The second leg of our Road to Womex brings us to South Africa, where we meet a talented and eclectic musician born and raised in Eastern Cape, who is dedicating her life and career to preserving, showcasing and bringing forward the local folk repertoire.
Singer/songwriter, storyteller, activist, creative entrepreneur and TV presenter, Pilani Bubu is a truly independent artist. She started her music journey in 2012 as “self-funded, self-managed, self-published” musician with her debut album Journey of a Heart and, in the last decade, her popularity has exponentially grown across the African continent, going beyond its borders and reaching Europe and North America.
The focus and mission of her artistry has never changed thought. She’s always keen on unearthing her roots and also keeping the Afro-folk lymph flowing.
Can you briefly introduce your music to someone who will listen to it for the first time at Womex?
I write my music from my own lived experience, telling my own authentic stories. Music is my main canvas, and words, the paint brush that determines my sonic landscape. My mission is to leave an indelible mark on people’s minds by elevating their consciousness. I consider myself a storyteller first, exploring themes of culture, identity, spirituality, love, light, human consciousness, and transformation. These concepts and thematic narratives are held together by poetic spoken word and versatility and dynamic storytelling in a fusion of jazz, folk, funk, and soul. I think what people can expect to hear is a cohesive global sound I like to call jazzy ‘folk’ soul.
Who and what are your music influences and where does your sound come from?
My music comes from a wide range of influences, my first love being “folk music”, when I first started exploring singing and songwriting, I was inspired by the likes of: Tracy Chapman, Sinead O’Conner and Sarah McClachlan. When I started embracing contemporary interpretations of music that celebrate culture, heritage, identity as well as talk to social issues and activism, I looked to: Busi Mhlongo, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, Brenda Fassie. I am also heavily inspired by the activist and genre bending Nina Simone, who seamlessly composed and told her account of history and stories in a fusion of genres.
As well as a Worldwide Music Expo, Womex is a good and proper global music fun fair. Is there anything you are looking forward to attending/enjoying during those five days?
Outside of being an artist myself, I am an avid traveller and festival goer. I have always enjoyed exploring sounds from around the world. So, I am excited about venue-hopping between showcases. It’s always good to immerse oneself in the work of other artistic counterparts. Taking inspiration from how others are choosing to express themselves. Beyond having the opportunity to perform on Saturday 22 October at 2pm at Altice theatre, this year, I have also always appreciated the networking and connections made of like-minds investing in world-music from around the world. It has always heeded results and a joining of dots for my team and our global strategy. I will also be making my contribution as a speaker at this year’s conference at the Africa Networking Session, talking about ‘Preserving African Folklore’ on the Friday 21st of October at 4 – 5pm at Conference Room 4.
This Womex edition will happen in Lisbon. Have you ever been there and is there anything you are looking forward to doing/visiting/eating or drinking in the Portuguese capital?
I have never been to Lisbon. I did attend Womex 21 in Porto last year though. Similarly, I am looking forward to exploring more of the Portuguese culture in the food and wine, especially. As well as seeing what the city of Lisbon has to offer in terms of art, crafts, and art galleries. I hope that this time, I will get the chance to see one or two historical sites, from castles to cathedrals to museums and do some shopping. Watch the sunset, stare at the horizon over a vast body of water.
Womex is a unique opportunity to share and showcase your music with new people and let them know about your upcoming projects. Can you reveal to us some of your plans for the future?
I will be giving audiences a taste of my Folklore album series. We released Chapter 1 in Europe this year in May 2022, we will be previewing the new chapter 2: Ekuseni, to be released early 2023. With a single release titled: ‘Abantwana’, that came about in collaboration with Blick Bassy on his production Bikutsi 3000 which debuted at the museum Quai Branly in Paris, June 2022. I am working on co-producing the remaining chapters of the Folklore project with Blick. This single is a segway between Chapters 2 and 3. Whilst holding the entire narrative of Chapter 2. A conversation between children and ancestors in dreamscapes in African Spirituality and divinity. I will be travelling to Portugal with my South African band to bring authenticity and uphold the integrity of this music inspired by various people and tribes in South Africa: The Xhosa, The Khoi san, The Zulu, The Venda, The Basotho and more.
Let’s say that you have to draft an invitation card for our readers to join you at Womex and enjoy your showcase. What would you write in it?
Sanibonani! You are invited to the only South African experience at this year’s World Music Expo – Womex 22, on Saturday October 22, from 2pm – 3pm at Altice Theatre. Indelible Storyteller Pilani Bubu explores her identity, culture and African spirituality through sounds, poetry and spoken word, deeply rooted in the diverse tribes and Bantu people of Southern Africa. Preview her upcoming album: ‘Folklore Chapter 2: Ekuseni’ set to release early 2023. She’ll be performing with her quintet, coming all the way from South Africa: Urbano Bay on guitar, Amaeschi Ikechi on double bass, Lungile Kunene on percussion, Ezile Bubu on Backing Vocals. To get a context and understanding of her passion on preserving African Folklore, you can attend her talk at the Africa Networking Session on Friday 21 October from 4 – 5pm at the Conference room 4.
- Pilani Bubu will be performing on the Daycase Stage (Altice Theatre) on Saturday 22nd at 2PM -
You can find all the previous episodes of Musical Road to Womex HERE
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