Boom! – defined as a loud, deep, resonant sound. But when she added the ‘Che’ to the ‘Boom’ sound, it immediately became a song idea and a revolutionary single.
‘Boom Che’ is a rhythmic playfulness that came to her mind whilst walking through the airport one day. Then Boom! It became a successful radio single after being released last year. It was playlisted on 41 radio stations countrywide. The song is part of an original write fused with a traditional song about women gathering wood that she learnt as a young girl. The same year, she released ‘Baile’. Both singles form part of her forthcoming album – ‘Folklore’.
Pilani Bubu (35) is an exceptional singer songwriter whose music has transcended both locally and abroad. She has released two albums, ‘Journey of a Heart’ in 2012 and ‘Warrior of Light’ in 2015. She has also released three radio singles from each: ‘Miss Understood’, ‘Sweet Love’ and now, ‘Boom Che’. She describes her music as ‘jazzy folk soul’ but fused with western folk music. Her songs are a contemporary fusion of folk, that blends both the western and the traditional.
My personal favourite song of hers is ‘Caged Heart’. There is something about this song that makes me want to get inside my car and drive – and continue driving to an unknown destination. It’s an empowering song that I will listen to for some time to come! The lyrics – ‘set me free’ inculcates a sense of freedom to oneself. So, I had to ask her to indulge me on this tune.
She said, “Caged Heart started as a poem, that became a song when I collaborated with a collective of producers and artists from Kenya called EA (East African) Wave. We had initially done a song called ‘That Box’, for a collaborative project that I worked on in Kenya, with other Pan-African female artists called, ‘Femmolution’. We found magic in each other and collaborated on seven songs, most of which were sitting in a book written as poems. And you are right, a lot of them hold a theme of freedom for me and will be released collectively in my fourth studio album, whose title I am still mulling over: ‘Out The Box’ – Beyond Limits. Several people who love the song, almost couldn’t wait to spread the word and at the beginning of 2017, the song was playlisted and played on YFM. I’ve been working on the full project for two years and a bit now. I’m planning on a 2020 release, but one single will be released before the full project, title ‘Be Ready’ so be ready and on the look out for that” says Pilani.
Her Body of Work is a true reflection of her essence and appreciation of culture and heritage. True to this fact, is her current project: Folklore, and its demo acapella version: ‘Out of Africa’ on her website, which includes five folklore songs. ‘Qula’ – popularly sung by the late Zim Ngqawana, Qongqothwane – famously done by the late legendary singer Mama Miriam Makeba, Meadowlands, Mama ka Sibongile and Boom Che – Theza Inkuni. Her international audiences expressed their desire to hear her perform traditional songs from her country, and she heeded the call.
“When I travelled overseas often, especially to the United States, I realised how much folks yearned to hear deeper traditional sounds and the history of the music in my country. I then pulled together the demo to start working on what these songs that I could share as I travelled could be. I simply pulled together songs that I learnt and loved as a young girl growing up in the Transkei and Mpondoland and some which I picked up at traditional events. Of course, Meadowlands I learnt through the musical Sophiatown when I was in high school. Mama ka Sibongile is a song that is sung by the boys in the Mpondoland when they return from circumcision. I found it, really funny. The ‘makoti’ slapped her grandfather in law and the song simply describes this action and people in awe. It’s such a well written and fun song, with a short story we can all piece together. That project then evolved in the project that I am busy releasing now called ‘Folklore’, explains Pilani.
“Inspiration will always come when you do something you love”
She explains that sampling the traditional folklore songs came naturally to her. “I was just an open vessel accepting new ideas in my mind, playing and breathing new life to something I already love. Inspiration will always come when you do something you love. I have sung in church, traditionally and in choirs in my language and I find the rhythmic melodies and words in the traditional writing styles genius, she says.
A Creative Lifestyle Activist – as she likes to call herself, Pilani believes that the world would be a better place if we all did more of what we are passionate about, and that through passion, we find purpose, and with purpose, we can impact the world positively. Her passion translates through her music delivery and stage performances. When she sings, she evokes different emotions that capture her audience. “My single-minded intention is to create consciousness shifts, my impact principle is founded on positive change, when people listen to me, I want them to hear the conscious activist in me. The exchange needs to be empowering, engaging and enlightening. I have a variety of songs that are encouraging and healing, whilst telling my own story. They say whatever is personal is public, and through sharing art, we can enable healing. I have several songs that resonate as such to most and through my own pursuit and journey of self- discovery, I provoke and inspire a similar journey in others, says Pilani.
Just like her music, Pilani has a unique sense of style when it comes to clothing, which she describes as a blend of classic and edgy. “I like more minimalistic shapes and forms, where the item has either a strong sense of geometry or falls on me to take on my structure. On a day-to-day, you will see, I have more black in my wardrobe than any other colour. I celebrate colour and femininity in my wardrobe, when it comes to my TV show, it is a show about design and imagination, therefore I allow the same shapes and forms in colour. On stage, I like to feel like a warrior, a superhero. So, a lot of my outfits are inspired by this AfroAsian warrior vibe. What holds these different iterations together is that essentially, I am classic in my choices, with a drop of boldness and edge,” she says.
The same applies to her hairstyles. She is very particular about the way she wears her hair. Edge and structure are the inspiration behind her stylish hairdos. “I like there to be angles, accentuated lines that shape my face in my jawline, eyebrow area, and cheekbones. So, whether it is a short bowl cut, ladies cut, top bun with shaven sides or braids and weave with a middle parting – there are lines created,” she says.
One can immediately tell from the way she describes her style and look that she has a design background. And, yes! Pilani is a woman of many talents. She is also the co-owner and founder of interior and design companies with a few product-ranges in her portfolio. She has also presented TV show: ‘Out And About’ on One Gospel channel on DStv channel 331. She now presents the show: ‘Design For You’ on The Home Channel, DStv channel 176. The show is currently in production for its sixth season.
When asked which one comes first, music, tv hosting, interior designing, she said “Music is my first love and design is my second. My television career is currently aligned with my love for design and that’s a dream come true. I am expanding my profile in design from brand design, interior design to product design. I am extremely happy, joy filled and energised doing both. Music and design balance out my creativity. When I was age 9 – 15, I played 5 different instruments and wrote songs; at the same time, I used to draw, was good at one arts and I was helluva crafty. I used to make dolls any anything I thought I could try. I am simply a creative artist if you look at me holistically.” she says.
Pilani is currently launching two product ranges – an African Travel Collection and a new Contemporary African Howeware range of textiles and wallpaper inspired by the one she launched last year for the Nelson Mandela’s 100th-year celebration, endorsed by the Nelson Mandela Foundation called the Madiba The Dreamer Collection.
“Look out for ThereAndBack.Travel and CollaboNative’s African Dreamer Collection in collaboration with Room 13 design,” concludes Pilani.