Slahla Matende: The Man Behind the Music

Nkosinathi Lloyd Shangase AKA Slahla Matende is a musician and songwriter from KwaMashu in KwaZulu-Natal. Slahla Matende means “convertible” i.e. In English Slahla means “taking off” and Matende means “roof”. His musical influence is Tupac because he believes in the struggle and Tupac fought the struggle musically. You will often see Slahla caption a picture on social media with the word “The revolution will not be televised”. Slahla has worked in many companies such as Telkom and Unilever, with his last job being at Discovery Health, which ended in 2016. He is now a full-time musician. Slahla is not loud,  but a musician that moves people with his presence and lets his work speak for him. I leapt at the opportunity to interview him because he IS “taking off”. Here’s the man behind the music.

When did your love for music start?

I started at a very early stage – I would say from pre-school. They used to have talent shows and I used to do three events at these shows when all the other kids were doing one. For example, in the play, I’d be a goat that’s actually talking, I’m in the dance competition and then the next thing I’m singing as well – in the same show on the same day. But back then I didn’t actually realise what I was doing. I have the pictures from that time. I’d look at those pictures and I used to ask my parents “what was I doing there?” and then they would tell me.

Then in KwaMashu they used to have this thing called “shows” and there was a Miss Modelling competition. During the modelling competition, there was a dance competition and a singing competition. I sang with my niece and we actually won a perfume – I still remember it … I think I was 12 at the time. But mostly in my schools, I think I’ve been lucky – most of them used to have musical shows and I used to enter them.

I remember being in primary school in Phoenix. I sang when we were doing a farewell to the principal, it was just a spur of the moment thing. I think the song that was hot at the time was Shaggie’s “Bombastic”. My first recording was in 2010 which is when I really decided to take it seriously. What had actually been holding me back was that I never used to have any musical people around me. So I didn’t have that support. It was just me all the time having this dream and telling people “hey do you know I can sing?” and they were saying “hey please, come on”!

Tell me about your music

I can sing as well. I do R&B songs especially if a verse or chorus requires me to. I actually started with Kwaito and then moved to Hip Hop, because Kwaito was hot at the time. This was when Big Nuz first came to the scene in 2010. But before Big Nuz there was this group called Tzozo and Professor – and Professor had just gone to Kalawa. I was also inspired by him at the time. I will do a Kwaito song one day. Because I don’t like being boxed in.

How would you describe your sound?

I’ll say it’s a unique sound, but it’s actually a mixture of many genres. Because I could be rapping in the song, and then the chorus will follow in a rock version because of the beat. I do what the music allows me to do.

Who is producing your beats?

There’s a guy in Cape Town called Mobster. But I buy most of my beats online because some of them have a topic, like a title for the song, before you even record or write it, so you know what the artist was going through when he made the beat. If it’s a sad beat, he’ll put there “raining” and then you can hear the rain in the background and you can tell that this is a sad song.

So instead of you jumping into the song without knowing what the flow is about, this is how you create more chemistry. To get the people to actually feel you. I like my songs to be emotional. If it’s a happy song, you feel that it’s a happy song, if it’s a sad song, you feel that it’s a sad song, not just the beat but my words as well.

How many of your songs on your mixtape Titanium are “happy”?

I normally do “happy” songs when it comes to Trap and Hip Hop. On my tape, there are about 5 happy songs, there’s emotional and I talk about love as well.

Tell us about Titanium released April 2016. Hearing it for the first time, I listened, downloaded & liked every single track. It was awesome.

That tape was meant to show people “this is Slahla, this is what I can do”. The name “Titanium” came from a song by David Guetta that got me through hard times. I did the tape at a bad time in my life.

I called it “Titanium” because it was like a step up from where I was. I had been dealing with a lot of negativity from the people around me. I dropped Titanium to say “all of your negativity will ricochet, the bullet will ricochet, it won’t get to me…”

Let’s talk about that negativity – what is it and what are your coping skills?

Well now that I have this great response from people who love my music, it’s hard for me to feel the negativity. Even when I see it, I just go to my facebook profile or listen to one of my songs and listen to this great work that I’m doing. So what’s negativity going do to me?

I come from a hard place. I come from KwaMashu and the worst part of it is that people didn’t really “get” me. Especially my family. My mother is 86 years old. I’m the youngest of 8 children. My oldest brother is 52. So you can understand where I’m coming from with no one to relate to. I’m doing all these latest things that they are not used to. I’m wanting to sing, I’m dressing differently. I’m cutting hair differently and I can’t help it, it because it’s just the way I am.

