Focalistic’s astronomic rise from exciting underground artist, to certified leader of the new school has been a journey to savour. From the moment we were introduced to the Pretoria-born star (many of us first heard him in 2018 as he collaborated with Major League DJz on the Ase trap ke pina tsa ko kasi project) we’ve known that he was destined for the big time and in the three years since that EP dropped, he has delivered on the hype and then some.
The self-proclaimed voice of the youth has used his vocals as an instrument of change in a rapidly transforming music industry. He lends his platform to the stories of young people and specifically – stories of young people from the hood.
Focalistic also takes the lead in this years Must Watch In Culture List in which we have chosen 8 influential figures from a range of industries across Africa, and identified them as young movers and shakers to keep an eye on in 2021. Having caught the attention of everybody across the continent, there are few artists who you need to watch as closely as Focalistic this year, and for good reason.
He proudly proclaims that “Sghubu Ses’ Excellent” is more than just the title of a project: It’s a mantra to live by. Focalistic wants to show that excellence exists in the hood, and he is just another example of it.
A message from the Youth
How does it feel to be Focalistic on this level one day?
This is not level 1, it’s more like level 5 with a bit more spice.I mean for artists, we still can’t perform so it’s still very much level 5 for us.
That is tense man. Do you feel like the government has neglected artists during the pandemic?
I mean what were we expecting? Being an artist we get used to that very quickly. They call us when it’s time for elections. When it’s time for campaigns. But when it’s time for real things, when it’s time to feed our families – Nxa, we’re not important.
It’s impressive how you (artists) have managed to still keep people entertained, even from a distance.
It’s a different time for everyone, you know. Even the fans – they probably thought they’d have to pay to see us perform, but these virtual shows and everything – we make do with what we can. And you know what, we got to connect more with our fans, they got to understand us more. So the situation wasn’t ideal, but there was a lot that we could take from this.
The show must go on, the show has gone on – you’ve kept us dancing with lots of music. Not only through 2020 with hits like KeStar but well into 2021 where the remix with Davido dropped. How did it feel to have one of Africa’s biggest artists on the remix of your song with Vigro Deep?
For me it was quite surreal! Usually when you come from Pitori, you’re used to seeing these things happen to other people. But through lots of hard work, through God’s grace we’ve put ourselves in the position where we can work with the biggest talent on the continent. And also, shout out to Davido for being so willing and excited to work on the track.
What did you appreciate the most about Davido’s contribution to the remix?
He took time to understand what the movement is all about, he gets ase trap ke pina tsa ko kasi. For me, it was surreal to see it all come together and in history, when we look back, we’ll be able to say the movement reached those heights. And it’s still moving. It’s still going to touch people.
How far do you want to take pina tsa ko kasi?
For me I’ve always said that the goal is to bring home a Grammy. So every win that we experience just affirms that the Grammy is possible, it’s within reach. And to be reaching it with collabos with superstars like Davido just brings the pan-African vision to life.
Before the KeStar remix, were you aware of how Amapiano is blowing up in Nigeria and other parts of the continent?
One of the privileges I’ve had in my life and career so far is that I’ve been able to travel. I’ve traveled to different African countries. As much as you can see it in social media, it’s better when you’re there. So as a result I’ve learned a lot about how South African music is big in other African countries and how our story has kind of influenced a lot of African countries the same way Afro-beat for example has influenced us.
What’s the secret to reaching so many people with the movement?
I always say around the world, every hood is the same, you know what I mean? We might be from different countries and ethnicities, but every hood is still the same. There are many universal laws of the hood which just apply whether you’re in Pitori, or you’re in a hood in Nigeria, or a hood in New York, or in Soweto. Every hood is the same and that’s why, by being the voice of the youth and giving the hood a voice, I can connect with people from all over.
Is your hood the reason you’re also known as Pitori Maradona?
Yes – but specifically because it’s my soccer name. In my team I was the #10 and they nicknamed me “Maradona” because of the way I played so I’ve always carried that moniker with me.
As we’ve gotten to know you, we’ve realised you’re not just bound to one genre. What do you say when people try to box you as “just an Amapiano artist” or any other label?
Nobody has tried to box me because the movement is bigger than a genre. Like I said, I take pride in being the voice of the youth and the voice of the hood – so when that is your role, it’s bigger than just one genre. Instead it’s been all about how, whenever Foca is gonna feature on a song, he’s going to speak about thing that the youth want to hear. What’s going on in their lives. Everything from black tax, to the government, to the hustle – this is what the youth are concerned about. Not a genre.
How does it feel to go from up and coming to literally being able to say “KeStar”?
I always had the vision. I always felt like my life was a series and I knew how the story would go, I just hadn’t reached specific episodes just yet. So as things started coming together, I became more and more excited. It meant – I am on track for the Grammys. I am on track for other goals I want to reach. So it’s a growth that I have welcomed and I look forward to more.
It seems that as you have grown, the industry has welcomed you with open arms as well. Has this been your experience?
I think we just need to remember that the industry is made up of people. When you work with people in any setting, there will always be underlying factors or things to have to consider but the one thing that you are always in control of is your reaction. So I never let the way that anybody treats me take any control over how I react to it.
Any closing words for your fans and loyal followers while we wait for the new normal?
All I have to say to everybody is thank you, thank you for supporting the movement, thank you for making me feel loved and adored. In the meantime, keep grinding guys. It might seem like the off-season because we’re all at home, but I always say – champions are made in the off-season. The work you put in now will pay off when things open up. Keep up the great work and wish you all the best.