In The Limelight: Cape Town based rapper and singer, Jerome Rex talks about his work and influences and navigating creative life during Corona
|Who: Jerome Rex Country: Cape Town, South Africa Genre: Rapper, singer Latest project: Online concert, Locally Produced, Jan 15, 2021, via Quicket New album: Scheduled for release in 2021|
Jerome Rex tends to be tagged a rapper but, it is not about the label. It is about the music: “I just call them songs. My audience knows that sometimes I rap, sometimes I sing, and sometimes I do both, so in order to distinguish them I might say ‘this is a rap song’ or ‘I’m singing this new song’. Ultimately I’m not precious about what they should be called or what other people call them, as long as they enjoy the music.” This award winning artist draws from multiple genres –including Motown, Ghoema [heritage music of the Cape]. In April 2019, Rex received two awards at the Ghoema Awards. Despite its name, this is a music award ceremony that honours Afrikaans music of all genres. It incorrect to box Rex in as a ‘ghoema artist.’ He says: “My own music isn’t overtly ghoema music, although it has direct and indirect influences.” Rex been influenced by singers such as Al Jareau. His iconic tribute album, Al Jerome, “honours the music and legacy of Al Jarreau”. The songs sample the music of Al Jarreau, with original lyrics by Rex. A new album, ALL Jerome is scheduled for release this year  – remixed without the Al Jarreau samples. Watch out for this highly anticipated album. Click in to the digital stage on January 15, 2021, to catch Jerome Rex and friends in concert with Locally Produced. The comments bar will be enabled. Rex says: “Please comment and let us know what you think of the show. I value audience feedback and would love to hear from the viewers.” Watch this space for news about this exciting and innovative artist. Read on for the full interview with this creative who brings incredible artistry to his music by drawing on heritage and contemporary motifs, sounds and images.
TheCapeRobyn: First up, let’s talk about the streamed concert, Locally Produced, streaming on January 15, 2021?
Jerome Rex: Locally Produced is an all-star production with some of the best musos I could find. The show is opened by none other than Grandmaster DJ Ready D, who will play us in with a high energy set to get our audience in a party mood. The band and I explore a range of genres – you can expect some funk, jazz, R&B, soul, folk and hip hop with flavours from the 80s right up till the present era. I also have cameo appearances by Rouchelle Liedeman and Gracia Nicholls. It’s Afrikaans, it’s English, it’s reflective; it’s a jol.
TheCapeRobyn: How do you work when you develop a show? Do you present the artists with the material and they perform or do you collaborate with the other artists, fine tuning your material and adding in from them as they play with you?
Jerome Rex: The answer is yes to both. I have a great working relationship with the band (DJ Eazy, Bradrock, Micabyte, Eddy Strings and Robin Thompson) and we all have such chemistry that working together has become very organic, collaborative and fun. I typically share a ‘first draft’ selection of songs with the members, and they may have some input at that point depending on the level of difficulty and available rehearsal time. Once we start rehearsing, everyone is free to make suggestions and contribute ideas to make the arrangement better. I like creating moments to make each song memorable. The idea isn’t to slavishly copy the recording, and we must have fun in rehearsal and on stage.
TheCapeRobyn: Was the material for Locally Produced, written/conceived/arranged during the last year or does the show include previous compositions?
Jerome Rex: While the show was conceived and crafted during lockdown, all the songs weren’t written during this period. I’ll be performing my most requested songs, which have been loosely arranged in chronological order to support the story telling .I’m particularly excited to share some brand new material which nobody has heard yet. So the journey covers the very old, the brand new, and touches on highlights in between.
TheCapeRobyn: How long is Locally Produced?
Jerome Rex: The show is 90 minutes and the production team has taken great care to create a varied structure so the entire duration stays interesting for our viewers
TheCapeRobyn: Locally Produced is a big show – seven on stage. Do you have funders on board?
Jerome Rex: Yes I do. The show is partly funded by Concerts SA. The balance is self-funded either directly by me, or indirectly through trade exchanges and partnerships.
TheCapeRobyn: Where are you filming the show from- studio or theatre? Will you have a socially distanced audience to provide gees?
Jerome Rex: With the rate at which regulations change this has been a difficult question to answer. The venue can accommodate an audience, and first prize would be to have the cast’s immediate families in attendance. I also run a Patreon channel which offers exclusive content to subscribers in exchange for a monthly subscription fee. It would be amazing to spoil my patrons by having them in the building as well. My decision will be based not just on the regulations at the time, but also on what I believe would be responsible given the prevailing social climate.
TheCapeRobyn: When the show goes out as a live stream, will the comments bar be enabled so that the audience can comment on the show?
Jerome Rex: Yes. Please comment and let us know what you think of the show. I value audience feedback and would love to hear from the viewers.
