In Conversation with AshMopedi and TSHEGOO of Groove Cartel SA

If you enjoy discovering new music and have come across sounds that possess a groovy rhythmic pulsing sound of the piano, then this is a read for you! Amapiano is arguably one of the hottest musical genres to emerge in recent years. It’s a grand melange of soul, jazz, hip-hop, funk, deep house, and, of course, piano melodies. This genre was born on the streets of South Africa and has since dominated dance floors, streaming sites, and music festivals.

Groove Cartel SA is one of the most popular sources for showcasing Amapiano and the talent in this genre! Hailing from Johannesburg and christened during the lockdown, the channel currently boasts over 69.2K subscribers and has presented over 100 well-known and upcoming artists, with interviews to compliment each set. Music producers Kabza De Small, Mr. JazziQ, DJ duo Tango Supreme, and Vigro Deep are a few of the names that have graced the deck with their Amapiano sets on Groove Cartel SA.

Team Groove Cartel SA (left to right) -Jakes, Mpho, AshMopedi, Tshegoo, and TGK

AshMopedi and six of his friends are the founders of a show that celebrates authentic street culture and music. Groove Cartel SA originally began featuring shows with house music in January 2021. The format of the show is focused on bringing fans closer to their favorite artists by having them perform on the show followed by a brief interview. We had the opportunity to speak with two of the founders – music producers AshMopedi and audio engineer TSHEGOO aka Hitman On Set! Here are some of the insights and exchanges shared during our conversation!

Origins Of Groove Cartel South Africa

(Left to right) Hitman On Set and AshMopedi

“We’d all worked together previously in the creative/entertainment industry and Groove Cartel SA was created to satisfy our appetite as entertainers.

AshMopedi formerly worked in the corporate space as a brand marketing and communications strategist, and TSHEGOO is a seasoned music producer and audio specialist. Both formerly plied their trade in the event spaces, which is how they got acquainted. After the pandemic, they realized the trends of the world and the entertainment industry had changed, and they discovered that they both harbored common ideas. Groove Cartel SA was born after a few phone calls between them. “We’d all worked together previously in the creative/entertainment industry, and Groove Cartel SA was created to satisfy our appetite as entertainers,” says Ash.

Hitman elaborated, “We wanted to create an escape. Essentially for people, something they could watch and enjoy. We wanted to bring entertainment to people and then also showcase the talent because I believe South Africa has a lot of brilliant producers. Even in South Africa, some of them don’t get the necessary exposure. So we wanted to create a platform that’s fair play for everyone and gives a stage to anyone who is dreaming.”

Team Groove Cartel SA

The team states that their selection process is rather direct; “one simply has to be good at what they do with a solid following in their respective parts of the streets.” Some artists approach them, while others are discovered through viewer suggestions (which frequently read “bring back ABC” or “can’t wait to see XYZ” in the comments section). After a show, many talents go on to get booked for events and are even scouted by promoters!

The Channel Groove Cartel SA

AshMopedi on set for Groove Cartel

“The only unique proposition would be to profile artists who don’t necessarily have a big digital footprint, but with impact where the music matters most, which is on the streets.”

As the channel grew in popularity and more DJs played sets on the show, it became increasingly clear, statistically, what viewers were listening to and dancing to – the sounds of Amapiano! AshMopedi told us, “Due to the nature of the show, which is to showcase street culture, Amapiano became the obvious genre to focus on.

According to AshMopedi, he “never thought he would be a presenter.” He was voted unanimously by his colleagues to also serve as a host of the show. As with all their endeavors, the team wanted to showcase Groove Cartel SA as uniquely as possible. He explains, “We figured – let us get deeper into the space of the actual artists. We were like, how do we get a person who has got a hit and has not had a radio interview, has not had an opportunity to exhibit their talents on a TV show, using traditional media? Since we are doing this on YouTube, let us then extend that idea and just have a chat around the person’s history, their love for music, and their projects.”

Speaking of the reception and feedback the show has received, AshMopedi states, “We’ve been extremely fortunate with the reception we’ve received since the show’s inception. Both the viewers and the artists have given us great feedback in terms of how our show is a great contributor to the Amapiano genre and music in general.”

TSHEGOO on The Big Chill

TSHEGOO on Grove Cartel SA

Big Chill becomes a live experience of Groove Cartel, that’s the only time there will be that crowd engagement…”

Groove Cartel SA also curates The Big Chill, a free music event for anyone who enjoys their music. The idea is to keep the spotlight on the smaller names while also providing attendees with a high-quality DJ performance. It intends to foster a music-loving community, with the event focusing on great music rather than who is playing on deck. On the channel, DJs perform their setlist without the influence of the crowd, whereas The Big Chill sees a crowd of attendees. As Hitman mentions, “Sometimes a crowd can influence how a DJ plays. Part of our thing is having DJs play what they really like, what they want to play.”

