Interview: Shimza on launching KUNYE records, and his upcoming world tour

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Unquestionably one of South Africa’s brightest talents, Shimza real name Ashley Raphala has made the transition from aspirant industry young blood to leading light of the global afro house scene at almost breakneck speed. The Tembisa-born DJ, producer and promoter’s musical skills can be traced as far back as the age of fifteen, fuelled by the support and encouragement from his family.

We had an opportunity to talk to Shizma about KUNYE records, upcoming world tour, music inspiration and future plans.

In 2020, you launched KUNYE records, could you tell us a little bit about this project? How did it come to life? 

KUNYE is a record label that stemmed from us trying to export the South African afro house / afro tech story to the world in the most authentic way. Through official remixes, we have also connected our music with international artists including Melé and Louie Vega. The basis is to have a home and house to present these sounds to the world.

Congratulations on the UK debut of KUNYE in London last weekend! How did it feel for you?

It felt very good to have a big sold-out debut event in London and see so many people there to experience the music and be a part of the movement. People from different backgrounds, many from South Africa, but others from all around the world, and you could see everyone understood what the show was about in terms of the style of music we were playing. South Africa has a lot of styles that people are into like Amapiano and all of that, but the people were there to listen to new afro House and tech sounds. It was a dope experience to have such a big show in London, especially as we know it can help push our message to the rest of the world and we will be back for more as soon as possible.

What do you hope for the future of KUNYE? What plans do you have for it? 

We want to build it into a global brand that tours around the world. We work with different partners around the world and introduce the sound to their audiences, and share the music with different ears and grow it from there. 

We hear Ibiza is up next on the calendar this week at Akasha Ibiza. What are your favourite memories playing on the White? 

The first time I played at Destino when I opened for Luciano. That was a massive deal for me, being trusted with opening for such a big artist. We are working on a different strategy now, hoping to grow and we are looking to take over the island. If you are successful in ibiza, you have the upper hand to take over other territories around the island as well. 

Rumor has it that you will drop a new track ‘Higher’ featuring Nobuhle. Can you tell us more about this release? 

Higher is a true reflection of what South Africa actually vibes to right now. The vocals, the music on the original – it’s exactly the sound that we want to showcase to the world. We are trying very hard to take this authentic sound to the world, but also pair it with a sound that make sense to the rest of the world, which is why we invited Melé to remix it. It is quite dope as he didn’t take away from the song, but just enhanced it and gave it a different character. I just hope people will be as excited about it as we are.

What inspires you to create your music? What are some artists you would like to collaborate with? 

What excites me is knowing where the music can take you. Music is like a CV – you put it out there and hope that people that listen to it can literally see themselves working with your brand. Moving forward I would like to have collaborations with people that would open different doors to our journey and can expose us to different markets so that we not only that we make music for types of people or certain territories, but the music should be able to travel all around the world.

Can you talk a little bit about your upcoming world tour? What gig are you most looking forward to?

I am still on tour and it’s quite crazy how things have opened up and to see the interest in the Shimza brand, through the KUNYE brand, and my DJing and skills. I think people just love the energy and I can’t wait to share my calling with the rest of the world. It’s just sad that I wont be home for a long time, but it’s always been a dream of mine to travel the world, especially as I feel there is so much I have to offer and there’s so much more that people need to know about me and where I come from. If I am the one that must go out there and do my little part to make sure that our story is told in the right way, then I am up for it! Can’t wait for the rest of the tour, doing lots in Europe and later in South America. 

Thank you, and good luck with all of your plans!

Thank you!