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Exclusive: The rising star behind the legend – Who is Biko Mabuse?

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Nov 2, 2021

The legendary Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse has played a massive role in growing the South African jazz scene to where it is today. Hotstix’s son, Biko Mabuse is a passionate young musician whose musical journey has just started.

The South African spoke to the rising star in an exclusive interview about his musical journey. Interestingly enough, his father happens to celebrate his 70th birthday today (2 November), making the interview even more significant.

ALSO READ: Like father like son: Biko Mabuse shares stage with Hotstix [photos]

Biko Mabuse talks about his musical journey

We caught up with 19-year-old Biko about where his love for music began, how his hip-hop group 12 Dogs came about and we even touched on the infamous “hip-hop versus amapiano” debate. 

From your social media and your music, it is clear that your love of music runs deep. How did you find your “musical feet”?

“I found my musical feet through my family. I was drawn to music since birth and I never let go. I was exposed to a wide variety of musical genres through my parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. I started performing the jembe drums and singing in pre-primary school at age 5.”

“Nine years went by and I had developed a passion for performance and instruments. I was a performer throughout my childhood. I joined the Sacred Heart Jazz Band as a drummer and lead vocalist and we travelled throughout Johannesburg to showcase our talents to other schools.”

How has your father Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse played a role in your love of music?

“Growing up in Pimville, my father would be rehearsing, reciting and recording music alongside countless musicians who played different instruments. I would be drawn to the sessions in the studio and would never want to leave. This inspired me to pick up the drum sticks and use my voice to entertain. My father would also play music in the house a lot.”

“Artists like Mama Miriam Makeba, Marvin Gaye, Bheki Mseleku, Zim Ngqawana, Hugh Masekela, John Coltrane, Harari and of course himself would all feature in his music collection.”

Biko Mabuse and his father Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse sharing a moment on stage. Image: David Brimson/ Evermore Photography @evermore_photo_sa

I had the privilege of seeing you perform next to your father Hotstix at Ricoffy’s 50th birthday at Hallmark Hotel in Johannesburg. How does it feel to share the stage with him?

“What was most special about that moment was the fact that we performed Burn Out together. This is a song that has stamped his name in the history books and to be given the opportunity to perform a version with me on it was a privilege. It was a special father-son memory.”

Your rap group 12 Dogs feature a few other young musicians, how did you all meet and what role do you all play in the group?

“We all attended pre-primary, primary and high school at Sacred Heart College in Johannesburg. In late 2018 two of the members Lukas and Thabiso had formed 12 Dogs at Thabi’s house in mid-high school, but Lukas approached me during that time to teach him how to play the drums.”

“One day when we were supposed to be in PE class, Lukas and I decided to go to the music room instead, to go play the drums. When we got there we surprisingly found Thabiso making beats on his computer and we recorded our first rap song Metal Man. Justin and Kabir joined the group months later. We all contribute to the production and lyricism of the group.”

Together with 12 Dogs, you released a powerful project titled Consequence of Sound how did it come about?

“In 2019 we released an E.P titled Judith Street. It was the catalyst for the growing consciousness and political awareness that was unashamedly expressed within the group. As we spent our school holidays at Judith street, we would share our political views on current state affairs.

“These conversations inspired songs like Consequence of Sound, Broken Nation, Take a bow for peace and Change!, songs from our new album Consequence of Sound. From there we simply continued riding the wave.”

Consequence of Sound is an album that follows themes of post-apartheid in South Africa and it addresses a few inequalities. It was even more impactful because it was officially released on Heritage Day. Why these topics?

“The music that we make is a depiction of the South Africa we live in today. The artist’s role is to be the narrator of times.”

Who are your musical inspirations? Local and international?

“Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse my dad, Kendrick Lamar, Pro Kid, Bheki Mseleku, D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, Fela Kuti, Robert Glasper and most importantly, my family members.”

Biko Mabuse and his father Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse. Image: David Brimson/ Evermore Photography @evermore_photo_sa

There has been much debate about the state of South African hip-hop today with some thinking that local hip-hop culture is being “erased” by amapiano, what are your thoughts about this?

“Local hip-hop culture will never be ‘erased’ so long as there are artists like A-Reece, Lucas Raps, 12 Dogs, Blxckie, Whoklledmac, 25k & Sc23 releasing music and carrying on the legacy of SA hip hop. However popular music will always dominate airwaves. It’s the evolution of music. Like jazz in the 1940s-50s, Rock in the 60s-70s, Bubblegum music in the 80s, Kwaito in the 90s and today amapiano.”

What’s next for Biko Mabuse and 12 Dogs?

“More music and content. I’m working on my debut project as we speak. As 12 Dogs, we’ve already been making more music and having fun together as mates.”

WATCH AND LISTEN TO ‘CHANGE!’ BY 12 DOGS

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