5 Minutes with Shimza – The Playground


South African DJ and producer Shimza has been on a steady rise as one of Africa’s leaders in house music. His talent of fusing sounds and influences has been massively influential in the evolution of the Afro tech genre, and over the past few years his global presence has only increased in scale. But aside from creating the future sounds of Africa, the artist has always been passionate about creating spaces to share and experience music. In 2009, he launched his now famous One Man Showa charity concert held in Soweto which since its inception has seen the event grow to host audiences of 25,000 people and include some of South Africa’s most renowned acts in dance music such as Black Coffee and Black Motion. KUNYE, a label and event launched in 2020, is a passion project that seeks to connect rising African talent with global tastemakers and audiences. Originally conceived as a livestream event, post-lockdown Shimza has been taking KUNYE onto the live stage with shows across South Africa and Europe. This week, KUNYE sees its launch in London at Hackney West venue Studio 9294. We caught up with the pioneer to find out more about KUNYE’s UK launch, and his thoughts on how to cultivate new talent.

Hi Shimza! Welcome to the Playground, it’s great to chat with you. So, you’re about to launch KUNYE in the UK. Could you tell us a bit more about the events label?

Kunye means “TOGETHER”. It is a home for Afro Tech / House that connects South African and international artists and audiences and has been in existence since November 2020. We have created a hub that provides young and upcoming artists the opportunity to grow their artistry and to have a home where there are like minded artists who combine different sounds which are innately linked to our sound.

What makes the UK the perfect place for the next phase of this project?

The UK has a huge market which we would like to tap into with a variety of event venues where people are hungry for a different sound. Afro tech is currently booming so this is the perfect intro into the UK market and will hopefully become an annual event.

What can we expect from the KUNYE experience?

Kunye is about bringing musical heritage together while exporting our music to the world and collaboration is the purpose of our journey. This is a space where people come to vibe and experience the great atmosphere with music as the anchor.

You’re working with Desiree, who is such an exciting emerging voice in the SA club scene. What drew you to her work?

Desiree is super talented and one of the most passionate female DJs in the afro tech music industry. The style of her craft evokes an Afrocentric mood and is always a first choice to have her play at the events we curate.

What role do you think that more established artists should be playing when it comes to emerging talent? Is there a certain responsibility to cultivate new talent, or share opportunities?

The greatest need for established artists is to acknowledge upcoming artists by integrating them into their mainstream events or labels. In this way it will expose emerging artists to a greater following. Established artists also double as a stepping stone as well as play a mentorship role to guide up and coming artists.

We recently chatted with DJ Lag, and we talked about how the music coming out of South Africa is currently driving the sound of the global dance scene. What are your thoughts on how SA dance music is being embraced?

SA dance music has been well received by the world at large and we are seeing the different types of sounds being incorporated by DJs and musicians all over the world into their own beats and this is a testament of the amazing talent that has come out of the music scene

There are a lot of international acts adopting the sound of gqom, amapiano and Afro tech. Do you think people are giving enough credit to the pioneers of these genres?

Amapiano and afro tech are gaining traction and you can see this from the number of international artists that are doing collaborations, as well as getting booked in overseas venues and this alone shows that the genres are doing well in their own right. People also now have an appetite for events that play only Afro tech or Amapiano.

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Locally in South Africa, there’s such an incredible melting pot of talent. What do you look for when seeking out new acts?

People who put effort into their craft, who are always hungry to learn, are very diligent and consistent about what they want to put out and are not looking to just fit into the same sound that everyone is playing. They need to think out of the box. It’s very easy to tell apart the people that put in the work and you have a synergy.

Who are some fresh talents we should be listening to right now?

There are so many people coming out with a fresh new sound in the afro tech space. Just to name a few there are people like FKA Mash, Enoo Napa, Blanka Mazimela Drega, Atmos Blaq who hit a mark when it comes to them playing our sound.

KUNYE happens tonight at Studio 9294 in Hackney West. Tickets are available here. Watch the aftermovie from one of KUNYE’s recent events below.

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