Photography by @disposiblememories
Front row with Guluveli
Our next interviewee for FRM is another one who shouldn't come as a surprise to many. Straight from the heart of Kraaifontein in the Western Cape, to Pretoria present day, Bathandwa Robo, aka 'Guluveli', actually confirms it himself: "I’m a man of many talents, but right now I’m just making and putting out music."
And once you zoom into the multidimensional nature of his personal craft & discography of work – you begin to understand exactly what he means. From releasing & performing original music as 'Guluveli', establishing his own creative company 'Gazi Mafia', modeling for local luxury brands such as Asa Sadan, and more – Guluveli aptly fits the description of "contemporary art hustler" on his unique journey to stardom.
Photography by @imisebenziyami
I've previously mentioned how I think the local scene of rap/hip hop has long-grown tiresome of stale music from more "tenured" artists & just how we specifically need more music from Gen Z artists who can appeal to the wider (and more dominant) Gen Z-Millenial audience. Some of these artists we've previously been in conversation with; Ewiva!, MeccaMind, and more – and today we get to add Guluveli to that growing list.
I find Guluveli's style of hip hop to have such an ethereal tint to it; his production contains such a dreamy Afropop element – especially within its beat construction. For example, one of my favourite songs from his latest project is 'Yung Rhuzu', and that's because it has such an incredibly floaty & ethereal vibe to it; kinda like a mix between Odunsi (The Engine) & Cruel Santino production – which I really enjoy.
So enjoy this conversation with Guluveli as he narrates the journey of his life & ever-constant hustle towards the top. From explanations surrounding his music being lived experiences, drawing inspiration from local brands 'Shwelabana' and 'Child of God', collaborating with diverse multitalented creatives, and more, this interview has something for everyone!
Image courtesy of @guluveligucci
Would you mind introducing yourself and including a short description of what you do?
GULU: Ekse, greetings to the Front Row family. Thank you for having me – it’s an honor. My name is Bathandwa Robo, better known as 'Guluveli' or 'guluveligucci', choose mayiz’khethel’. I’m a Hip hop artist, songwriter, producer & multifaceted creative – born and raised in Cape Town, in a town called Kraaifontein, and now blomming somewhere in Pretoria. I’m a man of many talents, but right now I’m just making and putting out music.
How would you describe the style of your music? What inspires it?
GULU: My music is inspired and influenced by my life and my experiences – from the things that I do and that I’ve gone through, to the things that I love and that I’m into. The style and sound of my music is influenced a lot by pure sounds. I love instrumentation, I like bells, pianos, organs & flutes. I often incorporate African sounds and elements where I can, and I like using and sampling vocals as well. I make high frequency music. I like snaps, claps and 808s – which results in a lot of my music sounding like Trap.
Some of the artists that I’ve listened to over the course of my life (and that I still listen to today) influence the style of my music as well. From American legends such as 2Pac, Notorious B.I.G, Lauryn Hill, 50 Cent and The Fugees, to South African veterans like HHP, Khuli Chana, Prokid, Teargas and Skwatta Kamp. Also, to new age okes like A-Reece, AKA, ASAP Rocky, Brent Faiyaz, Drake, Frank Ocean, Okmalumkoolkat, Playboi Carti, Riky Rick and Tyler the Creator. These are just some of the artists I listen to and draw inspiration from.
I am a growing fan of your music! I really enjoyed your latest project, 'Genesi$' – special mentions for 'Yung Rhuzu' and '5BOP', my definite favourites from the entire EP. That being said, talk us through the process of producing such an album? Like where did it all begin, what hiccups occurred, and how did you follow your creation process to completion.
