1. Who is ? Pilani Bubu(32) Creative Lifestyle Activist. I believe I can change the world through creativity and passion. I believed that the world would be a better place if we all did more of what we are passionate about.
My creative journey began at the age of 9, I was writing songs, playing three different instruments, singing in choirs and obsessed about harmonizing to other people’s songs. I use to be top of my art class in my teens and I loved making dolls.
I neglected my creative journey from Matric till I was 25, when I realized that the education system doesn’t support creative kids and we are given little guidance. And in my case I was also a ‘clever kid’, straight A’s at most and so, all my teachers and parents could tell me is that I should be a doctor or lawyer or chartered accountant.
I am now the advocate for creative leadership. I believe that the Elon Musks’ and Brandsons of this word are build through passion and purpose. My focus is on conscious communication and creative impact.
2. Tell us a bit more about referring to yourself as a ‘Warrior of light’?
This came from my journey in search of my own truth and light. My first EP Journey Of A Heart, sparked from a very dark place. I speak about hope for joy there, coming out of a heartbreak and disappointment. Life is about these dualities, in the words if Khalil Gibran, sorrow is your joy unmasked. Your joy is determined by how much sorrow you can surpass.
In essence, we are all Warrior’s of Light, reflecting Gods glory through our strength, revealing and uncovering our own revelations. They say that what is personal is public, but sharing our stories, or bringing them to the light helps others and in my case, I hope that my stories will enlighten and encourage others to live well (as my name instructs – Pilani).
3. Where are you from?
I was born in a small town called Mthatha in the Transkei, however I am Pondo, from Eastern Pondoland, by my fathers lineage.
I left the Eastern Cape at age 11, to come to boarding school in Johannesburg. And my parents then moved to Pretoria in 1998 and we have made Pretoria home since then.
4. How did your curiosity in music come about?
When I was about 8/9 years old, my twin sister and I could not stop singing. We loved school assembly or going to Chapel every morning. We would come home in the evenings and take turns in singing to school hymnbook back to back.
We then started laying the recorder and marimba’s with the ensemble at school. I took up piano lessons and joined the school choir. We also played the violin and in the Step Youth Orchestra and Johannesburg Youth Orchestra. Sung in four different groups in and out of school all through high school. We haven’t stopped singing or picking up instruments ever since.
I wrote my first song when I was 9 years old and many since. I used to be obsessed with guitar and my Dad bought me my first guitar after that my first keyboard. I guess something in him believed in the artist in me. Because he also bought me my first canvas, easel and paint brushes around the same time.
5. A degree in Bcomm: Law, Marketing & Business Management from University Of Pretoria; a certificate in Marketing Research Principles from Georgia University.
Was music always inevitable as you also studied Musical Theatre at the New York Film Academy?
Music was inevitable. I was side tracked by the usual societal conditioning around survival and security. And the image people create around struggling artists. So my parents insisted I study something that I can earn from.
And I always thought of music as a gift and should be given as gift, and didn’t want it to be the thing that brings the bacon home. Until I realized, if I don’t take it professionally, I won’t make it professionally.
6. Not every parent understands when one wants to pursue what they are passionate about. Does your family support you and your career choice?
They are 100% supportive. And have come to realize our life’s work as a musical family. My older brother Apiwe just finished his double major degree in Music Composition, Engineering and Production from the most prestigious music school in the United States: Berklee College of Music. He now works as a musician and producer in Los Angeles. My sister sings at the church.
The risk is different for all of us. If I didn’t trade in other schools, they would probably worry about me. But they have come to learn that a life is possible through a professional music career from my brother and I. And it requires a lot of sacrifice and hard work, as well as trial and error.
7. There are always challenges in our paths.
What kind have you come across when working your way up in the music industry?
In South Africa specifically, we are not as open to new music. My mission is to increase South Africans palettes to new music and recognize other genres and styles and to stop putting race behind our music. To allow the black musician to do Indie or Blue Grass is they wish. I have started a musician union called the Retrograde. Launching it’s members platform this year. Supported by the National Arts Council grants.
