'One Source Live' is a collaboration, sponsored by Absolut Vodka, that seeks to connect creatives in various spheres across the continent.
Speaking to Tonight, the hip hop star shed some light on his partnership with Absolut, the revolution of One Source Live and Maftown Heights.
But first, he reminisced about where it all began “It all started in the 1990s with a close friend of mine, who is still my music director and my partner in music, Kgaugelo Phaswana. Later, I joined forces with two of my cousins, Molemi and Todi and formed Ill Tribe, and we then linked up with HHP.”
Chana says that it was HHP, aka Jabba, who had the dream of starting the movement called Morafe.
“Morafe was to become all artists from Mafikeng. KB Motsilenyane, Stoan, all of these guys were supposed to be part of that.”
But when that plan fell through, Chana and his crew “decided to hijack the name” and they became Morafe, releasing their first album in 2005 through Ghetto Ruff. It wasn’t long before Chana was urged to go it alone.
“After the second album, we hit a dead end. Things were changing, music was changing, the climate was different. The guys decided I should go solo.”
Despite his success as an artist, Chana admits he wasn’t the obvious choice for a solo career. “I was very quiet and reserved, though I was a sharp shooter. I was talented but extremely shy,” he reveals.
“Going solo was never part of my plan. It was Morafe’s plan.
“I dropped my first album in 2008/9 (called) Motswakoriginator, independently. Mind you, this is after going to every record label and being rejected. Then I released my first album. This album solidified my position in the rap game to this day. It was a classic album, (with) songs like No More Hunger.”
Chana is beaming as he recalls the excitement he felt at the time.
“Things really changed after I released this song, which also kind of taught me how you can speak things into existence. You can prophesise with words. If you don’t want to be broke anymore, say it over and over again in a song”.
'No More Hunger' had a voracious appetite when it came to awards.
“I was nominated on the international platforms. I won an award in Canada.
“The biggest (best) year was 2013, we scooped all these awards, Metros, any award that you could think of, we scooped that year.”
Then fate intervened. In October 2013, Chana was shot by the police in a mistaken identity incident.
“That became another big turning point, the one I never planned for when you’re in it, you don’t really acknowledge your courage, your strength. What you see is how bad the situation is fast forward to 2017 and when I look back, I’m like wow, I was in a hole and pulled myself out, obviously with the support of the family, my lady, my daughter, and these partnerships.”
The Lost in Time hitmaker recalls that, even at his lowest point, opportunity kept on knocking.
“It started shortly after the tragic incident with the police. I got a call saying: ‘listen, Absolut wants to endorse Khuli Chana’s career’. They made it clear that my musical journey was so inspiring and Motswako style resonates with them.
“We started touring Africa: East Africa, West Africa. When I got there, my name was all the billboards everywhere. I was profiled on prime time radio, TV, everywhere. It was an amazing experience.”
Three years later, that partnership is still going strong.
“That campaign became a huge success. We decided to work on an album called One Source, then we shot the music video in Ghana.The song shot up to number one on iTunes. We scooped about 11 Loeries, and we won the biggest one which is gold at the Cannes Lions in the South of France.”
Chana expressed his disappointment that One Source did not receive any recognition in South Africa. “Here at home, it was a bit of a let down because we got nominated for a Sama, (but) we lost. We had the best video, (but) we lost out on the Metro music video award.
"On the flip side, in the South of France I met Wyclef of The Fugees, who lost his mind when he met me because he had seen my work. He was part of the jury and he started rapping the lines from the song.”
In partnership with Absolut, Chana continues to make those international connections. He has gathered together artists from across the continent to celebrate and advance Africa’s creative revolution at One Source Live.
“We’ve now found more creative revolutionaries. We’ve extended the family as well and found Trevor Stuurman, we’ve got a guy called Fabrice Monteiro, we’ve got Sho Madjozi, and then we’ve got Osbourn Machiari, who was there on the last campaign. We’ve created a short film titled Africa is on Fire!
“Over and above that, I’ve come on to partner up on a big event that is going on next year, March 24. This is going to be a melting pot of all things creative, and that’s the beautiful thing that I’m looking forward to and I’m going to give the fans such an amazing experience and to show off the amazing talent that we have and celebrate it. That is exciting”
And there’s more.
“There‘s a lot to celebrate,” enthused Chana. “We’re also celebrating Maftown Heights, which is happening in Mafikeng for the first time in eight years. I’m a co-founder of Maftown heights. It’s an initiative I started eight years ago to celebrate Motswako and Mafikeng talent. Every year I had fans screaming at me for doing it in Joburg. It was due to a lack of funds (that it couldn’t be held in Mafikeng), but now we’ve partnered with Mahika Mahikeng.”
Headlining the event will be Khuli Chana, JR, Tuks, HHP, Notshi and friend of Motswako; AKA, Bongo Maffin, Major League, Destruction Boys, Okmalumkoolkat, Emtee Riky Rick, Nadia Nakai, KO, Da Les, with Bonang Matheba, Stoan and TboTouch as MC's.
Maftown Heights takes place on December 8 at Mmabatho Stadium, Mafikeng. Tickets are available at Computicket from R100.