It’s little surprise that so many musicians are choosing to do documentaries. And they’s aren’t waiting for their fans and producers to approach them.
They are doing it themselves. Call it the Beyoncé effect.
But it works. They are in control of their narrative and get to tell their stories, pick the moments that mean the most to them.
Others choose their documentaries to be a retrospective of their careers so far, and the music that has made them a success.
That’s what Black Motion have done. The dance music duo, Thabo ‘Smol’ Mabogwane and Bongani ‘Murdah’ Mohosana, have collaborated with Red Bull Rendezvous to produce a documentary concert, which sees them revisit their biggest hits over the decade and perform them alongside their collaborators, including Brenden Praise, Msaki, Xoli M and more at Three Rondavels in Graskop, Mpumalanga,
I called them via Zoom last week and we spoke about the documentary, their journey this past decade and their new album, The Healers: The Next Chapter.
This interview has been edited for context.
When do you guys believe you had made it in the industry? What and when was that moment?
Murdah: I think it was when we released Rainbow (featuring Xoli M) in 2014.
Smol: Yeah, when Rainbow came out, that was the change of things. That was the biggest song of ours that just blew up.No matter the age or race, everyone loved it.
It blew up around the globe. It changed our production style too as it was the first song that we did that had lyrics and melodies, proper structuring of what makes a song.
Your career highlights so far?
M: The respect we get from the industry is great. The late Robbie Malinga called us and told us that the way we think and make our music, is like we are elderly.
That we did it in a way that the older producers did music, which surprised us. Also, the way that we have been in demand over the years and performing at many gigs. That has been great.
S: I think it’s when we realised that what we set out to do, was making sense to people. That’s one of our biggest highlights.
When they understand what you are trying to do, what Black Motion is all about, it just makes things easier and shows we are on the right track.
What is it about the drum that you guys felt drawn to and has become the backbone for your sound?
S: When we travel the world, we got to learn other music cultures, sounds and instruments. The heavy drum in our production, the time signature and swings, is what makes the whole production unique and different from what the others are doing.
The choice of drums and native instruments that we use in our production, stands out, especially when we infuse a lot of instruments together.
M: The way that we record, we have a way to record them. Each and every tone and sound is emphasised.
S: Yeah, there’s a spiritual element to it too. When we started, we didn’t just want to chase hits. It had to do with what we have learned and our culture.
The main instrument is the drum and in everything that you do spiritually, the drum is involved. It’s not just about looking cool on stage or sounding nice.
It’s about the connection with the people we are performing for. On stage we don’t use vocals, so something has to speak and in our case, it’s the drum that has to do the talking for us.
Does it surprise you that you have been able to have your pick of the best South African vocalists to work with you?
S: I think it comes by connection. We don’t actively go and look for vocalists to feature in our music.
It has a lot to do with connection, especially spiritually. We don’t work via emails and stuff.
We would rather have you in the studio, find that connection and everything just flows. When we do choose vocalists, it’s people who are unknown who then become big names because of what they do.
M: It has to be an organic process. We don’t like to force things in the studio.
There’s a lot of artists we have wanted to work with, but things haven’t worked out. Sometimes we feel like our music may be a bit ahead of time, ahead of the curve.
Maybe in two or three years, that sound would make sense.
Your new album, The Healers is a celebration of the past decade. What’s coming next?
S: Every time we release an album, we would call it a chapter. This is the last chapter of this decade and after this, it’s time for a new era. We are moving on to a new book. More diverse, new elements in the production and the way we make music will be different. It’s time to take our music even further.
Why was it important to have a documentary around this milestone?
M: We have been wanting to do a documentary. Covid-19 changed some of our plans, but Red Bull got on board and helped make it possible. It was a way of celebrating the past decade and our success at home and abroad. To tell our story.
Black Motion’s new album, “The Healers”, is out now.
Plus you can catch the “10 years of Black Motion” on Channel O on Saturday and Sunday and also on the Red Bull Music YouTube channel.