When it comes to humility, there are two types of artists. Those who never miss an opportunity to remind you of their humility and those who are so busy living that truth that they let their character speak for itself instead - Thabo ‘Smol’ Mabogwane and Bongani ‘Murda’ Mohosana of Black Motion fall into the second category.
The duo, who are both from Soshanguve, came together in 2009 and have been producing music ever since. Even when their work was finally recognized through gold certification (achieved in less than two months) and a South African Music Award (SAMA) for best dance album for Fortune Teller, they don’t seem to have let the hype go to their heads.
“The recipe is stay true to yourself and be yourself and push your craft, believe in it and stay true to it and to exercise some patience as well,” said Mohosana.
“Winning the SAMA felt unreal because we never really forced people to get our album and we were never on that whole heavy marketing tip so we can reach a level where people can nominate us for an award and we didn’t even know we were nominated… We were mostly thankful,” added Mabogwane.
Staying true tho who they are is an important part of their personal and professional lives. Which is probably why Thabo responded the way he did when asked about the viral video he posted of him and his girlfriend dancing to one of their songs.
“People know us as dancers, it’s nothing new. That video was like, just any other day when we’re chilling and we’re dancing to another Black Motion track so I don’t know what happened that made that one go viral. But it’s just us living through music, we can’t live without music and that day was just another day enjoying what we do,” said Mabogwane.
That ethos spills over into their professional lives and the duo said it helps them work better together in addition to getting over creative differences.
“Firstly, when we get in studio, we aren't making music to create the next biggest hit or a song that’s popular so there is no pressure to do that. Whenever we criticize each other, it is only on things related to the song like the song’s levels or the song’s direction or what we think we should add or remove,” explained Mabogwane.
“At the end of the day, when we take a final decision, it will be taken together but when we create, we work separately sometimes,” said Mohosana before reiterating that they do not follow trends.
“In whatever we did or whatever we do, we always look at what makes Black Motion unique an that’s our drum and every time we do something or we go in studio, there has to be that unique Black Motion sound and it’s not a matter of trying to sound like anybody or trying to copy someone else’s sound. It’s about doing what we love,” explained Mabogwane.
They are however inspired by a number of artistic greats. Mabogwane is a major fan of Fela Kuti and he would have loved to meet him had he still been alive but he also admits to admiring Kanye West’s creativity. Mohosana on the other hand loves Louis Vega, who he grew up listening to.
Looking up to such acts inspired them to start their own record label, Spirit Motion Records. Mabogwane says ownership is important because it gives artists control of their work, it teaches them a lot and it places all the responsibility on them, which he believes is important.
“Having an independent record label is a learning curve in a way. It prepares you for the industry and teaches you a lot about what you need to know,” said Mabogwane.
Their focus, determination and talent has finally gotten them to a point where they are making global deals and entering into MAJOR partnerships.
Their most popular partnership to date is with Ballantines Scotch Whiskey and according to Mabogwane, the deal came about because the brand was drawn to the duos authenticity and the fact they stayed true to who they are through the use of indigenous languages and drums in their music.
“Staying true to what you believe in is not easy. It means going against the grain, forging your own path, ignoring criticism. It means trying something that no one else has done before. It means believing in yourself, even when others don’t,” said Ballantines in a statement.
A lot of opportunities have come about as a result of this partnership, like the fact that Black Motion just signed a deal with UK record label, Defected Worldwide, which is the world’s number one distributor of house music.
Black Motion has also signed a deal with Sony which will see their album, Ya Badimo, distributed world-wide when it gets released today. 28 October 2016.
Image Credit: Instagram