He’s the music-maker behind big hits from AKA, Kwesta, KiD X and more – but becoming one of Mzansi’s top producers and artists was not an easy journey for Neo Makwa.
The producer, DJ and musician (popularly known as Makwa) fought a hard, lonely battle to get his break in the music business. But he never stopped believing in himself – even when no one else did, not even his mother.
“Honestly, I just love music,” he tells Move!. “I believe in working hard and I believed one day I would make it.”
Born and raised in Katlehong, east of Johannesburg, Makwa started producing music when he was still in high school. After completing matric he studied software development but dropped out during his first year to follow his passion.
“I don’t advise people to drop out of school, but I became very frustrated because it wasn’t my first love,” he says. Coming from a township with a high crime rate, Makwa says he wanted to change the predictable township child story of getting involved in or becoming a victim of crime, drugs, or alcohol. “I didn’t want that to be my story. I have never seen the back of a police van and I have never committed a crime.
“I use music to express my thoughts and hopefully inspire other younger kids,” he says. His mom, Lettie Makwa, was not at all enthusiastic about her son dropping out of college to pursue his musical dreams and he says she was not shy to make her feelings known.
Now though, with a string of hits to his credit – as well as his new SA Hip Hop award for producer of the year – his mom has come around and is supporting his dreams. Makwa says Lettie never watched much TV before, but now “she listens to all my songs and interviews”. “She sees that I have a passion for music and I am grateful for that,” he says.
INTO THE FUTURE
He will always be grateful to Kwesta for giving him the platform to be experienced by an audience. They met in 2013 after Kwesta heard Makwa’s song Intwe Right featuring TLT. “He loved the song so much he hunted me down and found me at my granny’s house in Katlehong,” he says.
Makwa produced Kwesta’s Nomayini and worked on his album DaKAR II. Next year will see the talented artist release a track called Uzondinga with Afro-soul songstress Berita.
“We wrote the song and recorded it on the spot. I thought her voice and the content was a great combination,” he says. The release date will soon be announced. For now, Makwa says there is a lot he is still learning about the industry he loves. “I believe that life is a learning curve.