“Big Chill becomes a live experience of Groove Cartel, that’s the only time there will be crowd engagement. But we hope, through the teachings on Groove Cartel, we’ll have a similar audience – an audience that won’t have an expectation of hearing the biggest song on TikTok and expect the DJ to play that song.”

AshMopedi on Amapiano and Its Impact

AshMopedi

“Amapiano speaks to collaboration. And I stand to be corrected, I think it may be the most collaborative genre that the world has ever seen.”

Throughout our conversations, AshMopedi has passionately expressed his feelings about Amapiano and its collaborative aspects. “Amapiano speaks to collaboration, and I stand to be corrected, I think it may be the most collaborative genre that the world has ever seen. The collaborative nature of Amapiano speaks to the spirit of openness, the spirit of togetherness, and the spirit of creativity. Part of its growth and its international reach and appeal is because, at its very core, that spirit has been infused into the genre, and it is easily translatable.”

Keeping in mind South Africa’s history and colonial past, AshMopedi emphasizes what Amapiano means to a predominantly Black community there. He mentions, “The spirit of Amapiano is Black South African youth saying – you know what? It is what it is but we are going to find a way to make it happen for ourselves. We’re going to find a way. We are going to make it out. We are going to make sure there is bread on the table, tuition for the kids, I am going to help my mom, going to help my dad. That’s also like the spiritual response of Amapiano.”

He concluded our interview with a heartfelt message about Amapiano and music, he said: “The world is what it is for us as young Black South African youth. There’s also a general perception about young Black youth the world over in terms of ‘what they are?’ and ‘who they are?’ So Amapiano is actually going a step further, showing to the world that you’ve got the whole story wrong about us, about how we think, about how we look. We also have ideals, we also have aspirations, and we’re achieving those ideas and aspirations through this one thing that is God-given, the ability to make music.”

The Journey So Far And The Road Ahead

(Left to right) Mhaw Keys, Rising Dee, and AshMopedi

“We are proud, we are really proud of us, we are proud of what we’ve created. It is really not even about us, it is a platform that connects the music and the artists.”

The pair maintained that their journey has been humbling for them with each shoot, and this feeling is only amplified when talents come to perform with profound excitement, bringing in exclusives and unreleased music. They now see themselves as co-creators of something in this space that South Africa and the rest of the world now appreciate.

AshMopedi elaborates on his journey so far, saying, “When you realize you are also a co-creator, you may not be producing Amapiano music, but you are a co-creator in this Amapiano universe. You are also playing a role in growing the genre. The opportunity to exhibit the many different sides of the genre itself, to educate people that within the genre, we’ve now created many subgenres, that’s how big this genre has become. For me to be able to be a part of that is very humbling.”

Looking back at the last two years of Groove Cartel SA, TSHEGOO weighed in to say, “It is very fulfilling because we have become very instrumental in the industry. We always knew what we wanted to do with our platform, but we never knew how necessary the platform will become. Because, for instance, if someone tells you they are a DJ, the usual questions would be, ‘where do you play?’ ‘who have you played with?’ But since the inception of  Groove Cartel, the question, ‘have you been on Groove Cartel?’ comes up. We have created a platform right now that is instrumental in the growth of the whole genre, so it is really fulfilling. We are proud, we are really proud of us, we are proud of what we’ve created. It is really not even about us, it is a platform that connects the music and the artists.”

Still in their early stages yet firmly established, Groove Cartel SA team envisions going international and even hosting a Coachella-style music festival in South Africa one day. “We are doing things differently. Everybody is trying to get to Europe, everybody is trying to get to America, but why not go to India? Why not go to China? Why not go to Japan?

“We are trying to spread the word. We are trying to share the best. That’s just the goal to get ourselves into international spaces and bring with us some of the people that have already been on the show because that’s the spirit of the show. It is not about Hitman, or I, or the rest of the team, it would defeat the purpose of Groove Cartel for us to say ‘we want to go international’ without taking the people who made our show have an international appeal,” says AshMopedi.

Discover:
Groove Cartel SA on Youtube | Facebook | Instagram | Tiktok | Twitter 
TSHEGOO on Spotify | Amplify | Instagram | Twitter
AshMopedi on Instagram
Jakes on Instagram | Twitter
TGK on Instagram
MPHO on Instagram

All Images Courtesy Groove Cartel SA

The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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