On: Khuli Chana

On: Khuli Chana

Khuli Chana and I are sitting on the deck of a restaurant at an estate which he calls home. The musician who was born Khulani Morule is wearing a denim jumpsuit and Timbs. It’s a contrasting look to the slacks and pointy shoes sported by the players on the golf course which sprawls beyond where our eyes can see.

The multi-award-winning Motswako artist is trying to not spill the beans about what he’s been filming with the adult beverage brand, Absolut. All he’s willing to say is: “The announcement is happening on August 1. It’s quite big. It’s in connection with my next album.”

I tell the artist who broke into the scene as a third of trailblazing group, Morafe, that after the past few years he’s had, I’m glad there is a third solo album on the way.

“Geez,” he pauses to smile broadly before emphasising the next word, “I’m glad new music is coming. You don’t know how tough it has been.

“I think some people know how to channel the drama into their music. That’s a great skill to have. MaBrrr did it very well. AKA does it very well. Eminem did it very well. I had drama and maybe realised it was time to just stop. I’d been running so long I’d become a machine.”

The Respek rapper recalls a time when he had a double booking in two different cities and his manager, Refiloe Ramogase, had instructed the promoters to book him a private jet.

“That’s that moment when you’re supposed to feel like, ‘I’m a boss now’. But I remember feeling like: there’s just got to be more. There’s something I’m not doing. And I know it’s beyond going on stage and saying: ‘When I say Chana, you say power’.

“In our line of business, it feels like you need to stay young forever, but there comes a point when you have to grow. Sometimes it’s about finding yourself and understanding there’s so much more to life than this fame or buzz or money.”

He found this out while riding the wave of his second album, Lost In Time. In 2013, it made history by becoming the first hip hop album to win the Album of the Year South African Music Award.

That year, Khuli was gigging more than ever. He was about to become a new father. And then, after stopping at a garage for coffee on the way to a club performance, pah! Khuli was shot by members of the nation’s police force and “got the longest break ever”.

“There were no are you ready for…’ No interviews. None of that. That’s when I realised that was the longest I had been home. Just engaging with family. I’d become so disconnected from everybody so that (break was) what I appreciated more from that whole saga.”

He interrupts his train of thought and looks out onto the greens.

“Then again, it came with a lot of other bullsh*t; it created these mental blocks. I didn’t realise it for the longest time and Refiloe was the one who spotted it. The drive wasn’t the same. The fearlessness that I’d had wasn’t quite there. Now you second-guess every move that you make.

“I think I was struggling with the fact that I was never going to be the same after the shooting and I still wanted to be the same guy.

“I didn’t want people to go: ‘Shame, this guy got shot’. It was tough. Very, very tough. I was literally bullsh*tting myself.”

Just how tough it got is profiled in a documentary called Khuli Chana: Picking Up the Pieces, which is set for release at Ster-Kinekor next month.

This month, members of the media were treated to a preview of the film that is also produced by Khuli’s life partner and TV personality, Asanda Maku.

The doccie chronicles Khuli’s rise and career peak in 2013. Split into two halves, it gives the viewer a detailed look at what happened leading up to and the aftermath of Khuli being shot multiple times. This is supported by testimonies from family, friends and colleagues.

The second half sees his lawyer dissect the case, which dragged on for two years when the police soon charged Khuli with attempted murder. There’s also commentary from crime reporter, Karyn Maughan.

“It was important that you get the perspective from the lawyer, Daniel Witz, who deals with the law,” Khuli told me. “Karyn, who has been very supportive from the beginning, is the one who exposed the cops.”

But, he is quick to confess: “I don’t want this to be a Khuli versus SAPS story.”

Towards the end of the doccie, Khuli wonders aloud: “The question is: why did you survive? And the pressure is: who am I supposed to be now?” I ask him if he, unlike Sway, has the answers yet.

“Honestly, I’m still on that journey,” he shares. “I never thought there would be life after the buzz, because I remember when so-and-so was big. So I thought there was a ceiling and once you reach it, you start to self-destruct. I discovered life after a buzz and this is where I’m at. Now let’s do something more meaningful this time around.”

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