One on One with Oscar Mbo

One on One with Oscar Mbo

Pu Yi

The New School King. We sit down with the Groovist and get to know him a little better.

"The best way to predict your future, it's to create it," said Abraham Lincoln.

Preparing for tomorrow solely depends on actions taken daily and one's mindset. From an early age, Oscar Mbo seemed to have grasped that concept, be him wanting to be a soccer player or be part of the music business, he understood great things are achieved through having a vision and accomplishing daily goals.  

Oscar Mbongeni Ndlovu (Oscar Mbo's real name) is from Kriel, a small mining town in the Mpumalanga province. He is a Diesel ambassador, DJ, owner of The Ashmed Hour Records (home of Judy Jay, Griffith Malo and Deep Essentials), events coordinator and runs The Ashmed Hour podcast.

He grew-up hoping to be a soccer player. Through his father, a taxi owner, who's a huge fan of soccer, Oscar would analyse the leagues; how they worked, players' professionalism and read soccer magazines. This facet inspired how he deals with his businesses.

Pu Yi: I'd like to begin from the point where I first met you. You were starting The Ashmed Hour live sessions, on a Thursday, in Mpumalanga's Junxion Lifestyle. I was impressed by how you approached things, you asked for an invoice, something we're hardly requested for in the entertainment industry. 

How did you get to doing things on a professional scale?

Oscar Mbo: I always tell people my quality of life is based on a number of things, not only one. For instance, we're going to talk about my music career, which is music based, but there's a lot of stuff I learnt from other aspects, like football. Which played a huge role in my upbringing. I-taima lami loves football, even manje. He used to watch soccer, that's how I knew all these legends, abo-Paul Scholes, abo-Beckham, Jaap Stam, from a very young age. I obviously fell inlove with the whole football system.            

I followed it, read about it, and then invested into TV games and Playstations based on football. When you get in those things, you learn their terminology, i-approach, you know. For instance, football also taught me the mistakes, as a black society, that we do, which affect i-career yomuntu in a long term, opposed to other races. Ungasho ukuthi whites, because overseas' football is dominated by white people.  

One of the things I noticed, white people get into football in an early age, when they get promoted to the senior team, automatically that person gets married... you know. And i-quality of life yakhe is very different compared to umuntu omnyama who isn't married and is in South Africa or anywhere in the world, because of different dynamics, which aren't spoken of.

I realised I can apply this to my personal life and music career to try avoid certain situations for myself or whoever that'd be coming behind me, whether it's a friend, colleague or my son.    

So, when it comes to professionalism, learning about it isn't based on the music scene, but things like football, because I want to be categorised as a person who has order; umuntu okwazi ukwenza izinto ngendlela. The very least, that thing will keep me around for long and it'll make people I've relationships with to value me because we're talking paper trails, we're talking approach, business mindsets, you know. And which might prolong izinto way more further. So, it's not even something I learnt specifically from music or a book about the music business.

But, I've a concept, a mndset, that I've seen too many talented people do mistakes. Great amazing talent, who are doing tiny mistakes affecting their brand overall and I don't wanna be that person as well.         

Oscar's father would drive soccer teams to Jozi for soccer kits and matches, then buy him professional soccer balls. That enticed his love for the game deeper.

In Grade 9, playing for his school, Oscar Mbo was scouted by Moroka Swallows, unfortunately his mother felt he was too young and his dreams to be a soccer star vanished.  But, this happened at a time where the soccer culture was fading out in Kriel.

Mpumalanga Black Aces Football Club (now bought and named Cape Town City F.C), which had been the driving force behing kids inspiring to be soccer players, became Polokwane based. Also, one of their success stories, Mandla Masango, a football winger, left for Kaizer Chiefs. All of this negatively impacted the small town. Others dove into alcohol for their coping mechanisms and for Oscar, a new leaf was about to turn.

In 2009, as he was moving on from the disappointment of being a soccer player, he began searching for a career replacement. Kriel didn't offer much. Working in the mines was popular amongst his peers, it paid well and families were fed, but it didn't resonate with him. He just knew survival takes a priority and opted to register for a Occupational Health & Safety Degree at The University of South Africa (UNISA).

Around this time, a few neighbours were getting into deejaying and they'd come to Oscar for music. 

Oscar Mbo: I was a guy who was always home, a gadget boy, you know. I was the last born and my older siblings had left home. In my room there was a PC, a Playstation, there was stuff, DSTV. So, I really loved being home. I wasn't big on friendships.

So, in my Matric year, I started being active, interviewing people. And I got to talk about lento yobu-DJ. So, I used to assist a lot of DJ friends with music 'cause I used to collect, although I wasn't a DJ. A lot of DJ's in my home town got music from me. Come through to burn ama-CD.

I was way in, deep into music stores, without being a DJ, because of the time that I had and access to the internet.    

Pu Yi: When you say you were deep in, are you referring to Traxsource, Beatport, those type of sites?

Oscar Mbo: Yeah, definitely, you know. How I got into that, like weekly I'd go with my mom to buy music, gospel, buy different music for my dad to play for abantu while travelling. So, I'd dig into genres, mfwethu. I was a compiler.    

