- On 11 October 2019, Master KG released a new song with vocalist Nomcebo titled Jerusalema.
- Since being released over a year ago, the song has become a global phenomenon through the #JerusalemaChallenge.
- Speaking to Kgoagelo ‘Master KG’ Moagi, Gugulethu Mhlungu tracks the hit’s life.
Over 150 million YouTube views. More than 4 million Shazams. 41.4 million streams and an average of over 7.5 monthly listeners on Spotify. 326.6 million impressions on TikTok. These are the numbers garnered by Limpopo-born Kgoagelo Moagi’s Jerusalema.
This is a timeline of its success.
July- August 2019:
The song is unfinished. However, Master KG is so excited about the song that he puts together a video snippet to share on his social media accounts. Within a matter of days, the clip had over 11 000 views on Instagram and 200 000 on Facebook.
The song is completed. On 11 October 2019, the official audio was released for free on YouTube.
On 25 October 2019, Master KG shared a video from Atlanta, Georgia showing people doing the electric slide to Jerusalema.
“Whenever I logged onto streaming platforms I would see my name and Jerusalema trending. People were searching for the song even though it wasn’t available yet. It eventually got onto streaming platforms around 29 November 2019.” By now the YouTube video of the official audio had over 2 million views.
The Jerusalema walk, an early version of the dance challenge, is born. Two weeks after its release on 13 December 2019, the Jerusalema video sits with over 3.1 million views while the original audio video had 4 million views.
17 December 2019; Song of the Summer announces its finalists. Although it has only been receiving radio airplay since October 2019, Jersusalema is in the running.
Jerusalema doesn’t win the SABC Song Of The Summer. Instead it comes second, behind Ntencane’s Wawuthembeni. However, Jerusalema retained the number one spot on radio from the end of November 2019 to January 2020 and the number one spot on iTunes SA until the second week of January 2020.
Four months after the song was released, Jerusalema gained platinum status in South Africa while remaining in the top 50 for airplay and streaming. By mid-February Master KG had bookings to perform in Spain and Paris.
On 22 February, Master KG shared the first international video he remembers being tagged in, with what would become the #JerusalemaDanceChallenge by a group from Angola. Over the next 90 days, the challenge would spread all over the world.
“I decided I didn’t want to let the song fade away”. So he reached out to Nigerian superstar Burna Boy, who in 2019 released the Grammy-nominated album, African Giant. “I had always wanted to work with Burna because I’m a big fan of his work. Luckily he knew my work and liked Skeleton Move, which had been popular in Nigeria, so when I reached out he was keen.”
The Jerusalema remix with Burna Boy is released on 19 June 2020. So keen was the African Giant that Master KG says Burna Boy sent back his vocals within 24 hours of having received everything from him. Burna’s first take was the perfect take and was ultimately the version that was released.
Master KG’s Twitter follower account breached the million mark within a matter of weeks, encouraging him to become more active on the platform. “I wasn’t on Twitter really, I was more a Facebook and Instagram person but now I am on there everyday sharing videos.”
On 27 July 2020, Minister Nathi Mthethwa of the Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation appointed Master KG and Nomcebo a prestigious position as South Africa’s arts and culture ambassadors to the world. “I feel that this is one of the biggest opportunities I’ve ever been given and the reason is the song. It’s an opportunity to show what your country can do and I can’t wait to go out and represent.”
Yet when the South African Music Awards announced the nominees for the Record of the Year, Jerusalema was glaringly absent. This earned the ire of fans and other artists alike. Ahead of the ceremony in early August, Black Coffee went as far as suggesting that the awards include the song.
While Master KG was gracious in congratulating the nominees, he admits that he was disappointed, saying, “With Skeleton Move I thought I would get a nod at the SAMAs because it was my first time and I had gotten the Song of the Summer that year, but I got nothing. Best Newcomer, best whatever, Best Collaboration – nothing at all and that’s where it hurt me the most.”
By mid-August, Jerusalema was number 1 on iTunes in 10 countries including South Africa. The other nine were Belgium, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Grenada, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Switzerland and France where the remix has been certified gold. The song was also in the top 10 in countries such as Germany, Uganda, Spain, Oman and the Netherlands.
On the African continent Master KG is Spotify’s third most listened to artist, behind Burna Boy and Mr Eazi.
During his address on 16 September 2020, when he informed the country about the move to level 1 of the lockdown, President Cyril Ramaphosa urged citizens to take part in the Jerusalema Challenge saying:
While he can’t divulge details, Master KG says the global phenomenon of Jerusalema has opened numerous doors for him. “I don’t want to pressurise myself by saying I want to break the Jerusalema records because it did crazy records, but I just want to keep making music.”
This is an edited version of an article that was first published by New Frame