KB Motsilanyane – not so shy anymore
12 October 2015
You can also listen to these podcasts directly from the Old Mutual App, which is available here.
Welcome back to Old Mutual Live Radio. My name is Aphiwe Manono and, as usual, we speak to South African artists that are making an impact. Because it was Women’s Month, I’ve been focussing on ladies lately. Today I speak to the beautiful singer, actress, musician, songwriter, producer, the list is endless, the beautiful KB Motsilanyane. Thank you so much for joining us at Old Mutual Live Radio.
KB Motsilanyane: Thank you for having me.
AU: I was asking you, KB, before we got disconnected earlier. I was trying to ask you how exactly you juggle them, all of these things that I’ve just mentioned. I am sure there are some that I’ve not even mentioned because I believe you do some charity work as well. But how do you juggle all of this and still be a mother, and still be a daughter, and still be an aunt? Be present in your regular life.
The art of juggling
KB: Look, I think first and foremost, the most important thing is I love what I do. I love being an artist. I love writing music. I love inspiring people, having a positive impact on their lives. I love my family, so that helps. It is not easy because each role needs 100% commitment and time, so it is not always easy but I have a lot of support from my family.
I’ve got a lot of support from my little man. He is so grown now and he is always so keen to help me out and take on some of the roles. So it is very difficult but there are huge positives that I really enjoy and that makes me, also not want to choose but to, really enjoy everything that I do, every day of my life.
AU: Now, KB you are originally from the North-West and we are going to go back and talk about your upbringing but I also wanted to know, like when you burst into the music scene, well into this whole ‘fame bubble’.
You came in as an actress, who was this shy girl who could sing on Backstage. You are actually the South African story that everyone talks about because you were that girl, KB on Backstage. Would you agree with that KB?
AU: The shy girl.
I was that shy girl on Backstage
KB: It was actually a very easy role for me to play because I wasn’t acting. I was really in a daze. I was star struck because I used to watch Backstage on TV, like everybody else. When I got the role on Backstage I wasn’t looking for work on Backstage. I had gone to audition for something else.
It was supposed to be a once off, but the casting-director said, “You know what, I think the guys next door would like you, so just go and check them out and see.” When I got there, all they did was ask me my story and I told them, “Look, I’ve just finished tech and I’ve come up here.”
They asked me, “What are you doing?” I told them, “I’m working on some music, my first album,” and so on. They just auditioned me and said, “We’ll call you.” The whole character was designed for me and it was exactly where I was in my life. I was star struck.
I had just finished tech. I had just finished African Footprint, and there I was on TV. Yes, so it was a very easy story to tell, and I knew that a lot of people could relate to it, specifically for the reasons that you gave. But fortunately for me the Province that I’d come from, it is rich with art. It is rich with, you know, and platforms where young people can just go and become creative and discover themselves. In a way, I was equipped and I was ready.
AU: Now, you just mentioned African Footprint, which was a huge deal. Probably a stage production, where you had to, not only be a singer but I’m assuming a dancer as well. What toll did that take on you and how did that prepare you for where you eventually ended up in the arts?
African Footprint taught me so much
KB: This was the best thing that’s ever happened to me because I get to do so much more than other artists. It’s a blessing. I prefer the dancing in my youth, at Mmabana Cultural Centre and I did all dance, I competed in the rumba and the tango. I did freestyle, and then when I went over to TUT I did musical theatre, where I got trained in ballet, jazz and tap dancing, and others, so at the time, for me.
I was just going through this, probably what I’m told to do but when I came into the industry, it was such a blessing because I became and I am one of the very few artists that can go on stage and put on a show and dance. Be able to translate my music beyond more than just singing it, beyond singing, so it is one of the things that I’ve enjoyed about being KB.
In fact, I thought one day ‘you know, I think maybe the reason I write music is so that I can dance to it, instead of the other way around’. Because when I think about a song, I already think about the moods that I’m going to be in, when I’m dancing to the song. I really think about how I want to move, so my words and everything is inspired by how I want to feel when I’m on stage, performing the song.
It’s been the one thing that’s kept me very current, very relevant, and it’s allowed me to perform on different stages because it’s allowed me to always present myself differently and obviously able to put on that performance the people enjoy.
I know that people can listen to my music on CD but when they come to watch me, they get a complete experience. Like a experience where there is movement, there’s a dance, there’s a whole lot of stuff, and we do all different styles in the show. There’s a bit of pantsula, a bit of jazz, a bit of Latin and we have a great time on stage.
AU: You’ve just answered the question, why I’ve never seen you on Strictly Come Dancing. They wouldn’t dare do that to themselves and, second of all, you mentioned you know anyone who, I did some research before we did this interview and one thing that stood out for loyal Keabetswe Motsilanyane fans are that you go beyond the singing.
You’re an entertainer and it goes down to even what you wear on stage. We have a lot of female artists in the country but what most people agreed on was that when they’ve come to your show, they know they’re going to get the full package. They’re going to get change of outfits. They’re going to get different dance scenes, and that type of thing.
AU: What sort of work goes into a production like that because you are, definitely, one of South African’s biggest artists? When you perform I’m sure people still expect you to be that dedicated to your art, so how do you keep it going? What sort of preparations do you go through with your team?
What goes into a KB show?
KB: It’s a lot of work finding the team because with me, I don’t just look for people that can do the work but I also look for people that are passionate because you want people that are going to carry the work the same way that I feel about it. I really love what I do. I love my music.
When I hear my songs, I get excited, like the very first time I’ve heard the song. Some of them were written more than 10 years ago, so I look at people that are really passionate about working with me. They don’t just come there just to be on stage and so on. That’s the first thing.
Then we’re looking for costumes, and I’d pick up this thing to say ‘should I wear a beautiful outfit or should I wear a costume’ because sometimes the two don’t always go. But I always look for the costume because the costume excites people. We love playing around with quick changes.
I remember one time it was like a tent. You could see the peoples’ eyes, they were so big and they were like ‘what is that?’ That is what I look forward to, to say ‘you know, you know the music and now you’re coming to see how I feel about the song and how I want to present it to you’.
We put in a lot of work. I’ve got a team that’s working with me for a very long time. I’ve got dancers like Joy, and the type of, okay, so I look for a team that’s very passionate. Like now, there are people that I’ve been working with for a couple of years, from way back. People like Joy, who is an awesome dancer.
She dances for a lot of other artists right now because she’s good and I met her when she was young and she was starting out. She’s very passionate and she was in the right environment because we were about learning from each other and we were all about growth.
People like Jeff Thulo, who’s in Sasolburg, Johnny Buzani, it is people that have started with me from way, way back. They are very passionate about my music, my work, and I hold onto that because I believe that there’s so much more quality and history that you get in the performance because of that.
Obviously, I’m looking for new dancers. I’m looking for new crew of people that I can go on stage with because you need to move with the times and be relevant. I have got now. I have to know which songs to put it in and all of those things. Don’t laugh!
AU: I’m pretty sure you could pull it off but anyway.
KB: Apparently not. You know, you always look out and say ‘should I take that on or should I keep doing what I’m doing?’ It is very important to evolve and so we go into rehearsal every once in a while and try to come up with something new. But we also hold onto the stuff that the people already know. I think sometimes, you know, if it’s not broken don’t fix it.
KB: And we’ve got signature moves that people really love, so with my upcoming album I’m looking forward to seeing what new dancers bring into the group that we already have. How we can also throw it, and it looks more fun but give people a real, quality product.