Letter from Pioneer Unit CEO, @Dplanet, on the occasion of Ben Sharpa’s memorial service #RIPBenSharpa

“First of all condolences to Kgotso’s family and everyone who knew him. Sending lots of love especially to Tebz and Thando.

 

Most of us in music knew Kgotso as Ben Sharpa or Kaptin. I ran Pioneer Unit Records for 10 years and signed Kap the first chance I got because he was such an exceptional talent. There was basically no industry in Cape Town and, more than anything, I was just a fan who wanted to give him the platform he deserved. We also shared a similarly left-field taste in music. He was always willing to experiment and push his art, which in turn pushed those around him to keep pushing boundaries. As a producer this was a dream come true. I made some of my best music because of him.

 

I remember thinking, ‘how is it possible that someone this skilled isn’t already famous worldwide’. I realised that maybe Kap was just too ahead of his time for South Africa. As much as he had a cult following here through his work with Groundworks, I started thinking that surely there would be better opportunities for him overseas.

 

 

I had no contacts but I started sending music we’d made to anyone I could find. One of the first people to respond was Mary Anne Hobbs who was beginning to have her own cult following for exposing talent from around the world to the mass market through her show on BBC Radio 1 in the UK – a huge platform. She was blown away and immediately started playing Kap’s music. She also helped organise for him to play at Glastonbury – one of the world’s biggest and most well-known music festivals. This is turn lead to us signing a deal with French indie label Jarring Effects – and that was the start of Ben’s illustrious European touring career.

 

I was lucky enough to tour Europe with Kap on a number of occasions as part of the 4DLS tour. For me an artist, touring really is living the dream. It’s where you get to see the best and the worst of the people you’re working with. You share some amazing highs (that only musicians will ever understand) and, of course, you are living in close quarters, and not always in the lap of luxury, which can be challenging. You’re in each other’s space 24/7, often tired from the constant travel and performances. The hardships and the highs mean that you form an amazing bond with those people. I will never forget the precious memories made on tour with Kap.

 

It’s important to note that very few South African hip hop artists have been able to achieve what Kap did. His may not have had the most lucrative career, but his position as an icon in the history of South African music should never be underestimated. He cared passionately about all people, but especially the plight of his black brothers and sisters. His goal was always to entertain, to educate and to speak truth to power. His album, B Sharpa, and his work with Groundworks, are seminal. ‘Hegemony’ is one of the most important and iconic South African anthems of all time. I still get chills when I hear, “Why, do we need a…”. Seeing him performing that in front of thousands of people at Back to the City, who seemed to know almost every word will be a memory I’ll never forget. If there is ever a South African music hall of fame, he will have rightfully earned his position in it.

 

Travel well through the multiverse oh Kaptin my Kaptin! Peace!

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