This helps me address issues I have collectively. Radio Airplay is restricted to those who can pay more for high rotation on some of SA’s national stations. We keep to the same sounding songs in Afro Pop. Our industry influencers on radio don’t have the power to influence audiences to listen to more local music.
We play 80% international artists on our stations. For a country that contributes 1% to the worlds music revenue, essentially we are loosing money we don’t even have. Paid out in royalties to international artists.
I am passionate about building the creative economy, there is no economy that doesn’t start at home. South African artists need to earn from South Africans.
South Africans need more exposure to SA music digitally and on air. And we are so distracted by international POP music to understand the lay of our land and how we can contribute.
8. You seem to be always booked and this has you rubbing shoulders with legends.
How did you set foot in the mainstream?
I’m not sure what this question means….\\
All I can say is that, everything takes investment: you invest in recording an album in studio with artists. Then you invest in packaging it via photoshoots, digital platforms, website’s artwork. Then you market it, by investing in radio plug in PR. PR gets you interviewed and exposed and the radio exposes your music to more people. The formula works, by it requires money and investment.
Then you perform, create your own gigs or find platforms. You start by performing for almost nothing and then, when you get better and better at what you are doing other people notice and get corporates to book you. When you get booked, you need to be professional and people remember what it feels like to work with you and book you again and again
And so the cycle goes.
I wouldn’t describe myself as mainstream. I fall under niche music. People don’t know my genre because its not familiar and that is a challenge in itself.
I fuse a lot into music – if you listen to Warrior Of Light…you get the essence of jazzy folk soul. Not a familiar sound to South Africans. It will take exposure to make it mainstream.
9. What inspired you to write the song Misunderstood?
Working in corporate at the time. 7 years ago now. My desire to pursue my dreams and give my gifts to the world was growing bigger and bigger. That’s when I quit corporate world. I wanted to present the true me. The creative.
So I speak about life being a joy, when everything you do is everything about you. And saying things that you mean, and that the world is waiting on you – a pep talk to myself and now to others – I am now living that prophecy.
10. Did you have any idea that the song would blow up as it did?
I knew it had hit potential because of the bouncy chorus and if kids can sing along to your song, it’s telling.
However, as much as it was playlisted on 25 radio stations across the country, I didn’t do high rotation on all because of its tempo. I had that Sunday afternoon, road trip feel in all its effort. High rotation declares hits and gets you on the top 40 etc. It top 40’d in Grahamstown and on Power FM – that’s telling.
I worked with RJ Benjamin to produce the song and that was a huge plus – we combined worlds
12. How was it having RJ Benjamin produce your first EP titled ‘Journey Of A Heart’?
An absolute pleasure, he leads and understands that I was on a journey of learning. I was fresh in the game and there was so much that he took care of: studio, booking session musicians, creating the charts…running the project on time and delivering. It was a breeze. He is an amazing musician and producer and came with so much added value. I couldn’t trade that experience for anything, I learnt so much about producing and album and learnt so much about my style and unique voice.
13. In future who else would you also like to work with?
Mpho – 37MPH, Musician Apes, … David Foster…..Robert Glasper….Anderson Paak… ☺ dreaming big
14. Your album Journey Of A Heart Part II: ‘Warrior of Light’, how is it doing so far?
We have plugged in the first single: Free – which was playlisted on 5 radio stations. The second single ‘Sweet Love’ is doing even better, it is currently on rotation on Kaya FM, Hot 91.9, Radio Today, Zone Radio, Gagasi FM , Emalahleni, and 6 other stations so far…we are still plugging it in and we are waiting on more stations to confirm. I am working PR company: Sheila Afari.
15. Your music expeditions include London, Dublin, New York how has that grown your sound?
Tremendously. Listen to Journey Of A Heart Part I and II and you tell me! So much growth. In the first I was young, softer spoken and safe in style. In the second my voice is more free, in its uniqueness and in its unique genre.
When you travel, you grow through exposure, the most exponential growth happened at New York Film Academy, working with world class coaches off Broadway and my time in New Orleans helped me embrace a particular sound.
16. Could kindly attach several studio pictures of yourself, three of which should be close-up pictures that we could use for the feature.