For the last decade, “Satlam" aka Shatilwe Lamek has been performing to throngs of fans from his native Namibia and other neighboring African countries. Satlam is a truly grounded individual. His music has wonderful earth-tones and his mannerisms are evident of an artist at peace with himself. This Windhoek based singer has released 2 underground albums, and a forthcoming one in July this year. A chance collaboration with fellow Namibian Mushe resulted in his song "Pandula" being nominated at the 2011 Namibian Annual Music Awards (NAMA) in Best Collaboration Category, a well-deserved award for an exceptionally hardworking musician.
The African Child sat down with the soft-spoken singer who hails from Ohalushu to find out what keeps him so grounded and in control. The resulting interview was a very revealing and insightful experience, as Satlam came to terms with his music, fans, impending marriage to fiancée Leti Sakaria and family.
Can you tell us a little about your background and family?
I was born 30 years ago (14-11-1980) at a village called Ohalushu in northern Namibia. I am the fourth among 8 siblings. I grew up with my parents at the village. I did my primary school and secondary school at different schools in northern Namibia from 1988 – 2000 and went on to pursue pre-engineering course at University of Namibia (UNAM) in 2001. I went on to University of Capetown (UCT) in 2003 and finished my degree in electrical engineering in 2007.
How did you get interested in rapping?
When I was in secondary school, I used to be good at writing lyrics. I was writing songs for our school choir (Mweshipandeka High School). I started writing my own songs when I came to University of Namibia in 2001 and I recorded my first song the same year. I didn’t know people would love my music but it became obvious to me when my first single in 2001 became a hit in Namibia. I continued studies to SA in 2003 and finished my degree in 2007. While I was in SA I used to perform at University gigs, and the love of music just got stuck in me even more when all my friends were telling me that I can be a music star.
Who are your biggest influences?
First of all, my parents. They made sure I finished my studies first before I do music. And secondly, all successful African artists, they motivate me to work hard and spread the message of hope to Africa as well as entertainment culture.
What was your first big break?
It was in 2009 when I released my commercial single called “I do” after my studies. This single was a hit and is still a hit in Namibia. It get me nominated in Sanlam/NBC music awards in 2009 and getting nominated was a big step for me to bigger opportunities (like artist name promotion). I earned respect from my fellow musicians and Namibian nation at large after the awards.
What has been your most challenging song to write and why?
It was my first single that I took to radio stations in Namibia, I didn’t know if people would like it. So it was difficult for me to choose the lyrics that will impress them on my first try. But it was superb at the end of the day.
There’s a lot of collaboration between African musicians these days. What do you think is causing this?
Collaborations are the best platforms you can get to market yourself further from your vicinity. If I am from Namibia for example, not many people know me as an artist in Ghana, but if I feature a popular Ghanaian artist, there goes the platform to get known in Ghana. And this is widening of your fans across Africa.
You’ve had some collaboration with other musicians. What have been your most memorable or favorite collaborations with other musicians?
Yes. I have thus far collaborated with artists mainly from Namibia. However, there are plans in the pipeline to work with other African and international artistes. As you already aware of, I collaborated with Namibian Afro-pop artist Karlos Lokos on the track “I do”, and this song is a hit across Africa as we speak. Hence at the moment I would say this was my best collaboration so far.
How is hip-hop or rap music received in Namibia?
Hip-hop is now popular in Namibia and there are many hip-hop cats in Namibia now as we speak. The only problem I can stress about hip-hop in Namibia is that hip-hop CDs are not selling well compared to Kwaito, Kwiku, Afropop and house in Namibia. Maybe not just yet to cash in when doing hip-hop. But on radio stations I would say it’s dominating.
What challenges do you face in the music industry (piracy, payola (paying deejays to play music, etc)?
Taa, it hurts very much to learn that your music is being pirated. Considering all the effort, money and time you’ve invested in the album and just to get pirated without you getting any income from it. At the same time you realize that some deejays favor some artists, it’s an unfortunate situation. But all in all, you just have to work hard, do the right things, follow procedures and produce good and quality music. Promotion is the key factor to the success of any artist.
Does faith play a role in your music, at least, on some kind of peripheral level? Do you feel certain reluctance in being explicit about your family’s faith or background given the often insulated mindset of music scenes and artistry in general?
It plays multiple roles. I doubt I'd write the kinds of lyrics I write or be drawn to these grandiose ideas and images without my religious background. Questions about guilt, redemption, and what's eternal are all questions that religion deals with. I've never been reluctant about discussing my family's faith or background. But it can get complicated in my own creative process.
What does it feel like to perform in front of a crowd who feel and really respond to your music?
It feels good maaan, and I know to each and every artist it feels awesome. It motivates you to keep on performing and producing nice songs too. There you would develop trust with your fans, because sometimes is not easy to get a fan-base.
How can your teaming fans reach you?
Anybody can get me at these following websites:
What’s been your biggest musical achievement?
First one, Getting nominated for Sanlam Music awards in 2009, it was the best moment for me, as I was still an upcoming artist by then. It’s not easy breaking into tough Namibian Music industry, but the judges and the Namibian nation in general appreciated my music and I was nominated for an award for my hard and smart work. Second one, having released my album that did very well. It was finished three times, which means I had to re-order three times because my fans couldn’t stop buying the album.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I want to be a successful artist in Africa, respected and grown too. By then I want to have five albums on my name that are doing good nationally and internationally. I also want to be an independent businessman employing some people because I want to reduce un-employment in our society.
What are your plans for 2011?
I want to release my second album in July, perform outside Namibia and hopefully getting nominated for music awards outside Namibia. That would show me that my music is starting to get recognized outside Namibia and that is my target.
Lastly, what hopes do you have for your music and as an artist?
I only ever wanted to create work I was proud of, and I think I've done, and try to continue to do that.
Infinite thanks to Lamek Shatilwe for granting me this interview. I really enjoyed it!! I hope we can do it again! It’s amazing to look back and see that Satlam already has 10 years of experience within the realm of music. Mr. Shatilwe Lamek is a very entertaining artiste who has everything going for him. He is still young with so much potential and I feel the sky is the limit for this graduate from the University of Capetown.
By the way, I have had the good fortune of listening to his soon-to be-released album “DENOMINATOR”. As soon as you push play, you experience Satlam’s youthful yet mature spirit & innocence on this album. I foresee Satlam Shatilwe going on to make many more records while becoming an even more respected music artist. I swear to that statement and if you don’t believe me then convict me of perjury! Love to see where this singer/songwriter/musician is in say 5-10 years. Amazing…This affable guy has a bright future ahead of him without a doubt!
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