A Day with Beat Maker Oudskul
An Artist Profile written by Russell Grant:
Listen while you read: soundcloud.com/oudskul
I met up with Oudskul, real name Njabulo Nzuza, on a sunny day at his home in Waterloo, near Verulam in Durban. He lives at the bottom of a steep hill, in a tiny wendy-house he has nicknamed ‘The Mellow Room’. A couple friends are hanging out, listening to Oudskul’s beats, texting and occasionally getting up to spit an impromptu rhyme over something Oudskul is working on.
I had planned to spend the day with Oudskul, get to know his routine a little bit, photograph him, and eventually conduct an interview, but the dude is so enthusiastic about his work that he immediately starts plying me with information before I even have a chance to fish my pen and notebook out from my bag. I scribble furiously as he shows me, and explains, the three latest projects he is working on. One of these is a collaboration with Khauhelo Sefadi, a poet from Potchefstroom, who recently came to do a book swap activation at his home, and the other is for a French guy by the name of Diran, who he met when the Frenchman was travelling around South Africa doing field recordings of traditional singing and chants. The two linked up and Oudskul is now working on flipping those recordings into beats for the Frenchman.
It should be pretty clear from this that Oudskul is the type of guy who enjoys working with others. In our discussions prior to the interview, I asked Oudskul to send me some names of some people he has worked with, and he managed, just off the top of his head, to give me close to a hundred names.
The man is nothing if not prolific, and has been a feature on the Durban music scene for a while now. He is always popping up on stage, whether it be drumming for indie-rock outfit Common Creatives or his own band called Existing Consciousness, or DJing for hip-hop artists, or doing backing vocals for another, Oudskul always seems to be involved in some way in just about everything that comes out of Durban these days. “I guess music is in my blood”, Oudskul tells me, making reference to the fact that both of his parents were musicians.
What really sets Oudskul apart, however, is his unrelenting need to work and collaborate with other people.
I try to dig into exactly what makes Oudskul such a fan of working with others. “Because I can’t do it alone”, he tells me. “It’s not that I’m incapable, but I feel like it should involve everybody”. He’s talking here about the creative process and about making art in general. “I see it as a global thing. It should involve everybody, not just your family or friends or people in your community, but everybody around the world”.
Indeed, Oudskul has worked with people abroad, such as the aforementioned Frenchman, Diran, as well as another woman whose name he doesn’t give me, from Toronto, who found Oudskul on Soundcloud and asked him to produce some beats for her, as well as American outfit Holy Smokes & the Godforsaken Rollers. “Collaboration helps me to grow, and it helps me have an input in their lives.”
Oudskul is clearly a guy who is into sharing. He has a need to share what he knows with others, to show people his work, and to talk about his work. He also has a deep curiosity about the world around him. I ask him if there’s anyone he wouldn’t work with, and he says no, “I wanna work with everyone, man. I wanna learn about how things are done, and to just grow”.
Recently, Oudskul has positioned his ‘Mellow Room’ as something of an open house in the community.
“I’ve had just about everybody come through to my spot” he says. “You get guys coming from all around the community who’ve heard my beats and want me to help them arrange something. On weekends I’ve started holding cyphers and poetry and painting sessions, as well as beat-making sessions, for a lot of the kids in the area, and you get all types showing up”. One of those kids shows up with a skateboard a few minutes into our interview and sits on the bed and plays GTA while we talk. We leave for a few minutes to take photos and when we return the kid is on Oudskul’s computer making a beat. Oudskul saves the file for him and we go back to chatting, while the kid reads a magazine.
For Oudskul, creativity and collaboration are as natural as eating and breathing. He tells me a bit about his routine, and basically, if he doesn’t have a client or something coming through for the day, he’ll wake up and immediately start making a beat, pouring whatever emotion or idea he had in his sleep into his computer.
It doesn’t seem to cross his mind that being so productive and so focussed all the time might be unusual. He also doesn’t need any justification for doing what he does. “Some people have diaries”, he says, “I have beats and instrumental music”. The creative process is simply an extension of himself, as well as his undying need to share and learn from others. He does it for no other reason than that it is what is natural to him.
While we’re talking, Oudskul is showing me some of his gear. I mess around a bit on the keys and all of a sudden his interest piques, “we have to record that, man.” And so we do. And then we just start working on it while we’re talking, and in a very short space of time, I, too, have my first collaboration with Oudskul. Before I leave he promises to mix it down and send it to me. In no time I’m planning a few sessions with him and just like that, a new project emerges. This is how natural all of this is for Oudskul, and a pretty good demonstration of the fact that he is never switched off when it comes to music. He is always aware of what he’s hearing, and just about anything in the world can become a song for him.
What we have on our hands here is an artist of the most natural type, for whom creativity is simply an extension of the self.
Photographs by Russell Grant.
Article produced exclusively for The Jameson INDIE Channel by Platform Magazine Content Network.