Multi-instrumentalist, producer and live stage performer,Mr Sakitumi, is releasing his much anticipated debut album through African Dope Records TODAY (June 8, 2011)! An innovative musical phenomenon the likes of Mr Sakitumi is few and far in between in the world of electronic music. From the studio to the stage, he’s mastered his vast array of physical and virtual tools to produce his first solo album ‘SECRET ASIAN MAN’. This comes after being a member of numerous influential South African acts such as Max Normal, Lark, Krushed & Sorted, Closet Snare, and Mr Sakitumi & The Grrrl, along with performances in Goldfish, Freshly Ground, EJ von Lyrik, Gazelle and many more.
I was lucky enough to meet up with Mr. Sakitumi here in Cape Town before a performance for an interview about his music and hopes for ‘Secret Asian Man.’
When did you start playing musical instruments and how many do you play?
I started when I was about nine years old, I started with classical piano, I started lessons like that and basically branched out from piano to all the various instruments I play now.
And when did you start layering the different instruments and experimenting with electronic music?
I think I just have always been into experimenting with sound. When I start learning one instrument I get inquisitive – how does another instrument work in context to it (the previous instrument I’m playing) and I play around with that. Before I knew it I was starting to play quite a couple instruments but a bit more fluently than just jamming around. I started actually performing with them in bands, and then it just kind of grew from there. And, then electronic music aspect also came into the picture because it was like another instrument that I was learning and it just happened to allow me to combine them all into making production together.
I know that you have collaborated a lot in the past, how long have you been working on an individual album?
It’s been a long process… years in the making. I never pushed to make it, I’ve always just made tracks. This album is a combination of ideas from way back and some stuff that’s quite recent. So, when I first started out I never initially said, I want to do an album. I just wanted to write tunes and started getting into electronic music using the sound player as an electronic music instrument. It kind of grew from there and eventually I started building up more tracks, and I just needed to let go and let some music be out there, as Mr. Sakitumi. Because I’ve done a lot of albums with other bands, as band member or collaborator, or session recorder and so on.
And, how has it been different producing solo versus collective?
When you’re in the band its always quite cool because your part of the whole, so you just need to focus on your one aspect, your one instrument, or one part of the writing process. When you’re doing it on your own your encompassing all of that and you also only consult with yourself the whole time, which can be a good thing and a bad thing, you have all this control, but then you also have so much control that you hold on too strong. You need the process of letting go; when you know the song is ready you let it go. I kind of enjoy that with the band context because you get everyone pushing their ideas together and then let it out, but I also enjoy doing solo compositions as well.
So do you like having both?
Yea, they kind of even each other out – it’s like winter and summer, they work well together. It makes you appreciate each aspect. So doing a solo I appreciate doing band collaborations, and vice versa.
What drove you to pursue a career in music and what is it that drives you individually as a musician?
It wasn’t always there as a defined career. I’ve always played music, I was originally studying to be something else, but eventually dropped out of my studies, and there was always that pressure from society to not really do music as a career. Because it’s not really seen as a profession, but I always had it on the side, and then one day I just decided that I’ve built up enough of a platform musically and I said ok I’m going to do this and I think that changed quite a lot for me, it helped me build bigger blocks on it by actually saying I’m going to do this. I’ve just been fortunate to be surrounded by really talent people – I’ve played with really amazing bands and amazing players and surrounded by really cool people who support what I’m doing as well. It really helps a lot because your up against quite a lot of odds and to have people around you who are helping you and giving you support and drive definitely helps. From an inspiration point of view I just love sound, I love music. It’s inspirational for me to hear something that moves me and it makes me really enjoy what I do because I’m hoping in the same way, anything I do can move somebody else.
What kind of things do you do to promote yourself?
I’ve got a team of people that help me. I wouldn’t say it’s my strongest point, but I am learning about it as a solo artist, because being a band member I’ve always left that job up to somebody else in the band. And, now I’m actually learning more about it and understanding the importance of marketing and promoting because at the end of the day if you have a diamond in your pocket and no one knows about it, its not worth anything so, I can have all these songs and have this whole persona and package and everything but if no one knows about it, it doesn’t get out there as much.
So, for promoting, I’m adding little viral videos and post them and get more people like you to find me and write about me and it helps other people discover me.
What are your thoughts on the future of the music industry and where do you see it going?
I can’t really tell, it all moves so much and the dynamics have changed drastically in the past couple of years, I really can’t say what it’s going to be. I can say the digital age has become a stronger point in the music industry and it comes with it’s ups and downs, but it’s definitely where the majority of the future of the music industry is sitting at the moment. I can’t say where it’s going to go from there, but that’s where I’m viewing it. But, I think people still enjoy tangible things in music as well. Definitely, live performance is still quite an essential part of any artist. People still love to see the artist playing. The live aspect is very important; the digital thing is more just the fact of actual physical sales. As far as marketing and stuff it definitely opens doors for me, for people to know about my stuff from somewhere else in the world. Before, they would never come across my music or anything I’m doing. But, people so enjoy tangibility – I think vinyls are coming back in a weird way. I think were planning our album that we might have a limited vinyl release, because it’s quite a collectable to do.
What prompted Secret Asian Man and how did it evolve?
Secret Asian man encompasses the electronic side of what I’ve been doing as a musician – over quite a couple of years. It started back when I first got my sound player, my first electronic instrument – and I was making little bits of music on there – so some of the tracks date back to rough ideas from years ago, and being able to play various instruments I was able to add to that later on. Especially now that I have my own home studio, I’ve been able to track my live playing. So its evolved – from being strictly more sample based to digital to more organic and now live playing.
The album – I had to compile the best of the tracks that I’ve done – and I have quite a lot of tracks. I had to let go (of some) – these are the ones that represent my sound, my melodies and my beats at the moment at this point in time.
What are your reasons for being an independent artist?
Well, first of all I am very left of center anyway – I’m not very mainstream to begin with, so, being independent is almost an automatic situation. It’s also – to choose to be that – I’m allowing myself to have more freedom. I’m releasing to African Dope records, and they’ve been really cool, with the album and the kind of sound that I’m doing, and that helps me to not have to compromise anything.
What struggles have you faced with getting your music heard and getting your name recognized by outside markets?
It’s a massive world out there, and also as I’ve said how the digital age has helped everyone been known, in the same sense there’s an ocean of people out there who are putting their stuff out there, the same as what I’m trying to do so it becomes really hard, just to be heard and make a unique statement or standpoint. It definitely helps with people like you, musicwithoutlabels, and various other blogs that picked up on me in some way – and from overseas, not just South African based, and shown interest to tell other people. I suppose it all starts with that kind of thing. The world is about people talking about things and then spreading it and that’s how I suppose all the social networks help that aspect from an independent point of view.
By: Elizabeth Stene | Beat-Play Ambassador South Africa | @LizMWL | Music Without Labels & Beat-Play, LLC