds like music. It’s not only an abbreviation of my name, but also a symbol of my passion and my career.

That’so cool! I think it perfectly explains the reason why we are here today – to talk about your music kingdom. Earlier this month, your new album “Interblaktic” had proudly joined your kingdom of music. What do you want to bring to the audience this time?

I guess my whole mission is to do modern African music, and take it onto the world stage. As you can see from the name “Interblaktic”, I have this vision to pretty much concoct a sort of world + African music that is made in South Africa.


Interesting! What are the African elements that can be found in your music? Do you only extract elements from traditional South African music or also from other types of African music?

Primarily, the elements were extracted from South African music, but the more I travel, the more I get to experience other types of African music. Even in South Africa, we have many different ethnic tribes. I am Zulu, and traditional Zulu music is a part of my identity. I grew up in a household that was imbued with dance music, so I started to mix it into traditional Zulu music. The more I grow, the broader my horizon is. I started to meet people from other tribes, whom I learned about their music from. I then took their musical elements and flipped it into other genres that I like, such as dance music, Chicago house or Detroit techno. I feel like I am connecting the dots between different tribes, with an electronic alternative sense.


What are the characteristics of traditional music from other South African tribes, other than Zulu, that we can find in your music?

In traditional Zulu music, you can hear heavy drums beating, a little bit like the taiko in Japanese traditional music. Xhosa people are good vocalists; they specialize in very deep vocal. Traditional Tsonga music involves a lot of instruments such as castanets, claps and shakers that resemble Mexican/Spanish music. I also take some Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat elements and mix them with my music. I want to break the boundaries between different tribes and cultures through the power of music.


Aside from traditional African music and the electro-dance music that you fancy, what are the other influences in your music-making?

I watched Disney’s animation “Aladdin” many times when I was a kid. I am fascinated with the traditional Arabian music; therefore I added a hint of Arabic music into my music. You can hear it in my track “Tjuu Wena” from my latest album “Interblaktik”. Also, culturally, hip-hop has a huge impact on me. I love a lot of Hip-hop music, also R&B, alternative rock and even pop music.

Are there any other types of musical elements you’ve never used before that really intrigue you or perhaps that you’d want to incorporate in your future music?

If you listen to all my music, you’ll find out that actually I like leaving clues for the following project. This time the hint I left is that I would love to create a Disco album in 2021 that sounds like those in the 60s and the 70s.


That sounds promising! Can we expect it to be released anytime soon?

Probably another 5 years or so (laugh)


(Laugh) But it seems like you are quite prolific! You’ve released 4 albums since 2016. One thing that I am quite curious to know is about the track “Boom Shaka” from the eponymous debut album released in 2016. It was featured in the popular Netflix TV series “Elite”. What was your thought when the team of “Elite” reached out to you?

I am always grateful when I have opportunities like that. The thing that makes “Boom Shaka” unique to me is that it’s a creation of how I felt; and I had loads of feelings at that time. That was when I was living in Berlin; I guess I was angry and frustrated with a lot of things, and the rebellious attitude is completely projected in the album. I think it was an odyssey of finding myself, and that’s why it is special for me. After that, I came back home to continue pursuing my music career. Indeed, it is a project that I am super proud of, especially with the grace of “Elite”.

After “Boom Shaka” you released the album “Afrovision”. It is a very interesting title, but what’s the perspective of Afrovision? What kind of vision do you wish to convey through this album?

It was more like my vision where African music can go. Sometimes it feels like the rest of the world sees Africa in a very one-dimensional way. They consider Africa or African as a collective term. But there are so many countries, so many different cultures and different flavors of music on this continent. I would just add my vision of Africa into my music. So for those who take Africa as one-dimensional, I want them to realize that Africa is actually way more diverse than how they thought, and there is actually so much going on here that they don’t know about.


And as for this latest album of you, “Interblaktic”, is there any story behind the production and the concept of this album that you would like to share?

Production-wise, I learn new things sonically by mixing traditional music from different tribes with contemporarily electronic music. Conceptually, it’s an album talking about how my ego dies. So when you listen from track #1 all the way to track #16, you will discover the changes in my mindset. Track #1 “Interblaktic” shows a very confident, “I don’t give a damn” attitude. As the album unfolds, you will listen to a story of me trying to get a girl I like (Track #13, Tsi) and how she broke my heart but I still love her (track #14, Fool’s Love). And in the end, it left with the truth that, regardless of what has happened, I still love music.


And what visions do you have in this album?

I guess the vision is similar to all of my past albums. So if you look at my latest three albums – “Afrovision”, “Zeno” and “Interblaktic”, they form this triangle. All the tracks are almost like cousins, and “Interblaktic” is the brightest version amongst them.

Oh! So “Interblaktic” is actually the brightest of them all?

In terms of albums, Yes! So “Afrovision” is a man starts to realize who he is. “Zeno” is the sweet burden of taking care of a kid, and the mindset of me and my kid versus the whole world. And in “Interblaktic”, I realized that actually I do care about people and stuff like that. Literally, it’s also like a process of how my ego dies.


Do you really have a kid?

Yes! In fact, Zeno is the name of my 3-years old daughter.


One thing that I find quite interesting is that, in the intro of the track “Interblaktic”, there’s a line “There seems to be a lot of black people on Mars”. What’s the message behind this that you would like to convey?

When I was writing “Interblaktic”, I started to feel like “You can’t just be black. You can’t be yourself”. So I started to imagine “What if we are in another planet but still under the same prejudice on earth?” The whole intro of “Interblaktic” says that there is “a problem” here; someone is complaining that there seems to be a lot of black people on Mars. Even when we go to the Mars, there will be people complaining about our existence. So the song is pretty much about being unapologetically black.


I guess self-identity is one of the most important things after all. Thank you so much for sharing such interesting insights with us. Before leaving, would you like to tell us about your future plan?

I think my future plan is obviously to go on a tour. I’ve done a US and Europe tour before, and it was quite successful. I would love to do it again. Also, I want to launch a clothing line.

You can follow Muzi’s musical trajectory on multiple channel via his linkfire and his instagram

Interview by Yves Tsou