When I do things, they think maybe it’s a joke, hoping it’s going to stop. But now they see that I’m caring on strong I’m getting some support .

 

What kinds of things have been said to you? Like have you heard “why don’t you get a real job”?

No funny enough, I don’t get those kinds of things.

What are your reasons for being so silent on your private life in social media?

If you look at my facebook profile, you’d think that I’m alone in this world and don’t have a family. If you look at other people, they’ll be sharing their stuff, putting other people as their profile pictures. I was posting pictures before, but I’m at a point now where my music requires me to be fully focussed.

I eat, drink, sleep music.

Every day that’s what I’m doing. Trying to create a new hit song or meeting other musicians.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I go to the internet café to look for gigs, or post my stuff online. There’s a radio station in Nigeria. They are just waiting for my next song. They are playing my music and I’m starting a fan base out of SA. That’s what I’ll be doing all the time. If I’m not on the internet, I’m at the studio. If I’m not at the studio, I’m looking for new beats, because I’m trying to create a new sound as well. And you are going to hear the new sound.

Mostly I’m at M.O.M, because I like the producer – Naturevybes. We really connect well. I like people who I find easy to work with. It’s not only about the right beat. It’s also got to be about the right team. And you have to be in the right mood and zone.

Tell us about the single you just released – “Dancer”.

It’s sort of Dancehall mixed with Hip Hop mixed with R&B, so that’s why I’m saying I’m creating a new sound. I also rapped there in a reggae version on the 2nd verse.

Most of the time, I don’t feature people. It’s not that I don’t like featuring people, it’s just that I don’t get a chance to feature with the people that I really want to work with. When it comes to recording or putting a song down, if I set a date, and the date comes and I’m not there, I start to panic. It keeps on vibing in my ear, “you gotta do this, you gotta do that” until it’s done. Then I can chill and continue with what else needs to be done. I can’t move onto to the next thing without finishing the first. I’m that kind of person.

What inspired Dancer was that I was looking for a new sound and I found this beat. Everything about this beat just connected to my vision of a new sound. I’ve always wanted to rap in reggae. When I was doing kwaito when I first started, I also did a reggae song as well. Back then in 2010, there was a studio here in town. People used to like line up. I think it was the only studio – there were queues just to go and record. I was there to record a kwaito song and these guys called Amigos, I think they are from Angola, heard me and wanted me to jump on their beat. I agreed. From that time, I thought, hey, this is nice, rapping in reggae is cool. I actually want to do this once again.

Now only in 2016 I’m coming and doing a verse in reggae.

“Dancer” is about a person dancing on the dance floor who doesn’t care about anything – just releasing the stress, moving with the song. Everybody’s busy in the background with their own thing, but that person came here to dance. That’s “Dancer”. It’s an inspirational song, The song is not about me but I can be a dancer too because I also have my moments when I just want to dance!

So what’s coming?

Either an album or a mixtape, titled “Refreshingly Different” because that’s exactly what it’s going to be. I’m stepping into a new element as well. I’m going to do 4 songs soulful rock, R&B and hip-hop all on the same project.

“Dancer” is dancehall fused with hip-hop and I’ll do another 2 dancehall hip-hop songs – hip hop and reggae.

The rest is going to be 5 trap songs and the balance love songs (hip-hop version) and one R&B song.

I’m going to try to do something that no one has done before.

If you listen to most of the albums, it’s like they are using the same beat throughout the album. You think that you have already listened to the song, but you haven’t. It’s a different song. It is just that the person doing the song is going with the same flow. I don’t know about other people, but that actually puts me off. You can’t have the same tempo for 15 songs. I’m trying to change that. I want to do my own stuff.

What is the reason behind you standing out from the crowd?

I’m doing what’s natural. I don’t have to try hard I guess. Sometimes I can go to a show, like when I launched “Dancer” at The Ink Hop Festival 2016. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get a slot and I didn’t prepare for the choreography, but if you look at my video, you will see it looks like everything’s planned. You just have to do what comes naturally to you and not be afraid to be yourself. If you hear other people doing the same genre and they pushing the same sound forward and you feel like you need to record something, don’t go be pressured. Just believe in yourself.

Head to Soundcloud to check out his music and keep in touch with him on Facebook and Twitter

 

 

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