You might remember him from being the brightest smile in the most popular Lowveld band, No One’s Arc. You might have met him at Music Garden or seen him as an MC at the Casmabo Jam Sessions. Gagu has been part of the Lowveld like the lions in Kruger National Park. Born and raised here he has been a true inspiration with his work, charity, and example of ‘paying it forward’. Gagu is the man behind it all and more.
The one thing I can tell you is I love it when Lowveld based songwriters/artists/bands produce original work. I have been lucky to walk a very long road with Gagu from early No One’s Arc days up until today. To see him grow over the years as a musician and man. Married to a beautiful woman and the cutest son you can think of, Gagu is a true leader in our Lowveld music industry.
Gagu recently released a brand new single simply called “Indlela” (The Way) featuring the beautiful singing by Milly Landaba. Gagu took a few minutes from his day to speak to Small Town Music about the song, the past, present, and future and how he balances life during the Covid-19. How this was inspired by the true beauty of women.
STM: You are a Lowveld born and raised son and have been involved with the Nelspruit music for years now. Tell us how you managed to keep doing this?
G: I’ve always had a great support system that has believed in not only my passion for music but my relentless drive in it. My curiosity has always lead me. From piano classes in primary school at Penryn with Mr. Wayne Liesching, to the marching band in Lowveld High school, to rock and roll with No One’s Arc, to Jam Sessions at Casambo to Music Garden. My development and transition have happened naturally just through love and curiosity of not only music but all the parts that make up the industry.
STM: The freshly released single “Indlela” with the beautiful Milly Landaba – please tell us how this journey started and where did you meet Milly?
G: Milly and I met at Casambo Jam Sessions, I was the organizer and MC and she was one of the artists who signed up to perform. Her voice has a unique tone, range, and combined with her beauty makes her a commanding presence not only vocally but on stage as well. She is from Hazyview and is currently studying her masters in tourism management at TUT (she’s smart too). It started with a studio session that matured into a wonderful friendship and understanding musically, so for my first release, I knew exactly where to go.
STM: Where did the inspiration for “Indlela” come from?
G: “Indlela” which means (the way) is inspired by the idea that the true beauty of a woman is not only her physical attributes but her character, intelligence, and vision that makes her truly incredible. I was raised by a strong smart woman, my sisters are strong, smart women. I work and am constantly supported by strong smart women. I married a strong smart woman. Plenty of inspiration to go around.
STM: You have always been known for not only playing a wide variety of instruments but for your songwriting as well. As a songwriter in the Lowveld – do you find it easy to do instead of doing covers?
G: I honestly prefer the process of writing and producing my own work, because it comes from a place I understand and it’s easier to connect. Even when I started writing, I would write my own verses like I’m being featured by Jay Z or Pharrell.
STM: “Indlela” is a brand new single but please tell us about your other releases?
G: Most of my work has been with No One’s Arc and a few features on my older brother, Maan Ray Mags album called “OK”. It is the songs coming that I’m more excited about because I finally feel I’m at a place where the industry will not only appreciate the content but the quality of work as well.
STM: You put a lot of energy as well into upcoming artists and businessmen/women. What inspires you to do this?
G: Paying it forward has always been important to me, As a young man I’ve had many mentors who have been there for me during difficult periods in my life, and that can make the world of difference in the advancement of a young person. Having started in the industry from a very young age, there is a world of information that I gained and it is what I openly share with those starting out, so they reach their goals faster than what I have.
STM: What is your music dream for the Lowveld (and for yourself)?
G: My dream is to see the Lowveld celebrating and supporting itself, building infrastructure that can support the entire life cycle of those who contribute.
I would also love to see more businesses and lodges incorporating the creatives in their schedules, we are all one, and we all can contribute to making the tourism and entertainment industry unique and more vibrant.
STM: How have you been coping in the Covid-19 epidemic as an artist in light of the #LightSAred campaign?
G: I think we all have been doing the best we can do, but businesses have been affected for now adapting to the changes and making sure the family and team is ok. Keeping safe and healthy is the goal.
STM: Being a musician is not all about the glamour, money, and lifestyle. Many don’t see and experience the number of hours given up with family, friends. The living out of a suitcase life. How do you balance all of this while being a husband and father?
G: Communication will always be the key that lowers anxiety in fast-paced lives, like one of the creative. I firmly believe that you make time for those that are important to you and that if I am away, it is always to find my way back home.
STM: You are also a big role player at Music Garden – do you think we will ever be in a ‘normal’ situation to enjoy another Music Garden event?
G: I think it will take some time and things will come back but not in the way we are used to but the Music Garden team is a strong one. And we are committed to globalizing the artistry of Mpumalanga we will adapt and come back stronger than ever.
STM: You have a meeting with President Ramaposa for 1 hour – what would like to discuss with him?
G: The value chain of the entertainment industry. How to make our industry recession-proof. Having active industry experts in the room when making plans for the industry. His perspective on what he would do if he was a young creative in South Africa, living under the government he is presenting.
STM: As a leader in our entertainment community what is the message you have for all of us that is currently struggling with lockdown regulations?
G: Adapt, I think it’s time to try different skills, do what you need to do to survive until things get back to normal. The world is changing, change with it, try the online space, start a youtube page, get into streaming sites, start an E-commerce page, sell something. It’s time to understand that we are businesses offering a service, so create value for people and put a number on it. We need to support, cheer support, and share each other’s music and businesses, only together can we be an industry and force.
What I enjoy from “Indlela” is Gagu’s deep voice over the rap vocals and then the honey tones from Milly. I can’t get enough from it but it is Lowveld and it is something to be proud about. I can’t wait to see what Gagu will have next for us – the Lowveld – in store.