Pu Yi: So, music is something that was played ekhaya, i-taima ne-o'lady...

Oscar Mbo: My sister and brother, yeah. Bonke were coming through with different dynamics. My sister was deep into R&B. She used to buy those school books...     

Pu Yi: To write lyrics? 

Oscar Mbo: Yes. My brother was into hip hop and kwaito, that's how I got the resemblance of how sampling works because when I listened to R&B and hip hop, that's how I'd discover how kwaito was given birth. Bengizwa ukuthi hhayi, man, lona usebenzise ingoma ka lo, but I didn't know it was called "sampling". 

That's why it was easy for me to fall inlove with kwaito, because I know where it originates. How TKZee, abo-Kabelo, would steal stuff and come back and do it their different way. Creatively, so, not stealing in a bad way. Just how they took the inspiration, you know. 

His mother loved gospel music, while the dad enjoyed country more.

Seeing that Oscar was good at discovering music and music compiling, more DJ's burned CD's at his house. One of the guys offered to teach him, still reluctant about chasing artistic careers, Oscar turned down the offer, at first.

The DJ didn't give-up and finally Oscar Mbo agreed, not knowing the DJ bug will bite him. For two weeks, they'd practise, giving in hours after hours using Stanton C.313's and his passion kept burning daily. 

After passing Matric, his parents asked what he wanted as a reward between money and a car, the star to be chose money. His mind was set and that once dimmed fire became alight, as he bought DJ equipment and a sound system with the dough. 

That young Oscar came alive as a new journey began.  

The second step he took towards building a name for himself was in 2010, where he began playing at functions, like weddings, one man. From 6 to 8 hours he'd entertain attendees, packing and unpacking the system, and carrying it alone. This phase instilled in him independence.

Golden Boys Entertainment would be one of his entities, organising events in Kriel, his home town and surrounding areas. Between 2010 and 2011, The Ashmed Hour podcast (currently with 6000 followers and +50000 plays on average on podomatic) started, inspired by Lars Behrenroth's Deeper Shades Of House and Jimpster & Matt Masters Freerange Records Podcast.  

Pu Yi: The moment you tuned into this mode of being in the music business, how did you get the mindset of achieving the steps you've taken?

Oscar Mbo: What really inspired me back then worked-out, specifically Jimpster and Matt Masters from Freerange Records. I asked myself, what's different in what they're doing compared to me? I'd check them and find-out they're doing podcasts, and I'd want to do them, too. That became my vision, they inspired me, because they used their platform to showcase their own music.    

I thought that was smart, you know, and it made sense, because you creating your own audience. That's how it really happened and then I was like, this is what I'd do. I wanna be in the music business and I wanna have this label one day that's gonna be able to be a bridge for talented people, but don't have the time or specific mindset for paperwork, admin, direction, research, you know.              

I wanted to be that gap. Also at the time, there were many issues with many artists, who were upcoming at that time, who had issues with labels from overseas. There'd drop music, but wouldn't know how much they made.

Pu Yi: And you know, we take that as a norm these days. That, if you get into the music business, be ready to be ripped-off.  I don't understand it. 

Oscar Mbo: That was normalised. I'd ask myself, how could you trust someone who's far from you? So, it has always been a thing that at some point, we need to run our labels, but what also hit me was, the type of music that I do or love, you know, doesn't have a good business direction. All the South African record labels were doing radio music, the commercial stuff, you know.

I always asked myself, is it gonna be worth it? Is it gonna be possible?

Labels like House Afrika, Soul Candi to be specific, gave me that hope. I saw people like DJ Whiskey, who blew in-front of my face, doing big stages like Spring Fiesta. Now, he's able to buy himself a car. Cats like Cuebur, you know, many people, who were from my area growing. It's much possible, one day I wanna do this and ten times better.

All I wanted to do was research and learn, ngibe nesibindi because it wouldn't be easy. That much I knew. 

Pu Yi: Labels like DeepForest, didn't they affect your mindset? A lot of things happened with DeepForest and they had signed some artists from Mpumalanga.    

Oscar Mbo: No, it didn't. I'm a person who's in-touch with reality. That's why abantu abaningi, when they chat with me, ask things like, "How to deal with negativity, etc." I'm like, it's reality this thing, you need to understand, whether you know or you heard about it or you didn't see it, it happens. 

So, into efana njengaleyo specific label, where there were hurdles, I realised there's that part of the industry. Also, my biggest thing was learning how to move about from that thing.    

I was studying everyone who was part of that label, all of them. Ngibheka ukuthi lo, from here kuzokwenzakalani ngaye, how do they move, how do they do this. Bonke. That was my thing because I use social media differently. From that time to now, I learn from many people who don't even know my name or who don't even think I think about them. Abantu abaningi get lost to social media, I can literally know you without having a sit-down with you because they don't know how to move about.   

So, I learnt all these things. I saw the brightest artist to be the next biggest thing in two to three years not becoming anything. I saw the biggest talent, brought into the scene, being ripped-off to the highest degree.

I learnt all these things. I was watching. Oh, this you must do, this you mustn't do, this you must avoid, you know. 

Pu Yi: You were making mental notes, not writing down?

Oscar Mbo: Yes, not writing down. Just studying the game.