Singer and songwriter Fortune Shumba is an artist in the truest sense of the word. The Mpumalanga-born singer reckons he’s always been a creative, dabbling in poetry before deciding to do the music thing full-time. But it wasn’t as easy as it sounds.
For a while, the UJ dropout handled a 9-5 at a bank to fund his main hustle.
It was during this time that he met Joburg-based producers AFRIKANBXI, #Deep and MASHx, and managed to record his first project in between shifts at work. The sleepless nights seem to have paid off, as Shumba is plotting a takeover of sorts in the Year of our Lord, 2017.
We had a chat with Fortune to pick his brain about the music he makes, his deal with POST POST Music and touring the US.
Around this time last year you were an independent artist out in Mpumalanga. A year later you’re signed to Post Post. How did that deal come about, and what has the journey been like?
Tshepang Ramoba (of The BLK JKS) was someone I followed on Facebook and had always been a fan of. He put out a call online for indie artists to send him music to be considered for placement on a TV series he was scoring.
At the time, I had just independently released my debut EP, Dawn, so I sent him one of my songs. He rang me up and told me he was going to use my music. He also told me about his label Post Post. We eventually met up in Johannesburg and instantly started working on music.
Your sound is uniquely distinct. How do you make sure that your sound remains consistent even when working with as many producers as you do?
I honestly don’t know how that happens. I consider it a blessing and a curse because, even though people can easily identify your songs, you can also easily end up looking like a one-trick pony and have all your songs sounding the same, and I hate monotonous music or being predictable … it bores me.
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It also helps that I sort of let every producer that I work with into my life or whatever I’m going through at the time. There is a lot of conceptualising and communication and back and forth in between making the actual song. So I guess that could be where that element of consistency comes from.
Your lyrics have a vulnerability to them, and how you sing them makes that vulnerability feel that much more sincere. Do you have to be in a certain state of mind or mood when you create songs?
Yes, I absolutely have to zone in to create the music. The same applies to my live performances. Body, mind and soul need to be one every time, or else I won’t be up for it.
This means there is a lot of meditation, internal communication, just to set the mood and ensure whatever I create or put out is from the sincerest place that people can relate to.
On your song Daylight, you say that you “gotta get out of [your] shell”. What is that shell and have you gotten out of it?
The song picks up where my last EP left off. When I worked on Dawn I was dealing with a lot of heartache, and also there was a lot of self-hatred and insecurity and anger. I got cheated on during that time, and my life was not what I had hoped for all along. I felt haunted.
I had been so broken, and because of that I shut everyone and everything else out and existed in my own little ‘shell’, convinced myself that this ‘shell’ was meant shielding me from any other form of harm the world was going to try throw at me. I became emotionally absent and quit making or listening to music, period.
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So basically the words, ‘I’ve got to get out of my shell’, were like a prayer in my mind after realising I had been living a safe yet stagnant and miserable life. After a while, I got tired of that life, and I decided to get out of my comfort zone and try this life thing once again.
That included relocating to a different city, allowing myself to start over and going into the direction of my dreams, recording and putting these songs out.
That meant accepting my calling and doing something about it instead of lying helplessly inside of my “shell” where I felt safe while waiting for death.
Who, or what, are your biggest influences?
Everyday people influence my music and lifestyle in general. I am influenced by random conversations which leave you to think deep even after the conversation has ended, other people’s stories – I am a great listener.
Musicians such as Busi Mhlongo, Brenda Fassie, Bjork, Florence+The Machine and many others have been huge influences on my art. You might find traces of that in my music if you listen closely.
What’s next for Fortune 2017?
I will be showcasing at the Lyric Theatre for the SA Indies Music Week next month. In March I’ll be at South by Southwest (SXSW) in the US to play a few shows and get to tell people that side about my music and our beautiful country.
I am also working on the final installment of my trilogy, an EP titled Dusk, which will be released later this year and writing more material for my upcoming debut album, which is at the very early stages of development.
(Featured Image: Supplied)
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