At his first orchestral rehearsal, AKA reflects on giving his music new life
AKA is standing behind the seated conductor. The orchestra sits in a semi-circle, facing the artist and almost enveloping him. AKA’s band is behind him and the visual metaphor is not lost on me.

All eyes are on AKA, but the band is the force that backs everyone up. It’s also where the buck stops. After all, tomorrow, AKA is taking a decade’s worth of his music to Pretoria’s Sun Arena inside Time Square, to perform it with a 30-piece orchestra. That’s no small feat.

So when they cue in Sweet Fire and the violins add an ethereal layer to it, AKA is all smiles. He’s sing-rapping the lyrics and grinning at his cellphone. It sounds so good, he asks them to play it just one more time. This time, the phone is tucked away, and he’s crooning into his auto-tuned mic.

Most people’s expectation of orchestra performances is something stiff, something straight-laced and perhaps even stifling. You can’t vosho or shimmy your shoulders to it. So, during his rehearsal break, I ask AKA if he was worried the orchestra would take the soul out of his songs.

“Sweet Fire sounds great,” he grins. “Fella in Versace sounds great. I am actually looking forward to doing songs that I even forgot that I made. I was watching TV the other day, and The Saga (by Anatii, featuring AKA) video came on. I don’t know if we should do The Saga. We should do The Saga.”

The short answer? He’s not worried at all. It shows in how he glides through a rehearsal that includes deep cuts like Daddy Issues (off Levels) and singles like Victory Lap and even songs he’s featured on like Da L.E.S’s Heaven.

How did he decide he wanted to bring in an orchestra for this once-off performance?

“The idea came to me as a proposition by the guys who are putting the show together - Vertex and Mahog, my friend. They sat me down and said: ‘this is what we want to do. Are you interested?’ And I said: ‘hell yeah!’”

“I think it’s important that we try to give our fans different experiences. There are big artists who’ve done orchestral shows - Jay Z did one.”

AKA has invited his industry friends to open the show before his set. You can expect to see sets by Nasty C, Sho Madjozi and A-Reece among others. Doors open at 4pm.

* Catch AKA’s Orchestra on the Square at the Sun Arena inside Time Square in Pretoria tomorrow. Tickets are at Computicket