Few African artists experience success both in and out of Africa. Most artists I can think of are either popular at home and within their diaspora, or within niches abroad—often times, world music—but rarely do they achieve a real level of success on both levels. However, Kinshasa-born, Lisbon-based singer and producer Kaysha and Bangui-born, Brussels-based producer Boddhi Satva entirely contradict this observation: they’re both kings within their niches, niches than span various territories with no concern for continental geographies.
If you’ve ever danced to zouk or kizomba, you’ll have heard Kaysha’s voice as he's been consistently releasing music since his debut single "Bounce Baby" in 1998. Zouk originated in the French Antilles and kizomba in Angola, but both have spread to large chunks of Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and even South America—and you'll find Kaysha regularly touring across these continents. If you haven’t danced to either musics, it’s probably time you did your hips a favor and give them a shot: they make salsa look stiff and foreplay feel dull.
“Sometimes it’s not about releasing tracks for the sake of it, it’s better to come out with magic when the time is right.”—Kaysha
Boddhi Satva, on the other hand, is a maestro of a newer genre that is also sweeping across Africa: deep, afro house. Boddhi’s own take on it—he calls it "ancestral soul"—is considered a leading force within the genre, recognized by the like of house music legend Louie Vega in the U.S., as well as top Angolan DJs such as DJ Malvado, Djeff or Renato Xtrova. Boddhi is very popular in Angola, Mozambique and South Africa, countries where deep house is quite big, but he’s also performed in Cape Verde, Senegal, not to mention his residencies in Doha and Paris. What's more, Africa’s current musical titans turn to Boddhi for productions: for the track "Naughty," he managed to bring together DJ Arafat from Côte d’Ivoire and Davido from Nigeria, two of the most sought-after African artists in recent years.
Now, for the first time, Boddhi and Kaysha have teamed up to celebrate their individual global successes on the track "Mama Kosa," an afro house banger already making waves from Luanda to Lisbon (buy it here). It's taken from Boddhi's forthcoming album, Transition, due September 18th on Offering Records (pre-order it here). The FADER is proud to premiere the video for "Mama Kosa," shot a few weeks ago in Lisbon, along with a catch-up with Boddhi and Kaysha themselves.
How did your paths first cross and how did "Mama Kosa," your first collaboration, come about?
KAYSHA: Our paths go way back to the days of early Myspace when I discovered Boddhi's early work. We have been talking about a collaboration for five or six years already but our busy schedules got in the way until Boddhi started work on [his second album] Transition. I was actually supposed to perform on "My Heart” but I really believed that Boddhi Satva and I could connect on a deeper level musically and, after an all-night conversation, I actually had the beat that I was waiting for in my email. Within 30 minutes I replied with a demo and by the end of the week we had a banger ready for the dance floors. An amazing collaboration. Sometimes it's not about releasing tracks for the sake of it, it's better to come out with magic when the time is right. And I believe we are both at this point of our respective crafts.
BODDHI: As Kaysha just said, we actually connected for the first time through Myspace and reconnected again years later in 2011 at the Winter Music Conference. Fast forward to last year, when I reached out to him and asked him to be my guest on Transition. "Mama Kosa" definitely came through in a very organic way, and the conversation that Kaysha [mentioned] allowed us to push beyond our respective safe zones.
You both have careers with a significant presence in and outside of Africa. How do you work that out?
KAYSHA: I really believe that it's all about the open minds that we have. A lot of diaspora artists are trying to represent either just where they are from or where they are based. I really always made it clear that I wasn't trying to represent anything but good music and let it be embraced by those who feel it. I actually had my first number one hit in South America, then in the West Indies, then in France, then Ivory coast, then Portugal, and so on and so on. I never understood why as artists, we always say that music is a universal language but we invent barriers of genres, countries or the nationalities we're supposed to represent. Nobody asks a rapper if his parents are from Jamaica or Haiti, they just feel the music. But Africans must come with a country or whatever. I believe that music has no language, just feelings—and if you feel me, we are brothers.
BODDHI: Because I was born and raised in Central African Republic from a father that was half Central African and French, as well as having a mother that’s half Belgian and American, being exposed to all those cultures has shaped my taste for all sorts of music. I feel no limitation musically but I do confess that my African roots are predominantly influencing my approach to sounds. This is definitely a common quality Kaysha and I have in common. We’re really fortunate that our music is touching people beyond borders, colors, sexualities or beliefs.
“I never understood why, as artists, we always say that music is a universal language but we invent barriers of genres, countries or the nationalities we’re supposed to represent.”—Kaysha
You have both played for audiences across continents, and as such you are the first to witness new trends: what’s about to take over?
KAYSHA: There is something amazing in the chance to be able to perform in front of so many diverse crowds. I've been able to discover styles in Angola ten years before they reach Europe or see house music start rockin' Africa and how the whole thing influences new styles all around the world. In this ultra-connected world, I think it's now completely blending. Each niche genre can influence more mainstream genres and niche becomes mainstream and so on... It's a brave new world and it’s exciting.
BODDHI: Definitely the Soulection guys in Los Angeles and Europe, Principe Discos out of Lisbon, Kazukuta Records in Angola, Nickodemus in New York expanding that global sound, and Leftoo in Belgium to name but a very few.
What are some of the most exciting artists, movements and/or music biz developments you've witnessed on the continent?
KAYSHA: I really think that the best has yet to come. Back in the day, music video production of quality was impossible to achieve in Africa without a lot of money. Nowadays, with technology, production, video and distribution has been democratized so much that amazing music and videos can reach you via YouTube anywhere in the world. So, I expect to see the emergence of all the music that people call “world music." Because of a simple calculation: When we all stop watching TV to only watch online videos, niche genres will become mainstream.
BODDHI: I’m very impressed with the impact of the Naija [Nigerian] sound which takes some of its elements from afro house. Countries like Angola, Morocco, Senegal, Kenya, Botswana and, of course, South Africa are coming up with some very interesting sounds. However my friend DJ Spilulu in Lubumbashi (DRC) has taken over his region with his infectious afro house sound. It has become so big that it’s the number one style played on the radio there.
“The music business is indeed a business. Stay true to yourself and always thrive for expanding your reach to as many people as you can.”—Boddhi Satva
You are familiar with the reality of the business in and out of Africa—what's your advice for young artists on the continent, and what's your advice to artists who are interested in developing their presence on the continent?
KAYSHA: You have to understand your landscape and each must have a complimentary strategy. Young artists on the continent must use the formidable tools that are Soundcloud, YouTube and self-distribution to reach a worldwide audience and, at the same time, appeal to a local audience and their music will be carried abroad via the diaspora. At the same time, they can achieve revenue via digital distribution as long as they have a PayPal or a bank account.
Those who want to have a presence on the continent can listen to what works and try to be influenced a little and put some in their music like I did with tracks like "On Dit Quoi" or "One Love" or "Motema." Local TV stations, MTV Base and Trace TV are key to appeal to a broad African public too. And of course, collabs with local artists will be of a mutual benefit. There are a lot of routes that can be taken, those are just a few examples of business strategies.
BODDHI: I agree with what Kaysha says here. I’d like to add that the music business is indeed a business. Stay true to yourself and always thrive for expanding your reach to as many people as you can. When I did an unofficial remix of Beyoncé’s "Flawless," it helped me reach out to listeners beyond my musical realm.