TheCapeRobyn: How do you term your work – songs? Compositions? Rap numbers?
Jerome Rex: I just call them songs. My audience knows that sometimes I rap, sometimes I sing, and sometimes I do both, so in order to distinguish them I might say ‘this is a rap song’ or ‘I’m singing this new song’. Ultimately I’m not precious about what they should be called or what other people call them, as long as they enjoy the music.
TheCapeRobyn: Do you write all your own material and riff off existing material- ie covers?
Jerome Rex: My early song writing years were spent immersed in hip hop culture and not much else, and it was a matter of great pride that all your lyrics are self-written. This habit persisted when I started creating music that draws from other genres, so all my lyrics are written by me. That being said, I do enjoy covering the music of artists who’ve inspired me. When you sing Stevie Wonder or Mynie Grové it gives you a very different appreciation of their genius, and I believe those learnings make me a better artist.
TheCapeRobyn: It is said that you fuse “classical Motown sounds with neo-soul and rap to create a sound that reflects the cultural melting pot that is Cape Town.” Can you elaborate please- in relation to Ghoema music. You received two Ghoema Awards in April 2019 in Johannesburg. Please comment on the influences of Motown with Ghoema and hip hop?
I’ll answer the two parts of this question separately: The Ghoema Awards: I was nominated for two awards and won the one I really wanted, which was Afrikaans Hip Hop Album of the Year. The Ghoema Awards operate similarly to the SAMAs, but focus exclusively on Afrikaans music. The awards have historically had very little to do with ghoema as a music and as a culture, and in recent years great strides have been made in terms of diversity and inclusivity. Myself and others have benefited from this progress and I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had as a result. My own music isn’t overtly ghoema music, although it has direct and indirect influences.
Ghoema Music- is commonly associated with the Cape minstrels, and for me is an inseparable part Cape culture and heritage. The music draws influence from Dutch, Malaysian and Khoi culture and is a bold celebration of who we are as Capetonians. The obvious draw of ghoema music is its rhythms. There is something tribal about the rhythm of the ghoema drum that speaks to your heart and makes you need to move your feet. I’m increasingly drawing inspiration from these rhythms and incorporating them into my music. I also draw inspiration and influence from this heritage by writing my songs in Afrikaans. I’m happy to be part of a nationwide movement of rappers, poets and singers who play a role in perfecting and advancing what can be done with Afrikaans music.
TheCapeRobyn: Rapping interfaces with the culture of hip hop in Cape Town, but your music also interfaces with heritage Cape Town music and then there is the Motown. Can you reflect as to how these genres/cultural and music traditions are brought together in your work?
Jerome Rex: I love the Motown sound and am mostly inspired by the versatility of application that it offers. You listen to this music while you’re driving; while you’re cleaning the house, having dinner with your partner, around the braai with friends. It is music that somehow works in any context and has demonstrated amazing longevity. These are things I aspire to in my own music. My song writing is Capetonian, because I’m Capetonian. Again when referencing the minstrels, they write comical songs or ‘moppies’ which are often set to the melody of popular contemporary music. Even though my sound is influenced by a wide range of genres and styles, the music is written from my authentically Capetonian perspective which makes it relatable to the South African listener.
TheCapeRobyn: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
Jerome Rex: My early years were spent growing up in Elsies River, but I’ve lived in Kuils River for my entire school career and adult life. Kuils River has produced some of the top dancers, musicians and DJs in the world, and I’m very proud of this history.
TheCapeRobyn: Tell us about your musical journey?
Jerome Rex: My parents are definitely responsible for my love for music. There was always music playing in the house, and my mom and dad were always singing. Later I started singing in church and got involved in the choir. This influence is still evident in the vocal arrangements of my songs, which I arrange and sing myself. My love for choral music eventually turned me on to Cape Malay music, specifically the ‘ouliedere’ or ‘lietjies’. These songs were often written in Dutch but the storytelling and style they are sung in is unique to Cape culture. Coming from a town that is known for its contribution to hip hop culture it was inevitable that I’d eventually be exposed to all its forms – breakdancing, graffiti art, DJing and emceeing (rapping). Most of us couldn’t afford spray cans or DJ equipment, so we mostly expressed ourselves through dance and writing lyrics.
TheCapeRobyn: Did you study music formally at a tertiary institution?
Jerome Rex: I have no formal music schooling at a tertiary institution. I’ve been learning guitar since forever because I keep taking lessons, but never practice enough to actually get better. I’ve also enrolled for music production classes on a few occasions, to help me better understand the job of the producer and engineer. It also makes communication easier because I can speak the same language.
TheCapeRobyn: When did you go professional?
Jerome Rex: I started seriously pursuing a career in music from 2012. Prior to that I’d performed on stages and recorded music, but my approach to it was more as a hobby.
