Cape Town-based singer-songwriter, Thandekile Maboee-Banzi Umthimkhulu Ndlebezintle Zombini Unasele, also known by his stage name Kila G, emerged on the local music scene in 2019 with his debut EP, Stone Age. His musical talent and the soulfulness of his voice have been apparent since his first release, titled ‘Green Conversations’ which he still holds to be some of his best work to date. 

As Kila G’s upcoming performance, The Elegant Show, approaches and his captivating vocals in English, Xhosa and Sotho continue to make waves in the local music scene, we sit down with the source of the soulful sounds.

A joyful noise & the art of misdirection

Kila’s aunt inspired his love for music by introducing him to jazz at an early age. His musical journey began in school choirs and vocal ensembles, where his talent was quickly recognised and earned him numerous awards. This formal background gave him the classical music training that laid the foundations of his musicianship. The choir experience was the impetus for pursuing music and moulding the classical instruction he received into his distinctive style.

Kila G

[As a kid, Kila G also began by singing in church. PHOTO: Robert Sam-Kputu]

The name “Kila G” was born from being the sole male singer in an environment of rappers while trying to match their energy. His stage name was meant to create an element of surprise, as people would expect a rap performance but were treated to a beautiful voice and songs about love and life instead. This desire to surprise people shows that his bigger goal is to make memorable experiences, not just with his music but with everything about his live shows.

Kila G’s songs blend elements of afro-jazz, RnB, and other soul-based genres that he would simply describe as “elegant”. As someone who believes art should be authentic, Kila’s music has a vulnerability that reflects his reality. “I always speak about love. I always speak about life situations. I always speak about my god, my ancestors, you know. Things that affect me as well,” he says. 

Off the cuff

A unique component of Kila G’s music is his preference for freestyling in his songs. This is not because of a lack of writing ability but born from a desire to be present and channel the energy of a moment while also leaving space for the listener’s interpretation.

Kila G

[Kila G practised his freestyles over lo-fi beats from YouTube. PHOTO: Wade Dollman] 

“I write in such a vague way because I just want people to figure out what it means to them. I don’t just want it to mean something to me. When I release music, I want it to be like — it’s not mine anymore. It’s the people’s music,” he explains. Although he acknowledges that certain songs require writing, he also believes that the spontaneity of this creative process makes it more real.

Follow your heart

Kila G

[Kila G in a studio session. PHOTO: Robert Sam-Kputu]

Since going from a regular 9 to 5 to making songs, Kila G has also extended his involvement into other aspects of the music industry, such as production and event curation. He wants to empower others through music and raise the bar for a group of local artists who are already so talented that they are bursting at the seams. 

“We are super creative. There can be a different sound every single day if we had the proper resources to make that happen,” he says. 

He credits his environment and the freedom it gives him to be himself as a crucial factor in his musical evolution. The choice to follow his passion has been a rewarding process, and he believes that it has put him exactly where he needs to be; making the music he needs to be making. 

Change is permanent

Kila G

[Kila G left a job as a sales consultant to pursue music. PHOTO: Robert Sam-Kputu]  

“I think until I’m good, I’m going to keep changing, and I’m going to keep growing. There’s no way I can stay the same,” says Kila G. The philosophy he applies to his music is one of embracing the beauty of change. Kila wants to explore the indigenous music of the continent. 

He believes that expanding his musical knowledge and incorporating new ideas into his style — which is ever-changing — will help him grow as a person and as an artist. He hopes to emulate the success of other artists who have been able to take sounds that are quintessentially African and endear them to the rest of the world.

Elegance on show

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[Kila G performing at Hearty Collective. PHOTO: 007_views] 

The Elegant Show is Kila G’s brand, and while every iteration may take on new life, they remain grounded in a central theme. The event gives him an opportunity to showcase the quality of his stage production — which he identifies as one of his biggest strengths — to the benefit of everyone there. 

Kila G’s live performances provide him with an opportunity to experiment with everything from the stage setup and use of a looper, to the fashion of the event, to the composition of the band or the use of a single bass guitarist.

He tries to curate an event that audiences can feel a part of and leave with a piece of the experience. “You’re not there to pull up in your hoodie just to watch a show and then go back. You’re there and you’re dressed to impress, and you have to take a picture of yourself at the show, so the whole experience is something you can go home with,” he says.

On the cards

Kila G’s latest single, ‘Potions’, was released on 4 November featuring Yamiko. Another collaboration with singer-songwriter, Scintilla, is also in the works.

In the meantime, he is focused on planning The Elegant Show with 135music. The show will be hosted at Selective Live on 6 November and feature guest performances by Luukhanyo and 3-Six.

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