Sunday, April 8, 2012

Pops Mohamed and Desert Rose - iStart2 Ambassadors

Award-winning masters; LYNN HOLMES, founder of DESERT ROSE and master of crossover world music compositions with YUSUF GANIEF, and POPS MOHAMED, beloved master of indigenous music, committed to being ambassadors for the iStart2 movement.

They have become highly respected for their ingenious ability to fuse indigenous sounds, melodies and rhythms, including Islam, Sufi, Traditional African, the Koi, and others. The experience of their amazing ability to unite people from all cultures through their music and reminding us of our common humanity and spirituality, will greatly contribute to the iStart2 dream of creating a sustainable world.

Pops Mohamed is an award-winning South African musician and producer. Famed for his range of styles, which include kwela, pop, jazz and soul, and known by fans as The Minister of Music, he plays a wide variety of traditional instruments including the African mouth bow, berimbau, didgeridoo, kora and the thumb piano. He lives in Joburg and has three children.

My parents were very supportive of my music career from the beginning. My father took me to lessons. I started gigging around Joburg and Pretoria with my first band, Les Valiants, when I was about 14. We wrote original music and had a couple of hit singles. After June 1976 I needed a good reason to continue doing what I was doing. People wanted messages of hope in their music. I looked back to my roots, to the miners in the shebeens playing indigenous African instruments.

Studying traditional African instruments and music was my contribution to the struggle. They were vanishing. So, I did workshops at Dorkay House with ethnomusicologist Andrew Tracey. I started playing the kalimba and developed a certain sound, and was still playing in pop bands. I tried to recreate the sounds I heard as a child. It was the beginning of my journey.

The kind of music I make is not commercial. It's for a niche market. Internationally, it has really been appreciated, especially after 1994, when South Africa became such a focal point. The timing was right. I play at lots of festivals and travel constantly.

I keep all my plane tickets and boarding passes. I don't know why.

As a Muslim, I am semi-religious. I go to mosque and observe fasts. In Actonville, Benoni, where I grew up, there was a mix of different religions. We'd go to each other's houses. There's a lot of ignorance. It's time the world realised Muslims and terrorists are different things.

If you want to make it as a musician then stay focused. Don't get distracted. Believe in yourself. Concentrate, practise and be around musicians. Listen to all styles of music.

I'm optimistic about South Africa.I love my country. Whenever I return home, I have a big smile on my face. There's racism in all countries, especially in England, where I lived for a while. Here, we just want to carry on with our lives, get on with things. If someone says something racist, we laugh: what era are you from?
(Excerpt from Sunday Times, 12 February 2012)

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