Qhubeka is your 12th offering isn’t it? And your birthday is on the 12th day of the 12th month. What’s the significance?It’s my 12th offering, correct. You know it was very interesting that I realized when I finished recording this is my 12th album and being someone who was born on the 12th of December this is 12 12 12. So I’d love to call it the 12th of the 12th, for the 12th (laughs).
Have you got 12 years of music experience or it goes beyond that?I have been professionally performing and working as a musician for the last 21 years, but this is my 12th album as Ringo. Before that there was Peto, the first group I started with from Cape Town.
What is your new album about?My songs are all about inspirations from different rhythms and grooves. I've played lot of African rhythms, Afro-jazz with Peto. I also worked with my other group the first group I formed and we were doing reggae so there all those influences that shape up my kind of music. That’s why I find hard at times to define my music… I would always like to call it Ringo grooves (laughs). My music has always been about singing about love, unity, tolerance for one another, social issues - good and bad. I worked with a young man who graduated from UCT, Mongezi Conja - he majored in piano - and he instilled most of the jazz feel on the album. I really enjoyed working with him which helped to broaden my music.
Compared to your previous albums, Qhubeka is more subtle, isn’t it? Is this the influence of the young jazz man?Yes, but the calmness of the album also shows that I’ve definitely grown. There isn’t all the energy pumping songs; it’s now all about listening to the songs. The fans that I started with fourteen years ago have grown and need to listen to something that is more relaxed. Of course I have dance songs [such as] “Isikhalo” and “Isigqibo”, songs that have got the rhythm. The difference is the sound. I made sure I keep the sound I can produce on stage exactly as it is on the CD. WATCH: Ringo's video interview here.
Around this time of the year many artists release albums pure for the festive season, is this the case with Ringo?No, no, no I never release albums for the festive season. My music is for all seasons and the topics I sing about are everyday moods.
Which song do you think is probably going to be a hit song?There are no specific songs that we’re pushing. People like different songs: people love “Isigqobo because of the jazzy groove; "Isikhalo" is more like my vibe where there’s percussion and voices; and obviously there are love songs that are very synonymous with Ringo. Songs like "Mehlo am" and "Ndiyazinikele" are Ringo songs.
On "Igrov kaLisa" you worked with your daughter, she’s three years old right?Yep, three years and four months. My mother says I started singing at three, but I never really believed her. I mean what can a three year old sing? I was surprised that my little girl kept on singing songs, but I remember I used to create songs by the sounds I heard. I'd come up with a song like "Meduna" (off Ntumba)…(singing the chorus)…you [may] ask what does that mean? I don’t know! (laughs). My sister would remind me of the songs I used to sing when we were young. I asked Nana (my daughter's nickname) 'what are you singing?' 'It's Nana’s song', she replied. So I was working at the studio and her mother called and said 'Lisa wants to talk to you'. I said, 'ok'. And she started singing and I recorded her on my cell phone, saved the file on the computer, transferred it and laid on the track. We looked for the key to match her voice and without tampering much with the recording we found it. I played the song to her thinking she’d forgotten about, but she remembered.
You're an established solo artist, but if you could put together a 'super group' who would be in it?It would a pleasure and honour to work with Caiphus Semenya and some of the young guys too like Siphokazi and them. And then there are other people that I might not know that have a different kind of music from other cultures. It is my wish that one day we’ll have this big band from one culture to the other with one song. We did that once with David Kramer as Peto at the Baxter Theatre back in 1988 and it worked: people loved it, but then we never explored it further.
Who listens to Ringo's music? Do you sell abroad?Well, my music is loved by young and old. You find white people listening to my music and black people mostly because they understand the language. And you have people who are attracted by the sound and the energies around the songs wanting to know more about the music. When we went to perform at one of the North Sea Jazz festivals in Den Hague in Europe we were put on the spot there because the gap between performing artists was only fifteen minutes. Before us there was a Cuban group, so we went to this big venue with no people and the rest of the band wanted us to play mellow jazzy songs. But I refused. So we started with our sound and after the first three songs the venue was packed. We learned a valuable lesson there from the audience we did not know.
Miriam Makeba has passed. What do you think a young artist like yourself needs to do to ensure her legacy continues?It has be trying times for South Africans to have lost such a great person in Miriam Makeba. What I take from her as an artist is that she never waivered from who she was. She went overseas and never tried to be an American. She did her Click Song; a song that some at home took for granted. Miriam carried the South African cultural flag and showed us that we should learn as young artists to present ourselves without changing.
Politically a lot has happened in the country and abroad, let me put you on the spot ANC or COPE?(Starts with a big laugh) Well, its not about ANC or COPE. It’s about who is willing to make a change for the people. There’s nothing we can say about COPE now, but there’s a lot we can say about ANC - good or bad and what they could have done because the very same people running COPE are the very same people that were running the ship (chuckles). The main issue is that people want change and people want to see bred and butter issues are addressed. The world has changed; I never thought that America would be led by a black man.
Artists like Don Laka, Oscar and Mzwakhe Mbuli are reportedly campaigning and releasing albums for the ANC. Are we likely to see Ringo entering that space?It’s not about entering any popular space by other artists. I am for change. My song "Isikhalo" is about the pains and tears from people screaming to be noticed. Today we need to say to the popular leaders like Mr Zuma: "Unite us, make change and make sure we are one".
Do you think artists should take responsibility that they are role models? Or should they be left alone to live their lives?Role modeling is a very serious and difficult task given to us as artists. Young artists need role models themselves because they adopt negative cultures such as disrespecting women and old people. It’s difficult for us to be role models to the younger guys because the do not recognize the originality of our music.
Final question: will 2010 have any direct benefits for South African musicians?2010 should have direct benefits to us as artists. We need to sell our music to the foreigners and visitors that will be coming here. We need to sell our craft and our cultures. And we need to perform every now and then to release the stress of the…losing team (laughs). So yes, it should have benefits.
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