The Stories Behind 5 of Msaki’s House Collaborations
© Tseliso Monaheng
Msaki talks us through five of her collaborations that'll make you dance
As a songwriter, Msaki is unmatched. Her gift empowers her to tap across genres and explore the outer bounds of words. A self-proclaimed song catcher, her oeuvre consists of chart-topping songs from herself and other artists, like Kelly Khumalo and Lady Zamar.
She embellishes the dance music tradition with profound gems whose staying power is unmatched. That's what she does when she isn't in her Afro-folk bag, searching for healing gemstones which connect generational traumas in an attempt to finally dismantle them and move forward.
We selected five of our favourite dance collaborations on which she features, and asked her to share reflections about the process behind bringing each one to life.
Mobi Dixon - "Love Colour Spin"
Mobi saw me performing live. I was doing my thing in East London, on a very small indie circuit, trying to build an audience, and organizing my own shows. He was just like 'look man, you've got something, and I really wanna just think you'd translate well on this stuff that I'm working on. Just give me an hour in studio.' I had my guitar and my backpack, and I went to studio not expecting much.
I heard this song which I thought was interesting and had a lot of emotion already; it just drew me in. I had started writing something, almost a journal entry conversation with god, trying to make sense of this feeling that comes alive when I think about just being here and trying to make sense of life. Because that was at the forefront of my mind, I started freestyling from the text, and just followed the song. I actually think that "Love Colour Spin" was recorded in one take. I did some adlibs, and was like 'I gotta go home dawg.' Mobi arranged it, and the song was born.
Revolution - "Spring Tide"
I didn't know them for a bar of soap. I just had their CDs; my brother got me into [them]. I just loved their music -- the tribal influences, the percussion. They called me one day [while] I was at the studio in East London, trying to finish "Zaneliza". They wanted to do a song with me. They sent me the beat, and I went to record it their studio in Joburg. I was proper star-struck, I was such a fan!
Black Coffee - "Wish You Were Here"
I knew that he had my EP because he started posting on his Instagram that he was like...he had taken "Nal'ithemba", I'd put it under Creative Commons on Soundcloud. He had started playing with some drums, and stretching it out. His manager Amaru reached out.
We spoke on the phone a couple of times [while] I was organizing some stuff in the rural areas. A couple of months later, he got in touch himself. Then we just always kept in touch, every once in a while we'd talk. We were supposed to link up during my tour in Europe.
We were around the same cities in Germany. He'd already started sending the idea for "Wish You Were Here", and it was very bare. And I remember saying 'yo man, this is a bit skinny, but lemme start writing', and he just laughed because he knew what he does after he hears the voice. He really lets the collaboration be a collaboration in the sense that he builds [the music] around the voice.
I booked a studio in Hamburg, my band was there, and we all decided to go to studio together. The first time, they were easy, and the choruses that I was singing were rubbish. So the band moved on, and I [stayed behind] in Berlin, writing and recovering. He organised a studio for me with one of his EDM connections. I recorded more options, more layers, ideas, and I sent those. I came back from my tour, and we were still trying to find the perfect chorus.
I organized some time at his studio at Soulistic. Tresor came to see me in studio. I told him that I'm really stuck, and that I'm struggling to find this chorus. He brainstormed some ideas with me which I ended up not using, but they definitely did help me think simpler, and I ended up finding that "I wish you were here", and finally we had a song that felt complete.
Prince Kaybee - "Fetch Your Life"
Prince Kaybee sent me the beat after I'd just had a baby. I was just in my own world, and I didn't wanna do songs with deejays. So I sat on the beat for two years. It didn't instantly move me. I had nothing to say to it. Then I went to go do an Alt Blk intervention at the Blk Power Station in Makhanda. For some reason, I remembered the beat, and I had it on my phone. So I played it in my violinist friend Zweli's car. I heard some melodies, in fact, I heard the 'All is well...', and I was like 'oh, there's something here.
Prince Kaybee reached out again when I got home. He was working on another album, and he was like 'look, that song girl.' He booked me a flight to Joburg the next morning. They picked me up from the airport, and I went straight to his place in Centurion. I started recording around 11/11.30, and we had the song done by 2 AM.
Sun El Musician - "Uboma Bomanga"
Sun El and I had wanted to work together for a while. I genuinely wanted to make time for him, and I think he felt the same. We were both petrified about what that moment meant. We needed to be ready for it, and we needed to be in tune with what we wanted to say. The trepidation started to ease off and I was like, 'oh, I'm actually ready.' He also felt the same.
We made a day, and we both pitched with nothing. I just went with an open heart. I could see when I arrived that he was pretty nervous as well. We sat quietly in studio, and chatted about other things. He started fiddling; his production process is super interesting and unique as well. He works with samples that he completely re-transforms in front of your eyes. In a few minutes, there was a groove to start thinking alongside to.
Immediately when I closed my eyes, I just saw the pictures, and the song started forming itself. It's pretty cool what happened next, we just let the moment happen. A couple of hours, maybe two, we had a song. This was before lockdown, and we didn't really know that it was gonna mean what it means because we released it during lockdown. The idea of life being still or stagnant, and telling people that 'look, things will go on eventually, don't lose hope', was something that I was feeling even before lockdown. It's really one of my favourite songs. I feel like it's a blessed collaboration.