Born and raised in Durban, South Africa, Sanele ‘Vicmari’ Chiliza came from humble beginnings. Though in the past Durban had been thought of as one of the country’s quieter cities in terms of its music scene, it is also happens to be responsible for globally recognized DJs such as Black Coffee and DJ Lag. In addition, it is the home of the ever-growing Gqom scene that is slowly taking the world by storm. Given this, it is not surprising that many smaller artists were operating under the radar and are now starting to rear their heads and make strong entries into the local electronic music scene.
Being a South African music producer myself, I am constantly on the lookout for fresh talent. Whilst I see so many gravitate towards fickle trends, there is still a small handful that really sticks out. One such artist is Vicmari. Having first taken serious notice of him via his series of home-production/home-performance Facebook videos, I quickly discovered the rich releases he already had behind his name. Having released a full-length album on Daniel Paul Behemann’s (Cab Drivers) Slope Music and an accompanying 12” on Eclipser Changer, Vicmari has already made big strides for an emerging artist.
Hi Sanele! Firstly, congrats on all of the great work you have been doing. It is clear that you have really been building a reputation as a quality artist over the past year or so. No doubt you have been working at your craft for a while – so when did you actually start dabbling in electronic music and why is it something that has stayed with you over the years?
Hi, thanks for the kind words and allowing me to share my story. Everything started a long time ago, when I was just a regular listener and collector of music. Like many others who also grew up in the townships, early kwaito and house music compilation CDs started to resonate with the youth and brought a fresh new energy into the South African music scene. At the time I began collecting compilation CDs from various local DJs and so my love for electronic music began. A big turning point for me was the introduction of smartphones into society. This allowed for easy access to huge libraries of information and music on the World Wide Web.
The Internet allowed me to dig deeper into the various kinds of music that I really liked, instead of only having access to the limited amounts and types of music available in shops. The Internet changed all that and gave me access to a broader range of music collection methods. What really drew me into electronic music was that it represented the future sound of dance music, which I wanted to be a part of. Ever since I started writing music, I always felt that I was going to be part of something bigger.
In South Africa, many artists look for a quick rise to success. But from what I understand, you have been connecting with Daniel from the Cab Drivers since 2011. Why have you chosen to be so patient? And what things have you learnt from working with a well-established international artist?
Daniel has played a huge part in my development in music, by being a mentor to me ever since we connected online. We connected in 2010 via Facebook and ever since then we have been writing music together. Up until today, he has been mentoring and giving me guidance for my upcoming album, which I have been working on for many months. I guess the ability of having patience in all that I do was always an influence from him, without me even noticing it and I think that’s where the obsession for perfection began. In 2011, I started listening to more international releases and came across artists like Moritz Von Oswald, Jan Jelinek and Cab Drivers, who have influenced the direction of the sound I was wanting to create.
Daniel introduced me to even a wider range of artists from around Europe, who shared the same understanding of music. I got the chance to work with some of these artists and all of this happened through sharing and communicating over the Internet. We also shared our ideas on our understanding of the nature of sound, how to take these sounds and take control of them, resulting in amazingly produced electronic music.
Being from Durban, what made you gravitate to the sounds you are currently interested in? The big thing in Durban has always been Afro House and now Gqom, yet your sounds are a lot more ‘dubby’ and ‘atmospheric’… Where do these influences come from?
I think the old system of music distribution of electronic music via compilation CDs limited me a lot! Not that I didn’t appreciate it, it had a major influence on me. But now I feel the Internet has given me endless capabilities in terms of exploring new music, genres, artists as well as music creation and producing.
I feel as if music production is like writing an exam, you study (listening) you write the test (create) and you present (results) so having access to information allows you to perform better, so it wasn’t really about Durban but a mindset thing. The information and knowledge is out there, you just have to go out and find/access it.
How is the scene in Durban for what you do? Do you find you have to travel elsewhere in the country in order to be appreciated? Or do you feel like you are developing a bit of a following in your hometown too?
I always get asked this and find it difficult to answer, but I will try. Durban has never been a problem for me in terms of music influences. I have always viewed Durban as a form of reality in relation to the dream that I have of writing and presenting music to people. My music currently doesn’t relate to the scene happening in Durban. I know normally in the music industry, your sound is usually based or influenced by your background and your environment. What’s happening around you tends to set the direction you peruse. I have found my situation to be a lot different.
I realized this since I started playing at events outside my city. For me it has always been about the music! So I allowed my journey to be more organic, with music leading the way. Who knew that one day I would be playing festivals in Cape Town? My vision was originally to be based in Berlin or at least Europe, not South Africa. Now it is good to see and experience the dance music culture of my own country and continue to allow my journey to grow naturally. But slowly people in Durban and particularly in my neighborhood are starting to pick up on what I am doing as they see me travelling to play gigs in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Hopefully this could spark up something, who knows?
Naturally, when the world thinks of Durban-born electronic artists, Black Coffee comes to mind. Do you have aspirations to find similar levels of success? Or are you more content with playing smaller festivals and club spaces given the nature of your sound?
Since I started travelling last year and playing gigs in Cape Town and Joburg, I realized that Durban is the most undeveloped city (in terms of electronic music culture) in the country especially in the townships. So, when you have a dream in Durban, you better make sure you go all in! What I’m trying to say is as far as music is concerned, I want to be the best at what I do, and one must believe that to reach your full potential.
If I am doing my best and giving my all, I will reach where I need to be. That’s why one also must surround themselves with like-minded people to help you reach that level, one cannot do it all on their own. So, I am grateful to be around guys like Daniel and Leeroy Trerise (my manager), which is a blessing for me. They have given me the opportunities to learn and grow patiently.
Finally, what‘s happening for Vicmari in the foreseeable future? Do you have any fresh releases dropping soon? Would you like to start tapping into the international market even more? Give us your goals…
Well 2016/17 was a success and an important growth period for me, getting my name out there, especially on the local scene. My first album, AUDIODIDACT did great both in the clubs and on sales. Next for me production wise, is a second LP due to be released later this year under Slope Records. It will be a much different take from the first album. I will be featuring some undiscovered talents from South Africa. The production started back in 2017 and I have been patiently piecing it together. The plan is to collaborate with South African musicians and have one international remix on the album.
This year I have a couple of EP releases coming out on local and European labels. I am also looking forward to a vinyl release I am working on with Daniel under Ecliper Chaser, which will be released around mid-year. This year I want to be introducing my ‘live’ concept to an even wider audience. It’s been a great start to 2018 beginning with Wolfkop Weekender and I have just returned from Joburg, making my debut at Truth. So yeah lots to look forward to in 2018!