The South African duo celebrates 10 years of healing music with a groundbreaking album and a brilliant remix of the St Germain classic “Sure Thing.” Because the last chapter marks a new beginning.
Made up of DJ Murdah & Smol, Black Motion has crafted an authentic sound — a sound so distinctive no other artist has managed to copy it, a sound so bold that it transcends niche house music, and a sound so diverse it accomodates playlists of every kind. Having studied music in all its variations, Black Motion possesses an aptitude for mixing sounds from different times yet fundamentally remaining true to their soul-uplifting house music production. Throughout their six studio albums, the goal has been to heal through music but also to unite house music lovers (which they dubbed “the tribe”) globally and build sustainable development through various social initiatives.
The story of Black Motion (real names Robert Mohosana and Damanola Thabo Mabogwane) begins with a bond going back as far as their high school days where they grew up in Soshanguve, north of Pretoria, the capital of South Africa. After school it would be a jamming session while using the opportunity to study music religiously at a compound furnished with their homemade studio.
Considered global citizens, Black Motion popularized a deeply rooted African ancestral sound with elements of house music that resonated with audiences, producers and DJs universally. Firmly holding on to their belief in the healing power of music throughout their ten years of chart-topping albums, Black Motion produces and performs its music as a vehicle for spiritual enlightenment and raising consciousness. Captivating the audience with his performance, Smol has said that when he beats the drums he connects to his ancestors, leading to an indescribable healing session involving the whole room. Murdah, a staunch DJ is always hands-on-deck supplying a slew of house music tunes that create a live party effect.
Despite their individualism, their level of comity, discipline, mutual respect, creativity and trust for each other has led them to milestones many duos never achieve. DJ Murdah and Smol scooped the award for Best Dance Album at the 2015 South African Music Awards. News of an expansion in distribution came in the form of a licensing deal with Sony Music Entertainment Africa, in time for their fourth studio album release, Ya Badimo (“For The Ancestors”), which was certified Gold less than six weeks after its release in 2016. Black Motion has been recognized for their contribution to African music and 2019 saw them win both Best Dance Album and Duo/Group of the Year for their album Moya Wa Taola (“Spirit of the Divine Bones”).
‘From day one we put the work in front of the money. whatever money comes through, it comes through on top of the talent. It’s about keeping true to the vision.’
Their consistency in being able to produce music fit for any occasion is an art in itself. Their newfangled style of house music holds a sound that’s edgy with a fashionably lively beat that’s inherently African. The pair’s body of work neatly tucks soulful house and deep house in their offerings, making for a wholesome, reflective journey.
Black Motion’s global “tribe” was overjoyed to receive an exhilarating 41 track album titled The Healers (The Last Chapter). The culmination of ten years together, the album oozes a groovy positive vibe all round, hosting familiar and new voices such as Ami Faku, Nokwazi, Brendan Praise, Celimpilo and Tabia. Production features include the likes of Da Capo and Sun-El Musician. The album mood is set by the first track that carries a raw African beat dished out like never before in Southern Africa when Nokwazi (no stranger to Black Motion collabos) is joined by Celimpilo to produce a Kenyan-like record titled “Beat of Africa.” There’s no healing without a dash of love and this path is undertaken when songwriter (songcatcher) Msaki lays down her vocals on “Marry Me” involving prolific keyboard player and arranger Alie Keys.
The annotation in the title — “The Last Chapter” — leaves one hopeful that the pair is insinuating they are only closing one musical book to begin a new one. The Soshanguve maestros have big plans beyond the moment; as they continually remind creatives, “This is a new dawn for the African artist.”
Hey guys. Warm welcome and thank you for joining us at 5 Magazine.
Awe Awe Sho Sho. Thank you for having us at 5 Magazine, it’s a privilege and thank you for taking us into mind. It’s been a hustle and it’s a great honor to be featured on this level in such a renowned international house magazine.
Firstly congratulations on your success and reaching this milestone. What has releasing The Healers (The Last Chapter) meant for you as a collective?
