EMPAWA ARTIST ACCELERATOR POWERS GEORGE KALUKUSHA
Music. Although a universal language that connects people from different backgrounds, remains one of the most challenging and difficult journeys an artist can ever undertake in their life. Before you start reaping the benefits of late-night hours in the studio, gigs, radio play and interviews, you will find yourself on the short end of the stick in most deals and running on fumes quite often. Whilst most do give up, it is a different story when there is nothing else in the world you’d rather be doing than music even at the promise of making more money on another career path.
George Kalukusha is a Malawian folk singer and songwriter with a degree in Music Performance from the African School of Film Studies and Live Performances, Cape Town. His first encounter with music was when he was young at an after-church club where people could learn how to play music and his big brother, Shadreck took on lessons on how to play drums. Wanting to be special and different, George recalls choosing to learn how to play the guitar from home with the guidance of YouTube videos. His style of music now is heavily influenced by the hours he spent listening to acoustic guitar-based music, which was mainly folk and soul music hence why his natural inclination was to make folk music with his own twist of culture and personality to it.
Music has helped me discover my resilience when it comes to the things I truly love and want to do, George says. Although it has been a difficult journey, his love for music and determination drive him to really push himself when other people would give up and others wouldn’t survive the pressure of it all. His family and friends have been the backbone in his music career, stepping in when he needs them the most. His mum’s support dates back to her having enough faith in him to send him to arts school to begin with and even now, she continues to support his music along with his brother who works with him in terms of recording side of it.
The biggest opportunity of his career came in the form of Mr Eazi’s Empawa Artist Accelerator which George found to be fantastic. During the space of about 3 weeks, George and other Empawa artists selected from other countries, met a lot of influential people from the industry, from Mr Eazi, Diplo, Raye, DJ Maphorisa, Drizzle and Shekinah; producers like Juelz, Guilty Beats and DSK.
It was an incredible melting pot of artistic experiences, George comments. Being able to work with other top ten artists to create music daily from sunrise to sundown: working on music, recording music, learning about the business side of music and how one can propel themselves to the highest standing in terms of musical success, gave George a taste of exactly how he wants to spend the rest of this life. Learning from people who have become successful, with most being independent and unsigned, was a great opportunity and inspiration for him to keep going, pushing and thinking outside the box. Being a part of the Empawa Artist Accelerator made him feel a part of the African music industry since Malawi is hardly ever included on big platforms and channel O awards, up until recently where we are seeing the rise of Malawian talent on the international scene; Lily Banda, Lazarus, Faith Mussa to name a few.
For instance, most international acts skip do not include Malawi on their touring routes, Malawian event organizers and promoters have to work really hard and sweeten deals to bring them in. Hence why the experience of the Artist Accelerator with Mr Eazi was a good change of narrative for George and fellow talented Malawians that they too can be a part of the contributory agenda of African Music to the world.
One of the best advices from Mr Eazi was on our final night at the camp, says George. The artists involved in the Empawa Artist Accelerator had the honor of having one on one sessions with Mr Eazi, where they pitched their plans in terms of their music and personal life, and they discussed how he could assist them on their journey. George recalls Mr Eazi telling him that despite there being a lot more talented people at the camp, the only difference between them was Mr Eazi being on one side of the table and their being on the other side of it asking for help.
In retrospect, talent is important, but it is not everything because what is matters most is the hard work put behind it. The work you put in front of it, beside it and around what you do is just as critical since a seemingly small thing can become bigger through handwork. With this in mind, George’s feelings towards his current work ethic is that he needs to keep on pushing the envelope for himself even when he feels like he’s reached his wits ends, that’s his definition of hard work, putting the extra hour when everyone else thinks you’ve already put in too many hours.
Speaking of work ethic, George is currently working on his debut album titled “We Never Stood a Chance”. His recent single “I Got A Feeling (Mbwee Mbwee)” is already making airwaves on online music platforms, with another single lined up featuring Mr Eazi for which he hopes they shoot a music video for. His debut album will be about resilience: what he has had to go through to become the artist and musician he is today. In the meantime, be sure to check out his latest music video “I Got A Feeling (Mbwee mbwee) on YouTube.