TheCapeRobyn: You are married with children? It must have been tough to navigate this year of Covid –as a performing artist and with family responsibilities?
Jerome Rex: I’m a husband and father of two girls, aged 10 and 12, and we just got our first puppy because who needs sleep. Even without the added challenges of lockdown, my experience is that it’s tough for any performing artist to manage a home as well as a creative enterprise. I was fortunate to have a 9-5 job during lockdown. My day job doesn’t fund my music, so I had to be creative in order to keep my music self-sustaining. I did a few song writing commissions, some graphic design work, and I started the Patreon page I mentioned earlier. My Patreon subscribers are my own private tribe of VIPs who I share exclusive content with that doesn’t go on my social media. This is a subscription service, and their monthly contributions helped me finish a song every month. I could also produce and sell merchandise, mostly branded t-shirts.
TheCapeRobyn: Can you talk about projects that you have been involved with, since lockdown March 26 – solo and/or collaborative?
Jerome Rex: Since the middle of last year I’ve finished an original song every month, which is exclusively available to my patrons. I collaborated with friends to record some covers for social media. There’s more, but you get the idea – I’ve been busy:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2t3KBF32MP4&list=PLivlJZDnbl3V4O_L2Z-F42t1GdZ9g4Bej&index=4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UoaGXQiP6U&list=PLivlJZDnbl3V4O_L2Z-F42t1GdZ9g4Bej&index=5 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eoa9kX7K53E&list=PLivlJZDnbl3V4O_L2Z-F42t1GdZ9g4Bej&index=6
I recorded the song Good Friday with DJ Eazy, which is a protest song talking about the death of Collins Khoza during lockdown in April 2020 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5OYDcsS-B8
I also contributed to a PSA-style song for KykNet called Keep Your Distance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sgejsR497-k
My newest initiative is my podcast, Make Art with Jerome Rex, where I ask my network of creative entrepreneurs to share their stories of success (and failure) in hopes of inspiring others to pursue their creative passions. https://feeds.buzzsprout.com/1421938.rss
TheCapeRobyn: Can you talk about any projects which are on the cards for 2021?
Jerome Rex: Since this is my very first online show, I’m very keen to find out if it’s a viable option for me to keep producing these. Based on how Locally Produced does, I’d love to produce other online shows in 2021, with the focus on a different theme or genre for each one. I’m working on an EP with DJ Eazy, which is a compilation of every song we’ve done together as well as some new music. We’d love to tour with this project, but it’s of course dependent on the restrictions at the time.
TheCapeRobyn: How many albums have you made – in addition to AL Jerome? Any other albums on the way?
Jerome Rex: Al Jerome is a tribute album that honours the music and legacy of Al Jarreau. The songs all sample the music of Al Jarreau, to which I’ve written my own original lyrics. My debut solo album, Jerome en Geselskap, came out in December 2013. In 2017 I released Fynskrif, a 6-track EP. Both projects are available on all streaming services as well as YouTube. I’m working on a new album, and would also like to release ALL Jerome this year. ALL Jerome is the music of Al Jerome, but remixed without the Al Jarreau samples so that everything is 100% original and I can release it commercially.
TheCapeRobyn: You sing predominantly in Afrikaans. Do you or could you add subtitles so people out of SA, can access your work?
Jerome Rex. My music is predominantly in Afrikaans, but not exclusively so. My English-speaking audiences typically listen to the English stuff, and enjoy the musicality of the Afrikaans songs. I’ve not created videos with subtitles yet, but intend to do so over the coming months.
TheCapeRobyn: Events, concerts may have been put on pause but you are upbeat in terms of what is ahead?
Jerome Rex: For creatives, the world over, this is an unbelievably trying time. Some US estimates are that up to 50% of artists will never return to full-time creative work. I say this to show that I’m not under any delusions about how cruel and difficult a time we live in. At the same time, I fully believe that we are being presented with opportunities on a scale that’s never been seen before. The gig economy as we know it is flawed and outdated. I’m convinced that we’ll see the next major innovation in our time, that will allow career creatives to thrive and build sustainable businesses for themselves. In South Africa, online streaming of shows and subscription services like Patreon and Mixcloud are our first tentative steps into this new world, but I am expectant that a truly disruptive, game-changing innovation will emerge in this time because the climate is ripe for it. I’d love to be the one who comes up with this idea but, even if I’m not, I hope I’m at the forefront when it comes. As an independent artist, I want to encourage my fellow indies to resist trying to emulate how the major labels operate. We can’t match their resources and their strategies, and need a model that suits our own businesses, while still being competitive. When I say the future looks bright for artists it’s not out of denialism, but because I genuinely see possibilities for those of us who are committed to the cause.
|Jerome Rex on social media |
To buy tickets, for Locally Produced, click: https://www.quicket.co.za/events/123290-jerome-rex-presents-locally-produced/#/
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