Refiloe Maele Phoolo, better known by his stage name; Cassper Nyovest, is a South African musician and record producer. His music has received wide recognition not only in South Africa but other African countries and overseas. I had the honour of interviewing Cassper Nyovest who was humble and forthcoming with encouragement for any upcoming African artists, who share the same dream of having their music recognized and received by a wider audience in the near future.
I think it is always important to find out where people started and why they pursued their dream as it provides an understanding of how some dreams are brought to life. For Cassper Nyovest, the dream was always a career in music. Born and raised in Mafikeng, South Africa, Cassper Nyovest says, “seeing the likes of HHP, Tuks Senganga, Mo Molemi, Morafe and Khuli Chana, make it mainstream with a genre that was mainly in vernac, particularly Setswana was inspiring.”
He goes on to emphasize that even before those artists, Stoan (of Bongo Mafin), Bruce Sebitlo (Brothers of Peace), Thebe, Crowded Crew were musicians who served as an inspiration for him to pursue his career in music. “There is something about Mafikeng and its talent and I happened to catch the bug, my label ‘Family Tree’ has also signed the next big thing out of Mafikeng, Tshego.” He urges people to look out for him and his album “Since 1990”.
Every artist in the music industry will face some challenges when starting out. Cassper Nyovest faced his own set of challenges to get to where he is today. He revealed that nobody wanted to hear about him or his music. “I had to work 10 times harder to prove myself as an artist, finally my efforts paid off and HHP gave me an opportunity and I ran with it.” Ever since that opportunity with HHP he has worked hard to prove himself as the worthy talented artist he is and has never looked back.
I shared with Cassper Nyovest that he has a global fan base. I live in Australia and his music is played here. I have conversations with a few of my fellow Zimbabwean friends and they too have some level of appreciation for his music. Social media can also attest to his fan base in other places such as; Nigeria, Kenya, London, New York and the list could go on. His response to this global outreach he has was how amazing and humbling it is for him. “I cannot express how great it feels to go to places where they don’t understand what you’re saying. That is the power of music. Where politics and religion fail, music succeeds. To be able to break language barriers and touch people’s lives through my music is very humbling.”
As we all know and have seen on social media Cassper Nyovest is currently working on a project to ‘Fill Up The Dome’. To provide a deeper understating of what this is all about, Cassper Nyovest explains; “Fill UP The Dome, is a dream I have had since I started doing music and realizing how far I can go. My dream is to see The Dome full for a local hip-hop concert. Right now hip hop is at its strongest and it’s getting stronger, so why not have a full on concert for fans who have never had such an experience?”
Further to this he adds, “from the sound to production, we are trying to bring an international standard to the local scene and, on that day I am dropping my sophomore album Refiloe. 31st October 2015. It is going to be a special day, not only for me but for South African hip hop fans!”
A lot of people often look at the finished product of entertainers and assume their lives have been easy. Sometimes this can result in receiving backlash and negativity, where people feel the need to be haters for ones success, without realizing that at one point this person struggled too. Cassper Nyovest shared what he perceives to be some of the biggest misconceptions about him. He has been told he is “not a rapper” or a “lyricist” or “MC.” More to this he adds, “people often try and discredit me using those sentiments but I am not bothered.” With an album that has gone Platinum with 20 awards in less than a year, Cassper Nyovest is more focused on continuing with the hard work and is ever grateful to his fans and supporters for making it possible for him to reach heights that have never been reached before in South African hip-hop.
To conclude, I wanted Cassper Nyovest to leave a word for upcoming artists because I know there is probably someone reading this now who is talented and has been trying to make it in the industry but hasn’t quite reached their goal yet. Whether you are a fan of Cassper Nyovest or not and the approach he has taken to pursue his dreams, there are always lessons to be learned from everyone and insight can come from anywhere.
Like Caspper Nyovest and many other African artists who finally got recognition for their music, you might encounter the word “no” more times than people listen to your music or are willing to give you a chance. Lupita Nyong’o explains, “before you call yourself an “actor” or perhaps in this case, a musician, you have a lot of work to do; you have to unchain yourself from indecision, cut through the fear of going after your dream, jump over your own ego, allow yourself to be vulnerable and confront the great deal of “Imposter Syndrome,” which is the belief that you are not good enough for and don’t deserve what you have.”
Cassper Nyovest epitomizes Nyong’o’s statement by adding that you must never give up. “You have to live by faith and not by sight.” He adds that there will be people that try to bring you down and other things out there that may distract your journey but you have to believe in yourself and give 110% at all times.
Special thanks to Rati Jude and ‘The Family Tree’ for making this interview with Cassper Nyovest possible.