Music

Interview: El Mukuka - The Switch | The Intricate | The Brave | Zambia's Export

Published in Music | Tuesday, 25 October 2016
Interview: El Mukuka - The Switch | The Intricate | The Brave | Zambia's Export Facebook

Eleftherios Bupe Mukuka professionally known as El Mukuka is a Zambian/Greek House DJ and Producer, he studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston, USA. His success started with his debut single Heart that featured Alan Thompson, it gained momentum at the 2013 Amsterdam Dance Event which let to multiple international sub-licensing deals. As a result the song impacted the charts in Denmark, made it to the Winter Hits Compilation CD put together by Universal Music Greece. The success also trickled down to his home country Zambia where he won a Born n’ Bred Video Award in 2014, this made him the first House producer/DJ to receive this honor. 

Even though Zambia isn’t a country that is very high on locally produced House music, El Mukuka’s loyalty to the works of his hands is admirable. He reaches for deep roots and opts for artists that have a classical approach to their vocals and the most notable aspect is the intricate lyrics that come with the music. It is his perseverance that has led him to getting a German recording deal on which he has released one single that he made with Kayla Jacobs, a friend he met during his time at Berklee which was Rainfall and the latest single is Bottle Of Loneliness which was released on Blanco y Negro, a Spanish record label.

El Mukuka’s musical aspirations are high as he would love to work with fellow producers like Felix Jaehn who remixed Cheerleader by Jamaican singer Omi, the song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100.

Robin Schulz is another one of the people El would love to work with, Robin got a Grammy nomination after remixing a song called Waves that was originally done by dutch Hip Hop artist Mr. Probz, the song charted well in the USA, the producer also remixed Prayer In C, a song by Lilly Wood and the Prick, the fans received it with open arms leading it to chart success in the USA and parts of Europe. 

He recently wrapped up his Switch Tour that saw him perform at different venues in Lusaka, Zambia and made his way to Zanzibar where his music has been received warmly. The tour was to emphasize the diminution of his name from Eleftherios to just El Mukuka. We had the opportunity to talk to him and this particular subject came up and he explained himself in great detail. El also told us about the difference between the German and Zambian music industries, how being at Berklee helped shape his sound and why his music is highly conceptualized.

You recently changed your name from Eleftherios Mukuka to El Mukuka, what exactly prompted the name change?

Yes I did. It was purely a marketing decision and one that I had been considering for a very long time. My full name is beautiful and I love it very much but as a brand, the time had come for it to be shortened in order to help me grow. 

And to promote the name change embarked on the Switch Tour, how was this initiated and how did it go?

The concept behind the Switch Tour was basically the switch from Eleftherios Mukuka to El Mukuka. Overall, I think the tour was great and I believe I managed to achieve a lot of what I wanted. A very exciting segment of the tour was the Zanzibar leg - it’s such a beautiful island. I’m already looking forward to the next tour and hoping to travel to more countries the next time round.

You have stayed grounded with the type of music that you produce, what keeps you going in a genre that isn't particularly popular in Zambian circles?

Well, I have seen the genre grow tremendously over the last 4 years here. I think the market for house music in Zambia is still quite niche but at the same time very alive. It’s still far from becoming one of the mainstream genres in Zambia though – which means we have a lot of work to do. I think the driving force behind my house music career is my deep passion for music and faith. I believe in myself and always try to set international objectives with every musical project I work on as a way to challenge myself, grow as an artist and tap into markets bigger than ours.

Your single Rainfall with Kayla Jacobs is an absolute smash (over 40,000 hits on YouTube and approx. 200,000 streams on Spotify) and it had its own story, you mentioned that you and her wrote the song while Skyping, how was the process of making 'Bottle Of Loneliness' that also features Kayla?

Thank you very much. It’s actually the new song “Bottle of Loneliness” that we wrote over Skype. It was a lovely process; we took our time and enjoyed it. I love working with Kayla! She is an incredibly talented singer and songwriter. Her style, talent and professionalism intrigued me from the first day we met in songwriting-class at the Berklee College of Music. “Bottle of Loneliness” marks our 3rd release together. The track carries a deep message in a very light-hearted/commercial package. I think both Kayla and I can draw parallels between the song and our lives. For me it wasn’t so much about alcohol at all, but more about feeling trapped and unhappy due to certain circumstances in my life.

The video to Bottle of Loneliness will drop in November, what should be expected from it seeing as Rainfall had quite intricate visuals. 

That’s a surprise! But for sure something different and exciting! 

After your experience in Germany, what would you say is being done over there in the music industry that isn't here in Zambia?

A lot, unfortunately. Germany has a very large and sophisticated music industry – one of the best in the world as a matter of fact. I guess the biggest difference between the German music industry and the Zambian music industry is that most Germans acquire their music legally through purchasing and/or streaming. I know for a fact that our music industry here in Zambia will grow and only get better, but we have a very long way to go. 

Should we be at the edge of our seats in readiness for an album from you? 

Not just yet. But I really do want to put out a larger body of work soon, perhaps an EP in 2017. 

It is definitely worth mentioning that you studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, what did you learn there that helped shape how you craft your music?

Aside from all the classes I took (which obviously contributed immensely to my development as a musician,) I think the biggest lesson I learned from Berklee was how to believe in myself, no matter what. When I look back and think about my Berklee days I remember how intimidated I felt when I first got there and how that prevented me from functioning well. I had less than half of the training that most of my fellow students had before Berklee. I honestly began to doubt everything about myself as a musician. It took a lot of work to build my strength and confidence. A major turning point was when I decided to focus on one thing alone. I decided that I was going to work hard on bettering myself as a producer and build confidence out of that. Prior to that decision I was constantly comparing myself to other musicians there on multiple levels (i.e. instrumental proficiency, theory, conducting, big-band or orchestral arranging and so forth).  It was overwhelming but I feel like it taught me how to focus and how to lift myself up. 

Your music is heavily conceptualized, is this a deliberate thing for you to do and why is it important?

I try to make an effort to create music that is uplifting, positive and honest. I think we live in a world that contains a whole lot of negativity and that music and art in general should be used as an escape from all of that. However, the funny thing is that a lot of the music we listen to doesn’t actually soothe our emotional and psychological pain but rather aggravates or numbs it. I think we should be able to identify with art and have it/use it as a haven. 

FOLLOW EL MUKUKA

Twitter: @ElMukuka

Facebook: El Mukuka

Soundcloud: El Mukuka

Instagram: @ElMukuka