Thank you very much Kayibiza. The album release meant a lot to us because it was a body of work that took us ten years to put out so that people understand what the journey is about. It was a process of reflection and we had time to be in studio and fully focus on album production. And just before and during the release of The Healers as a collective it was a very huge milestone as we arrived at ten years. We are still going and the people are appreciating it, so it was a reflective moment for both of us.
What would you say has primarily influenced the work you have released?
The most contributing was traveling and learning different sounds of different parts of the world which played a huge role in the production and experiences of making music. The traveling also played a role in choosing whom to work with and what production really is, so when we travel around the world we get to sip from vast information accessibility which in turn also influences our sound. Seeing different forms of cultures is also important.
Please tell us more about some of your choice of album titles and what you attempting to convey through them?
We will start where it all started: “talking to the drums” is a traditional healer’s route and that’s how we titled our albums. They each go with the steps of the traditional healers guidance throughout the practice. So Talking To The Drums was like us saying we want to be introduced to the spiritual world in terms of music and delivering sounds that will make a difference. So each project in its own aspect elevated us, such as Moya Wa Toala which was quite spiritual. It took a whole lot of work to put that album together because it was when we were telling people that we finally understand the spiritual side of music, and here’s the offering. Each album just becomes a journey on its own.
What goes into conceptualizing an album as a duo? We can imagine you have to have a shared vision.
The thing is we don’t have a specific working time on a certain album because we are constantly making music. So at the end of the day when it’s time to release an album we go to our archives and we get into production and make it up-to-date. It’s quite a nice way of working ’cause there’s no rush when it comes to releasing the album, we just make new music to add onto the catalog, sometimes sampled from our archives or just something new.
In all frankness, what has been the glue that has kept you guys together when we’ve seen other pairs split?
We’d have to say discipline and it’s where we come from and how we understand the dynamics of brotherhood. From the hood like there’s brotherhood and you would know the basic concepts of understanding what to do in order for something not to come in between people causing strife, especially things like money. From day one we put the work in front of the money. Whatever money comes through, it comes through on top of the talent we want to showcase and interpret to the world. It’s about keeping true to the vision.
Why is it important for artists to travel?
It expands your thinking and capability of producing music. That’s why we don’t like to generalize ourselves as “house music producers.” We are producers, we make good music and it’s just all about staying true to yourself. Making sure that whatever you have learned can be interpreted from your mind and delivered to the people in a way that they understand what the sound is about.
Traveling also lets you borrow and fuse elements you may pick up around the globe and it continues to be an additive to creativity and inspiration.
Speaking of interpreting sounds: the first track on the album, “Beat of Africa.” Please tell us how did that record come about and why was it chosen to be the first?
“Beat of Africa” is something special. It was a project that we were doing and not a lot people know it was a competition song and there was a whole lot of submissions for that song because that song is not made from just ordinary instruments. There’s paper grinding machines, jaws opening, bowls, keys and just a whole lot more of home stuff that made the song. Not a lot of people know that.
That’s why it had to be the first song in the album: it represented the possibilities of making music using anything.
Please also touch on the influences of the record that was chosen as a single titled “Marry Me.”
Yo that song is special man. It took a lot for us to make that song, also to get it aligned with the perfect person to sing it, Msaki. In that song there’s like three elements from the eras of good music. One is the church organ from the ’70s that was mainly used by the Soul Brothers. The snare that we used that Brenda Fassie specialized in, it’s a signature snare from the ’80s. And then there’s the third sound in there, a heavenly sounding synth that was firstly introduced in the ’90s. It was on the rave songs, the funky house songs. We put all that together.
Our Asian friend Doobie was in studio and he was just vibing. After we got done finishing the song he said the song made him want to marry someone’s daughter. That’s how the name came up.
For each of you guys, what are the four must have items when traveling?
Smol: laptop, speaker, headphones and lighter.
DJ Murdah: Powerbank, international simcard, speaker and laptop.
What would Black Motion like to be remembered for? or rather known for as a legacy?
Apart from our performances?! The most important thing we’d like to be remembered for and by is the sound that we left for the young ones to carry on the legacy through whatever genre may be coming. Leave success to the young producers to just take making music as spiritual not something just to make money. To leave a legacy for the coming ones to understand what the music was all about, the healing and explaining your feelings through sounds.
