Pilani Bubu, authentic story-teller

Singer-songwriter, TV presenter; Pilani Bubu is never without a lived experience etched into her heart and mind in a highly expressive musical journey. She tells authentic stories of inspiration, identity, and influence. She’s a creative entrepreneur and multifarious artist with a unique voice and a cohesive global sound she likes to call jazzy folk soul. She is a storyteller at heart and an intentional performer.

Through her  own independent label and publishing company Bupila Publishing she has released: ‘Journey of a Heart’ – EP (2012) produced by the soulful RJ Benjamin, ‘Warrior of Light’ (2016) co-produced and arranged by veteran jazz guitarist: Luke Van Der Merwe, and Folklore – Chapter 1 (2019) co-produced with South African master guitarist Billy Monama and bassist Bheka Mthethwa whose love and command for South African guitar styles: ‘mbaqanga’ and ‘Isicathamiya’ played a huge role in fulfilling Pilani Bubu’s vision for the project. Folklore – Chapter 1, was awarded the Best African Adult Contemporary Album at the 26th edition of the South African Music Awards (SAMA26).

In her latest album: Folklore, Pilani seeks to use music as a platform to capture and preserve our heritage and culture, with this she has founded the Folklore Community. Her intention with this culture and heritage project is a lifelong commitment to document, preserve and share our culture and Heritage for the next generation. Folklore by definition are the undocumented beliefs, customs, tales, proverbs, jokes and various art forms passed down through generations by word of mouth. By building the Folklore community, she aims to provide a platform for holders of indigenous knowledge systems to share their work and document it in two key event themes: Folklore for Kids and Folklore Fireside for an older audience.by interweaving poetic interludes and spoken-word into the music.

Her company Bupila has also been nominated for two Loeries awards, Africa and Middle Easts’ biggest adverting award, for her strategic and creative work on a Human Rights Campaign for the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Pilani Bubu is a niche artist, with an emerging success story of passion and persistence bubbly under. From the beginning of her musical career, with her genre-fluid perspective, Pilani has managed impress radio compilers, TV producers and festival directors with her music and stage presence.

Q&A with Pilani

How did your career in the industry begin?

My solo music career began 10 years ago, in 2012, when I released my first demo EP titled : Journey of a Heart, produced by RJ Benjamin. It was an expression of versatility, it was also an expression of the place I was in my life. A heartbreak was the catalyst for me to start writing again. It cracked my heart open and I expressed it in song.

One of my radio singles Miss Understood, was playlisted at the time, on 21 radio stations across the country, It was so wonderful to experience people enjoy my music. That’s also when I started touring internationally in the US and across the continent. I was booked for a few festivals in South Africa as well: Drum Beat Festival, Fete De La Musique, Grahamstown National Arts Festival.

I can remember this start so vividly, because it felt like God giving me a nod to say that I was now doing what I was always meant to be doing. My career had initially taken a detour as I explored my corporate career first, post graduating in BCom: Law. Since quitting my job to pursue all my passions in 2011, I have never looked back. And it was a fiery and  fuelling and encouraging start, I would say.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

I mentor of mine, who ushered me in to my career, introduced me to the right people to work with like RJ, once said:  “It takes ten years to become an overnight success”

This saying has given me so much patience with my own grown and more alignment with my expectations of what should happen in the industry and what success looks like. I quickly adjusted my milestones and was more true to my own unique story and journey.

It has helped me hone in on my own originality and authenticity. More than anything consistency carries you on your trajectory. And persistence is simply an expression of commitment without resentment but with the willingness to learn and grow.

And since 2012, I have been able to do just that and to ride the waves of my career for what they are. Knowing that every single milestone matters and all breaks are big breaks no matter how small at times. So I live in mini breakthroughs and my big break will be cumulative of the time I put in, in the end.

Tell us something about yourself that nobody knows.

Man, that’s a tricky one. So excluding friends and family. I find that most people get surprised when I tell them, that I am twin.

What is your biggest career highlight so far?

Mmmh, let me start with the biggest and most memorable and work in reverse from there: Winning the Best African Adult Contemporary Album at the 26th Edition of the South African Music Awards for my album Folklore – Chapter 1, has been the biggest career highlight thus far. That was 2020, in the height of the pandemic.

For a project I plan to continue pouring my life’s work and purpose into; documenting and preserving our culture and heritage for the next generation.

What projects are you currently working on?

I am currently releasing an EP I wrote during the hard lockdown of 2020, titled: ‘Lockdown Lovestory’. I am currently on tour in Nairobi, Just come back from Ghana and soon we will be on a National Tour in SA,  working on sharing this story by taking our audience on a journey from the beginning to the middle and the end: from the live set, to the music video diary, its beautiful theme and aesthetic. It’s just going to be a pretty LOVE BOMBING vibration. The first part of the story goes live on 4th of February with the single: As We lay and its music video to follow.

I am also working Folklore Chapter 2, music and its duo release with Folklore Chapter 1 in Europe, with MDC – Music Development Company & PIAS, from middle of this year to beginning of next. The Folklore platform also has some exciting news coming: I plan for launch the Folklore Festival in September of 2022, with the support of the National Arts Council grant as well as a SAMPRA Sponsorship. My team and I are really excited about this. We plan on putting on a Pan-African festival. Bringing indigenous folk artists from East, West and South to South African

How do you think we can grow the creative industry and bring African content to the world?

I think that growing and exporting creative industries at the moment is hugely reliant on funding. One of the key things an artist needs is to create awareness and visibility for their work. Our work is made for people’s eyes and ears and we have to find ways to showcase it and to create demand for it , for us to be able to make more of it.

If we can provide funding for artists to travel, and apply for opportunities at the right expo’s that is one key step. The other is curatorship that is afro-focused, for ourselves and by ourselves. Being given the freedom to tell our own stories our way, dispelling narratives that constantly put us in the ‘emerging’ space. It almost feels like we never arrived, when Africa is currently the dominant influence of the whole world at the moment. We arrived a long time ago, we still are significant contributors to art, design, culture and more.  Creativity here is insatiable, abundant and ingenuous…because of our diversity. We have to learn to state value in the various industries and demand it.




FAME Week Africa

FAME Week Africa

FWA Connect bringing the Film, Arts, Media and Entertainment sector together by providing creative industry professionals on the African continent with news, trends and in-depth articles.

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