El Supreme is a hard working producer, songwriter and composer and performing artist based in Yeoville, Johannesburg. He has just completed work on his album Isikhalo (Africa’s Cry) vol. 1 and preparing for a national Launch. He took some time off to answer some questions about his music, work and the upcoming album and also dropped a video shout out for MzansiReggae which you can check out after the interview.
Eh it go so….
Who is El Supreme?
El Supreme (Ezra Mfalapitsa) is a Reggae and Dancehall recording and performing artist, songwriter, composer, arranger and producer. El Supreme is also an ambassador for Reggae music in South Africa and also a practising fulfilled Rastafarian. I was born in the start of the 80s in the Platinum city of Rustenburg, in a township called Tlhabane, where black people were forcibly moved to from the area where the current Rustenburg town is. Born to Freedom fighter and spiritual parents, El developed a deep love from Freedom and revolution while also acknowledging the power and beauty of all creation and the power of the higher power (Love) which is Supreme and absolute.
How did your journey as a musician begin?
I believe and know that I was born a true artist and a lot of what I consider my skill is truly a gift, that I was born with. I grew up singing and playing instruments in the church and also being part of the choir at school, singing high Soprano at the time before I reach puberty even, I was trained by Mmabana in the North West and was constantly entering singing competitions, so I always knew from the time I cried for my first guitar at the age of 5, that I really want to spend me time making, sharing, dealing and making a living from music. I then prepared myself for a while through the powers of Jah until I eventually came to Jo’burg and it was through the love of Rastafari that I later decided to do Reggae, since I grew up listening to a lot of Reggae. It related to me and my people. It was message music and could focus on any topic that affected or was relevant to the people and could cross any border, whether class, race, age or creed, so I knew then as I know now that I made a great choice to contribute to the world’s musical consciousness and make the world a better place through Reggae music.
Tell us about your new album; which artists/producers did you work with?
My latest offering is an radical political album called Isikhalo (Africa’s Cry) vol. 1, which is the first in the line of volumes addressing societal issues, and also echoing the concerns of the working class and the poor people of South Africa and the rest of the world. The album has 12 tracks, with various flavours of sound ranging from South Africa’s Mbacanga, Jazz, African beat and a strong Reggae and Dancehall. I have worked with Paul way, Zakes Wulana (Tidal waves band leader) and Eric Mpobola on production and I also featured three artists on three various songs; Nomhle (female Afro artist), Prophet JD (poet) and FBI Deniama (Congolese Rhumba artist).
I have a song called Umhlaba on the album which features a never heard speech by one of our most loved freedom fighters, Chris Hani, The song addresses issues of inequality in South Africa regarding the issue of land and is also a tribute to one of the unforgettable South African heroes. The album features both local and international riddims pun it. It was recorded at Tandoor Records Studios.
We know that you have worked with Lutan Fyah when he was in Mzansi, what was it like working with him, did you do a combo? Tell us more about that experience
Well I met Lutan through me bredren Grey, a promoter from Soweto, Grey’s production brought Lutan here in South Africa during his last visit and I approached me bredda Grey, about organising Lutan a dub-plate recording session at a studio in Yeoville with various sound-systems and selectors, then Grey said “well, chat wit de man (Lutan), an hear how him feel bout it”. I then had a talk with Lutan, and he liked the idea and we scheduled a day right away, so we did about 8 dub-plates and song voicings with Lutan that day. I learned a lot. We had a great time with Lutan, we went out to the zoo, went apparel shopping in Sandton, and also attended various other shows he was performing at, but the cream of the crop was the day he left the country; we managed to record a song that day called “Sky is the Limit” which is also on my album. Recording it was quite an experience, Lutan doesn’t write on paper so, he just kept going, voice, cut, pick up, and yeah ‘twas quite inspiring to see how him put him tune together.
How has the general response to your previous work been? What have you learnt from that experience?
I have had a great experience, especially from 2004, when I started introducing myself to the Reggae and Dancehall through underground dance show performances and open mic sessions. I then met up with Jah Ali and his brother Mr Ganjaman and we started a Reggae trio called RMS. We got nominated for Channel O music video awards 2006 for Best Reggae video category with a song called ‘Amakhampani’. The group later broke up, but I carried on doing music and producing riddims for other artists, local and internationally. I have worked and shared stages with Queen Ifrica, Tony Rebel, Sizzla Kalonji and Capleton and received maad response from the crowd, especially when I was backing up Jesse Dan at the Capleton show in Jo’burg.
What do you feel distinguishes your work from that of other artists?
I am a true artist, I have been well trained and was mentored by some of Africa’s best like my late mentor George Lee, where I learned all the secrets of singing and composing and recording. I also touch on a lot of real issues that other artists are not willing to touch. I am a great singer, of note, I play instruments, produce my own Riddims and have a full understanding of the various genres and styles from even a production point of view, which adds a distinct quality to the music, and well, I am also original.
What activities are you involved in outside of your work as a musician?
I do life skills workshops on consultation basis, helping young couples build better and healthier relationships by redefining what it means to be man or a woman (societal gender programming), otherwise I love spending time with my son, going out for various shows, camping and just being a great member of society. I love travelling, reading, walking and also engaging in productive deep conversations, especially about spirituality, African history and freedom.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently promoting my debut album, Isikhalo (Africa’s cry). I am working on a song called ‘Bring Back Our Girls’that I wrote and featured Dan lu from Malawi and Arch man Joe from Nigeria which is about the Kidnapping of the Nigerian girls of Chibok, raising awareness and also discourages such behaviour (harming, abducting, raping, killing of women and children) by our own African men; it’s unacceptable. I recently shot the video for it.
Which do you prefer; live performances or studio work?
That’s a tough one. I kinda prefer both. I do my studio work so that I can later perform the works, so I love the intimacy and energy that comes with studio time, but the electric energy of a live crowd is also priceless.
How can people get hold of your music?
The people can catch me at The House of Tandoor, every Friday with selector Jun from Tokyo, Japan . They can also check me out on Reverbnation , Facebook group page, Youtube and I’m finalising a CD shop, iTunes and other online/mobile distribution links
For all booking, interviews and any other music related communication, please contact Tandoor Records:
Simon “Les” Mokheama
Number: +27 73 847 5116
Photo: Mbonisi Moyo of Events Merchants