‘I can handle fame’ – Owami Mafokate on dropping her first single

Owami Mafokate. (Photo: Fani Mahuntsi)
Owami Mafokate. (Photo: Fani Mahuntsi)

Johannesburg - Her father is known as the kwaito king and her mother is a singer with considerable talent. Her older brother is also musical so it’s no surprise she’s been bit by the music bug.

Owami Mafokate recently made her TV debut spinning the decks and the 16-year-old has been riding a wave of popularity ever since.

Surprisingly it’s not her father, Arthur Mafokate, or her mom, Abashante singer Queen Sesoko, who has mentored her.

It’s big brother Arthur Jnr, a music producer and DJ, who showed his little sister the ropes.

It was at his insistence that her DJ skills were shared with the nation when she performed live on YoTV.

“I had been practising in my bedroom for a few weeks and then he came and told me about the chance to DJ on the show,” Owami tells DRUM.

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She didn’t feel ready but with her brother’s encouragement she made a spectacular debut.

AJ, as Arthur Jnr is known, admits he pushed his little sister to do the show because he believed she was ready for a big stage.

“It was the first time people could actually criticise what she was doing as it was the first time she performed in front of a big crowd,” he says.

“She did really well even though it was nerve-wracking. We were all excited, she was trending and it was great for her.”

Yet her dad had mixed feelings. “I must admit I am really panicking,” he posted on Instagram after Owami’s TV debut, saying they never imagined she’d be performing at this stage of her life.

“We pray Lord that you protect this child. All we can pray for is guidance and protection for her Dear Lord.”

AJ will be working with Owami to polish her technique as she gears up to perform at musical festivals and release her debut single.

Despite her famous family, Owami is determined to make her own way in the industry. “It is an advantage to have the Mafokate name,” she admits. “But for now I’m working hard so I can be successful in my own right.”

 Owami, a Grade 11 pupil at Beaulieu College in Kyalami, was 13 years old when she discovered her passion for music and decided to learn DJing from AJ. She wasn’t especially interested in the music business before then, she says. In fact she wanted to be a businesswoman.

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But she drifted away from the turntables and returned to her other interests, including dancing and singing.

It wasn’t until this year’s winter school holidays that she got back into it.

“I remember telling my friends before the holidays that I wanted something to keep me busy because they were going to America and other places on holiday.”

It was then that she decided to try DJing again.

Arthur was reluctant to see his oldest daughter try to break into the industry.

“When she told us this is what she wanted to do it was scary and exciting.

“We thought her mother wouldn’t approve as we had both wanted her to finish matric before trying to break into the music business. But as believers we are directed by God – and now we find ourselves here,” he says.

But Owami still sees it as a hobby and her main focus is her education. She’s finding her penultimate year of school difficult, she says. “It’s preparing you for matric so there is a lot of work, learning and studying.”

One of her favourite subjects is business. The other is engineering graphics and design, which allows her to explore her other passion – fashion.

As part of a school project she and two friends, Hali Lawal (17) and Litha Pezisa (16), were challenged to come up with a business idea.

The group designed caps, beanies, hoodies and headbands that were so popular they created the Hermosa clothing line and a website through which their range is sold.

They’ve since added a fourth business partner, Lethabo Ramatshila-Mugeri (16), and are preparing their next range.

While it’s her music skills getting all the attention, in the long-term Owami sees herself doing more behind-the-scenes work.

“I want to be a producer. I want to edit videos. I want to own a record label.”

And Arthur – who she says she can come to him for anything – should probably get used to the name Mafokate being increasingly associated with his daughter.

Owami wants her career to reach the point where people will say,

“That’s Owami’s dad, Arthur.”

The teenager’s rise to stardom has been welcomed by everyone in her family, even if it has put pressure on her 13-year-old sister, Kelello.

Kelello describes her sister as “funny and crazy”. “With Owami you never know what to expect.”

But now the heat is on for her to do well too. “Her success has put pressure on me to be someone,” the Grade 8 learner says. “And that’s scary because I don’t know what I want to do yet,” she says.

Arthur, who’s also dad to five-year-old Onalenna, just wants Owami to embrace the three key elements of success that his parents, Enos and Grace, taught him.

“She must have discipline, hard work and perseverance, and that is not something that applies only to her career but to everything she does in life.”

While school books and assignments are Owami’s immediate responsibilities, there are charts to conquer as she gears up for the release of her debut single.

She’s teamed up with former Jamali singer Liesl for thumping dance track Hold Us Down.

The single’s release is a dream come true for her and while she hasn’t nailed down a specific genre she wants to focus on, fans can look forward to hearing a little bit of everything from her because “music is music and it makes everyone feel good”.

She’s also ready for the fame that will undoubtedly come with her growing talent.

“My dad has been preparing me and telling me what to expect, so I can handle it.”

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