Please tell us more about Spirit Motion.
Spirit Motion is a house of talent and people that are spiritual and creative. Spirit Motion is a record label that has the likes of Brendan Praise, Miss P and there’s a lot of artists we looking to sign and it is still under wraps. It’s all about the push and understanding where we going with the young generation and the people that can carry on the message.
In a broader standing point of the music industry, what would you tell an aspiring artist on how to sustain longevity in their careers?
Simply don’t do things to trend and don’t be “creative” because the person next to you is creative. Be creative because it’s from your own thoughts and own soul, stay in your lane and you will be sustained. Your years will come through without forcing to be recognized or anything. Your time will come.
The evolution of musical technology regarding equipment, digitalization, distribution and access has had an impact on the music industry. What is your take on these subjects for the music industry?
It carries a good and a bad side. The bad would be downloading music illegally. On the good side it’s a point where it gets the music to the other side of the world quicker. The quality of equipment and the music itself has been positively impacted. It is a 50/50 type of situation — like it has helped artist exposure but also lead to an influx of music.
The global Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of artists and creatives alike. As musicians whom despite certain restrictions managed to successfully release an album and shoot a music video — how would you as professionals advice upcoming musicians on being able to remedy such situations?
You can lose whatever, but as long as you have your talent you can’t lose. So it’s all in a matter of having a belief in your talent and having a belief in what you do to sustain yourself and then everything will just open up easy. Don’t rely on outside things and don’t rely on people to push or like your things. As long as you are in good spirits with your creative side then you will survive anything.
What do you believe is to be the role of the Department of Arts and Culture in unforeseen circumstances like these that we have now experienced?
We feel the Department of Arts and Culture has failed us big time. It showed that there’s a whole lot of work to be done because at the end of the day and in a nutshell, the creatives are what makes a country be a country. There’s creativity, music, there’s storytelling, and booking, writing and much more. So when they rely on us but we can’t rely on them it becomes tricky. We still send a strong message to the Arts and Culture for the creatives of South Africa to be put first at least in some instances. At the end of the day we too have to eat and when we create art, we create opportunities for other families as well. So it’s not only about us. But they have to understand when they close us not only do we feel it but also families that we support through projects that we push.
Smol you have recently founded a foundation. Please tell us more about this move?
This foundation is all about giving an understanding to anyone on Earth that there’s ample green products that can be used for everyday life without politicizing the matter. So we are raising awareness especially to young women in Africa and South Africa and trying to create a platform that will allow persons to be innovative and supply resources to people that cannot actualize their dreams. Just wanting to make innovators dreams come true, targeting the young ones in the townships and making them realize they can create and live off of their creations. No matter what it is, it doesn’t have to be commercial as long as it meets the guidelines of making the earth sustainable and contributing to environmental wellbeing.
What moved you as a duo to be part of water conservation efforts across Africa?
Water is very scarce, especially clean water in Africa and we always make sure wherever we go that we push awareness of a green Earth. The importance of awareness never gets left behind and people think because we are surrounded by water we are safe. But there’s actually people dying from infected water and they cannot reach clean, drinkable water. So by any means we use our following to highlight this issue and advise people how to use and conserve water.
Forming part of a pioneer’s celebration, Black Motion dropped your remix of “Sure Thing” by St Germain for his 20th anniversary of St Germain’s album Tourist. What might Black Motion have on the horizon musically or otherwise?
That collabo with St Germain doing the remix was a huge, huge achievement. We literally grew up listening to him as one of the main producers that understood house music back in the day. Growing up and listening to the music then later on having the privilege the same to remix the song that introduced us to St Germain was a dream come true man. And it was just something we didn’t expect. It came through via Atjazz and to be recognized by just those two names is something very special to us that we will never, ever forget.
On the horizon there’s some things that are a whole lot bigger that involve a lot of people we grew up listening to that we are going to be working with. It’s just going to be a beautiful chaos with a lot of legends. We also going into film scoring and that’s the main thing we trying to push, it’s coming good and that’s where the focus is.