Jazz could be traced back to the late 19th century to early 20th century as a sound birthed from the combination of Blues and Ragtime. And within the genre itself, many characteristics like swing, blue notes, and improvisation, are seen to bring versatility to this beautiful discipline. From its extensive history, one can even start to see the uniqueness of Jazz and how it became the influential foundation of popular music we listen to today (make sure to watch Hip Hop legend & master lyricist Biggie’s Netflix doccie “I Got a Story to Tell” to witness how he used Jazz to line his raps). The history of this beautiful, versatile sound is fascinating but none as interesting as what the sound is like today, especially in modern South Africa.
Today’s #LAChats guest is a musician who is exhibiting pure God-given talent. We’ve been listening to the music he released last year and from the constant goosebumps experienced, we just had to have him on here to find out what he’s all about. We’re super excited to have Saul Madiope chat with us about his 2020 musical offerings. This is a special interview for us as we get to speak on a genre close to our heart and celebrate it by speaking to our favourite artist.
Saul has had the opportunity of producing & engineering for talented artists that share his vision on changing the globe with an alternative soul, jazz, world and hip-hop blended sound. New Age Soul alongside a gospel feel is something he really communicates through his music and production. He also prides himself in being able to be a part of every single process involved in making the music – from the first beat created down to the business of music.
We caught up with Saul to find out more about his musical journey, especially on the music he worked on in 2020.
Saul. Thank you for taking the time to chat with us. This is one of those interviews that are long overdue… also a special one for us as we are celebrating Jazz Appreciation Month. Thank you and welcome to #LAChats 🙏🏾 Before we get into it, we want to know from you… Jazz is?
Saul: Jazz is a limitless feeling. I believe that one can’t really define jazz because jazz is so limitless. To define is to limit.
For someone who would be introduced to your music for the first time, who would you say Saul Madiope is?
Saul: Saul Madiope is a self-taught sound engineer, composer, producer, vocalist, songwriter, jazz artist and Co-Founder of Dream.Believe.Do Records based in Pretoria (the capital of South Africa).
The initial plan was to focus the interview on EPs The Crossover & Kolobe but we feel there’s something bigger here. Saul Madiope in 2020. Within this pandemic, where is your mindset as the world you know as normal does a 360?
Saul: Well, currently my mind is trying to figure out ways in which we can export our music to other countries as an independent body because the pandemic has forced many musicians & producers to live online which is the new way of life. This creates a perfect opportunity to collaborate with different people from all over the world. Exporting South African sound is very very important to me as the music will teach the world about our culture and the quality we possess.
Looking back, we saw you release 4 pieces of work, namely Kolobe in March, Ditoro tsa Kolobe in April, Dimpho Tsa Lefatshe (with ThandoNje) in July and The Crossover (with Jazzgroupiez) in November. Take us through this work for a bit. Was this part of a release concept for your music?
Saul: To be honest, nothing was really planned last year. The music was literally my guide in terms of when to drop and what to drop. The Kolobe jazz series was an offering I created to appraise my ancestors whom I believe I get my sound from, so that was me paying homage. Dimpho tsa Lefasthe is a special project because it was the first time I collaborated with ThandoNje on an EP, which was amazing. After all, she’s like a sister to me you know, so the chemistry was out of this world! The collaboration with Jazzgroupiez was also unplanned because initially when I sent a DM on Instagram, we only spoke about creating one song but as we kept having more meetings, we decided it should be an EP because we created a couple of songs.
When one looks at the covers for these EPs, there’s a constant image of a warthog… kolobe in Sotho, also the name of the title of the first 2020 EP. Tell us about the journey this Kolobe is taking you, and us, on through your music.
Saul: So I have a crazy concept that the gift of music was given to me by my Ancestors, so the reason why I always show the warthog is because that is my Ancestors’ totem. Kolobe has a lot of culture behind it and a story to tell and that’s exactly who I am too. For me, it’s about people learning more about the culture of Kolobe and other Southern African cultures too, and how connecting with your culture can lead you to a place of self-belief. The journey Kolobe has me on is one of self-discovery, realizing that you are part of the whole universe and that it is always possible to create your own way.
Who did you work with on the cover designs?
Saul: I worked with my brother Baarabile Morongwa Xaba on Kolobe & Ditoro Tsa Kolobe. I just had the concept but he knew exactly how to put it together. On Dimpho Tsa Lefatshe & The Crossover, we worked with Best Ncube, who I think is one of the best designers in the world.
Let’s move to what we would love to give double BIG props to you on. That moment where your name and work showed up LIVE on that Times Square billboard… firstly congratulations on this massive achievement, secondly, how are you feeling the moment you are looking at this?
Saul: Really grateful for that love!! Well look, it felt unreal! Still does! But I was just very grateful to Modimo le Badimo for even receiving such an opportunity because not many independent artists get that chance you know? It also opened my mind in terms of seeing how to promote music in other countries but more than anything it gave me more confidence to keep breaking barriers in a pure manner.
Let’s explore The Crossover a bit more. Paint a picture in our minds and take us through the collaborative making of the EP. From the thought, the DM you sent Jazzgroupiez and where the project is today.
Saul: This has to be one of the best experiences ever because it all happened online. Literally found Jazzgrouipiez music on the Apple Music Jazz Charts, so I decided to go look them up on Instagram because I was really hoping for a collaboration after hearing the kind of sound they made. I then sent Todd Moultrie ( Jazzgroupiez) a DM on Instagram with a screenshot of Kolobe being next to Purple Sax on the Jazz charts. Jazzgroupiez then replied and that’s when I shot my shot for the collab. Fortunately, he understood the sound I make already, and we agreed on creating a single but after months of exchanging beats, we decided that it was solid enough for an EP.
What was the reason behind the artist feature selection? And from that selection, what’s that something special that each artist has contributed to this EP?
Saul: For me, everyone who’s part of the project has a powerful light inside. I’ve known everyone personally for a long time and I’ve always felt like my broers are super international, the only issue is the platform. So I thought this would be a perfect time and perfect opportunity to work with these talented people. ThandoNje gave the project so much soul with her intergalactic healing voice. Mrngw brought in his unorthodox style which led to us creating Spirit. Gomza has always been one of my favourite rappers in Pretoria and I love how he never gave up on his dream and you hear the hunger & experience when he raps. Jah Level gave the EP lyrical strength as I regard him to be one of the most intellectual words smith’s in the world.
Which song do you enjoy most on The Crossover and why? We know you love all of them but surely one is more special than the rest?
Saul: I can’t lie! All the songs are amazing, and I think it’s about which song I relate to the most based on my mood, but my most played song from the EP has to be Spirit.
What can we and our readers here on Le’Afrinique look forward to from you soon? Maybe a hint on the release date for The Crossover 2?
Saul: I’m also currently finishing off my debut album titled Motherland Jazz which is also set to drop in late July 2021. Look out for that one. It’s going to be out for pre-order. Definitely working on The Crossover 2, we might be dropping later in the year or early 2022 but we will definitely be dropping two singles from The Crossover 2 later this year.
Anything else you would like to add?
I am working on the production for Halala Gumbi & ThandoNje’s respective projects which also drop this year.
While we wait for The Crossover 2, make sure you get acquainted (or reacquainted if you have listened before) with Saul Madiope’s Kolobe series (Kolobe, Ditoro tsa Kolobe, Dimpho Tsa Lefatshe and The Crossover this #JazzAppreciationMonth.