This guy goes by all the right names: Youth Culture Expert, Muso, Socialite, Joker, Gentleman. However, Andile Mbete is the one we recommend you remember. We caught up with him one Friday, and he caught us up on all the rest – Words: Nadine Oosthuizen
CSA: You used to be a youth culture engagement strategist, what are you up to these days?
Andile Mbete: I’m a PR man, for Sony Music Entertainment Africa.
I guess it’s kind of the logical step forward?
Yeah, culture and especially youth culture always ties in with music and both are about being on the ground, knowing what’s happening, what’s the new big thing.
So what is happening in music?
In Africa, there’s so much happening, it’s crazy! We have a very diverse music world. Especially in places like Ghana and Nigeria.
And in South Africa? What would you say is the biggest music scene in this country?
House Music, definitely. But it is all very geographical too, for instance, Joburg is hands down the House scene, Durban has the amazing Electronic scene, and Cape Town is a bit of Hip Hop and everything else. But we’re a huge dance nation, so really dance music is our thing.
Who are some of your favourite artists at the moment?
I’m a really big fan of Nonku Phiri, she’s definitely one of my favourite local artists. I love how she’s just always doing her own thing.
The soundtrack to your life:
Oh definitely SEAL’s Kiss From A Rose, which is a little bit silly, but I listen to it every night haha!
What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
I wake up and make myself the biggest breakfast I can possibly stick. I’m usually up at about 5:30, 6AM, and then I spend a lot of time on the internet, reading and researching, in case I have to speak to smart people, you know. Then I go to work.
You’ve done a lot of research on youth culture, especially in Africa. Does youth culture everywhere have some sort of a commonality?
It’s hard to say because each youth culture has its own context, but usually, and it’s the funny thing about the world, the world and society as a whole don’t really work in favour of young people. Young people are always kind off forced to become marginalised voices, especially in the economy, I think the big attraction from culture to culture to culture is that young people try to find their own voices and young identities because being part of society doesn’t really work for them. And I think that’s the beauty of it, young people are forced to find their voice which sticks with them when they’re older, and they become stronger influencers on society as well. It’s a really cool cycle. And South Africa is a great example of this as it’s a young country where young people inherited a lot of “problems”, but they’re not part of the problem anymore.
Is there anything you know now that you wish you had known in your youth, or as a kid?
I knew absolutely nothing when I was a kid, so pretty much everything!
What talent do you wish you had?
I wish I could break-dance. It’s the one weird ambition I have. I tried it, I wasn’t very good, but I constantly catch myself secretly watching break-dance videos online. And no one does it anymore, I just want to be that guy who can break out on a dance floor.
Maybe it’s the one thing you gave up on too quickly, you sure seem to have enough passion!
Yes, I can be that old guy who break-dances in the club. See there I go again!
Let’s never stop dreaming and talk superheroes. If you were one, what would your name be?
I will be “Always Right Man”. My super power will be to always be right, in every situation.
Do you have any real-life super heroes?
This would be those people who have always been behind the scenes in the music and culture scene. Glenn O’Brien, because he was such an interesting part of 80s New York, and because he fits into another big interest of mine, fashion. Masaya Kuroki, the founder of a record/ fashion label Kitsuné. Max Roach, one of my favourite musicians and jazz drummer. And then, not to be cheesy, but my mum, she’s always given me the best advice.
Tell us a joke:
What does the cheese say when he looks at himself in the mirror?