The frontman of the trio, Johnny Cradle, Q (Sakumzi Qumana), has struck out on his own and released his debut solo LP, ‘Everything Here Is True’ – revealing a more sensitive side.
Compiled by: Thanduxolo “Thandz” Buti
All images supplied
Q is known as the frontman of the three-piece band, Johnny Cradle (with Lazola ‘Laz’ Ndamase and Tebogo J Mosane). The band has been one of the main features in local live stages across the country – often cited as a breath-taking live act. Their self-titled and genre-bending debut album was one of the most ambitious albums of the last decade.
However, after years of fronting the band, Q has taken a bold step and released his debut LP, ‘Everything Here Is True’, a tapestry of songs about life and love. The LP showcases his musicianship and unique flow, reminiscent of old-school kwaito, rap, reggae, and dubstep.
The Mdantsane-born-and-raised musician is all about exploring different soundscapes and molding them to create his sound. “I fiddle with musical instruments and talk shit on the mic,” He tells Blacklight. “This is me with no filter.”
Q says the LP came together spontaneously, like a daydream, and all he did was to allow himself to float in the moment.
“There wasn’t any pursuit or goal with this album at all,” he explains. “All of a sudden, I found myself talking about love, and was like, alright, if this is what I’m doing now, then, let it be – and I just rolled with it. There was no concept or thought. I just gave in to the process of making love songs.”
Blacklight: Congratulations on your LP, and I love that it’s also an audio-visual experience. What made you decide to have accompanying visuals?
Q: Whenever I’m working on a song, there will be a moment when everything starts coming together – the music and the melodies and the lyrics – which is usually when a form of the music video appears in my mind. I’ll start seeing a music video from start to finish. Usually, it will be a performance music video. I’ll see what the camera angles of the video would be and how I would edit it. And this is usually the sign that the song I’m working on is real. Even now, if I don’t see a music video in my head while writing, then the song is crap. Hahaha!
BL: Most of us know you as the frontman of the trio, Johnny Cradle (which I love); what inspired you to step out on your own?
Q: As a group, we have been inactive for a while, but I’m always making songs on a day-to-day basis because it’s just what I do. Sometime, late 2019, I suddenly had this urge to make music from a first-person perspective and draw directly from my personal experiences – something I had not done [fully] before. And because I’m always home, making stuff anyway, I ended up with one song that I felt was hitting the mark, then (made) the second, third… until I felt like I had something that could be a complete record. So, because of the nature of the music, all of it was me speaking directly as myself and my experiences; it was clear that it’s a solo record.
BL: You feature Lazola, your bandmate, on one of the tracks, and Tebogo was your drummer for the Unplugged Mushrooms special. What does your solo venture mean for the future of Johnny Cradle?
Q: Luckily, there’s no beef within the group, so we were able to do the Unplugged Mushrooms special, and before that, the Afropunk thing in October, and it was all fun and games. Laz appears on two songs, I Understand which he co-produced, and eLokshini which I wrote during the Johnny Cradle days. eLokshini is the only song that wasn’t new on the album. As for the future of the band, we haven’t spoken about that in any meaningful way. Laz does his thing – he makes crazy beats. I have been trying to convince him to release something, and I’m sure he will soon. Tebogo is also a busy guy, drumming, and he’s making his beats, but he won’t talk about it, but I will.
BL: Everybody believes that Johnny Cradle is one of the most underrated/undervalued bands of our time, myself included. How do you feel about that statement?
Q: It’s just the nature of the type of music we made as Johnny Cradle. That music doesn’t pop in South Africa, so (that kind of reception) is expected. That said: we’ve played most of all the big stages in the country. People are still buying the records. The album is still available on vinyl, and it’s moving, so I’m cool.
BL: The music business has changed drastically in the past year, and the covid-19 saw us shifting fully towards streaming rather than buying music/albums. How do you think this new musical climate will impact up-and-coming musicians who are still trying to attract an audience?
Q: The music industry changed long before covid-19. The audience, however, is still there. It’s up to the artists to find their own ways to reach audiences.
BL: Did this massive transition influence the way you released this LP and the marketing strategy around it?
Q: No, not at all. I didn’t even have a plan. I just wanted to make music and release it myself and do videos for all of the songs. I’m still doing actual music videos for the songs. The videos I put out are like promo pieces. I love my friend Tseliso Monaheng’s shooting style, and I wanted us to do this for all the songs when they drop, and we did. We shot most of them the week before the album came out. Peace to my man!
BL: Why was the title Everything Here Is True so fitting?
Q: I didn’t have a title for the album, and when it was time to turn the album in, the distribution service wouldn’t accept anything generic like “Album” or “My Album” (believe me, I tried because I didn’t care for a title), so when those titles were rejected, I took a second and that name popped up in my head. I thought, oh, that makes sense because the album is based on me trying out this being open thing and speaking only the truth of my personal life. (Disclaimer: Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the people involved)
BL: Your sound is so familiar but yet so fresh. I hear a bit of kwaito, reggae, dubstep, alternative, rap, hip hop, and soul. What genres did you mix to curate the “Q” sound?
Q: I’m happy you say that because that’s what it is. You’ve answered your own question. Thank you!
BL: What was the initial thought, idea, or moment that inspired you to create these songs?
Q: I made a song about a woman I know. We’ve known each other for a few years now, and the lyrics just came out like that, and while I was listening back to the words, I was like: wait a minute, turns out I love you.
From there, I made another song, and it was still talking about this woman. By the fifth track, they were all songs about women in my life, Smh (Shaking My Head)! Not all about serious love though. Some of it is just fleeting romantic encounters, overnight sexual encounters – regular ‘G’ (GANGSTER) shit.
BL: This LP sees you addressing social-political issues, life and love, and the hard life of hustling to make one’s dream a reality; why were those subject matters so pressing for you at the time of recording?
Q: When I make music, it’s just me in a room with all my instruments and gear plugged in. I press record and freestyle everything and just edit – if I like it, I keep it. If I don’t, I move on. So when it comes to the subject matter, I’m just saying whatever is coming out of my mouth at that time. So, those themes, I guess, are issues that makeup who I am; things that I’m concerned about.
BL: Which are some of the tracks that speak to you the most, or rather, deeply personal to you?
Q: Not to be superficial, but all of them. I probably made 14 songs for this album, and I only kept the ten that felt right. You will find that each song is speaking of someone or something specific. So each song is special for that particular moment.
BL: By the way, my (personal) favourite tracks are T.O.I.L.Y, Something’s Got To Give, I Understand, Elokishini, and Fire Burn For Love – I feel like these songs are what comes out when you get that alchemy right.
Q: Thank you so much! You’ve named most of the album as your personal favourites. I guess I’ve achieved my goal! Peace.
Everything Here Is True is available on all leading online music stores and music streaming platforms.