GULU: Ishu, bless bro and shoutout for listening to the tape! I really appreciate it. So 'Genesi$' is my debut mixtape that I dropped recently. I started working on it in December 2020, after I dropped my debut music video for 'Tsotsi'. I had received some beats from my bro, Lebu, which he made on GarageBand on his phone and they were fire. The first song I wrote was '5BOP' – which is the first song on Genesi$. From those beats I also made 'BLOODA' and 'Yung Rhuzu'. In February 2021, I had a photoshoot with Jason Ockhuizen, Jesse Jewelz and Gorgeous Bushman. I had gotten an outfit ready, spotted some locations, and on the day, we went around Kraaifontein and shot the images that I’d later use for the cover art of Genesi$.
Photography by @disposiblememories
GULU: Songs like 'Vivienne Westwood' and 'NAKANJAN' were written and recorded over the following months. I created the sample of the beat to 'Danger Gevaar' on my keyboard and wrote the lyrics, but I only finished making the beat & recorded it after I linked up with my brother and producer, KeyPoint, in Pretoria. However, we worked on 'Shwelabana' before Danger Gevaar. Originally I wrote the first verse on Shwela for a different track I did with my bro, Oyama Gumbi, but I loved the verse so much that I took it back and continued writing for it. The song Shwelabana is inspired by the brands 'Shwelabana' and 'Child of God'. The whole project of Genesi$ is a documentation and my perception of life before moving to Pretoria, and Shwelabana is that joint on it that confirms that I’m here now. I’ve arrived.
Please tell us more about the 'Gazi Mafia'. Is this your creative entourage? How is it related to guluveligucci the artist?
GULU: 'Gazi Mafia' is my company and record label. All of the music which I make, and things that I create and put out, will in one way or another be attached to Gazi Mafia. Also, Gazi Mafia is my family – a members only club. We live by a code: "Brotherly Love Overcomes Oppression and Destruction", BLOOD, which also translates to Gazi. The song, BLOODA is about exactly that – our code as Gazi Mafia.
Photography by @900memories
I know that you also tend to model from time to time, seeing you in previous campaigns for local brands such as Asa Sadan & more. Would you consider yourself a model too? How does it fit into the entire creative vision?
GULU: Yeah, I definitely consider myself to be a model & it’s something that I’ve been trying do more of, but I’m only tryna model for brands that I like. The reason I want to model is because I believe the way in which you present yourself and how you dress says a lot about you as a person – before you even say a word. How I usually dress indicates how I’m trying to be perceived.
Photography by @dala__rot for @asa.sadan
Are there any current local musicians or artistic peers which are doing amazing work whom you look up to, or would like to collaborate with?
GULU: Yeah, there’s gang of them. I’m trying to work with a number of musicians, designers, photographers, videographers and creatives generally – but musically right now, I’d like to work with Blxckie, Maglera Doe Boy, Filah Lah Lah, Loatinover Pounds, Lookatups, Lilnosebleedd, K1llbrady, King Ky, Miss Ready, Phiwo and SCUMIE.
Is there any advice you've picked up within your career which you could impart to any young emerging music artists (like yourself) attempting to make a name for themselves within the local/global industry?
GULU: Register yourself as an artist & as a business – make sure you own your intellectual property. Learn as much as you can about the industry and how it works. Figure out where you’re trying go and who you want to work with on your journey. Strategise and plan your every move – and don’t be loud about it. Only spend time, money and energy on people that you can see are moving in the direction you’re moving in, and people that genuinely wanna see you win. Be confident, know your worth and who you are, and remain humble. Wake up early, use your time efficiently and work on yourself every day. Don’t over work yourself though, rest is important. Lastly, bless others as much as you’d like to be blessed.
Image courtesy of @guluveligucci
What are you looking forward to most in 2023?
GULU: I intend on pushing Genesi$ for most of this year. I’d like to see how people receive everything that I’ll be doing – and putting in that overtime, I wanna see what it’s going do for my life and music career. I’ll probably release new music mid-Winter going into Spring. Other than that, I’m just living life abundantly and seeing what becomes of me this year, as Bathandwa and Guluveli.
Photography by @darksativa_