Maverick Life


Artistic Arsenal — rapper S’bo Gyre on football and scoring creative goals

Artistic Arsenal — rapper S’bo Gyre on football and scoring creative goals
S’bo Gyre performs live. (Photo: Dotnet Photography)

Rapper S’bo Gyre oozes creativity and has been riding a wave of success, releasing new work frequently and showcasing his many talents.

From writing an opera last year to his latest album, Altar Call, Rapper S’bo Gyre is hitting all the right notes. 

When did you first identify as a creative artist?

My whole life, really. I remember, as far back as Grade 1, taking blank pieces of paper just so that I could create books of my own. From there, I began writing songs seriously from the age of 12 and by 18 I had written close to 60 songs – of varying degrees of excellence, to be kind to my younger self, LOL.

These formative years were very important as they allowed me to experiment in different fields, including playwriting and acting. By the time I created my debut album, Queernomics, I had room to experiment. Now, with my sophomore project Altar Call, I am so much more refined, having taken from my classical music, gospel music and many other creative avenues to be who I am now: an entertainment specialist, the jackpot of all trades – S’bo Gyre. It’s safe to say I was born to be an ardent creative.

Outside your medium, what branch of art most stimulates you?

I consider sports to be art, so I am highly stimulated by football. It’s something I have always been passionate about and [I] am privileged to also work in the sports industry. Sport, like art, imitates life.

Also, having grown up an Arsenal fan, I’ve long since adopted the art of football – thanks, Arsène [Wenger, former Arsenal manager] – and now enjoy it. This love manifests itself in writing, which is most likely the core creative skill that underpins my creative output.

Which players have inspired you, and why?

There is a variety, and I’m laughing at the fact that this interview is becoming an ode to my love for football. My earliest hero was the Brazilian Kaká, but it was Mesut Özil who really made me appreciate the art of intention. As a creative player, ingenuity was at the forefront of his game. Now it’s manager Mikel Arteta. I have a book on his rise at Arsenal which I can’t wait to get stuck into. I use his leadership skills to inform how I create high-performance environments in my creative spaces – something I have employed in creating Altar Call.

S’bo Gyre

Style maestro S’bo Gyre. (Photo: Dotnet Photography)

What, to you, is art’s most important function?

Art’s most important function is to imitate life and give humanity a tool to hear, heed and embody the calling for changes we experience in life. That was the basis of how I went about making Altar Call, with it being the first in a trilogy. Altar Call’s specific message is to hear “the calling” to change.

Every step towards this change is a step towards courage. That is the tool in this instance: courage. A virtue that knows no bounds, seen in life experiences yet born out of art.

Local creatives who excite you?

Honestly, I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was myself. In the past year alone I’ve co-written and premiered Nkoli: The Vogue Opera with Philip Miller to five sold-out shows at the Market Theatre. I have been PR lead for the Rugby World Cup, Fifa Women’s World Cup, Chasing the Sun 2 and Premier League 30 Africa XI with SuperSport through my employment at WritersBloc digital marketing agency.

Countless bylines aside, I have now released a sophomore hip-hop project independently. As a black queer man, I believe this ought to be amplified, not just for my growth – I won’t pretend I don’t wish to benefit – but my story can and will shatter many stereotypes and misconceptions of black queer people. And if we queer folk don’t propel ourselves to the forefront, no one will.

That said, my musical director, producer, engineer and co-executive producer, SiyaCee of Audio Addicts, is a maestro! A truly generational talent.

Which albums do you return to again and again, and why?

Sankomota’s Dreams Do Come True is the album of my life. It is the one project I play when I need motivation of any sort. I believe it best encapsulates the breadth of South African musicality in a transcendent way.

I have listed it as one of the three most influential bodies of work that influenced Altar Call, alongside AKA’s Touch My Blood and Mass Country, and Kabelo’s The Bouga Luv Album. But Tsepo Tshola and company are the gold standard.

S’bo Gyre

(Photo: Dotnet Photography)

What do you think of the AI revolution?

For the arts, it is equally exciting as it is terrifying. The fear is based on the unknown, and the enthusiasm stems from the realms of possibility. Of course, I have been racking my brain on how I can also incorporate it into my art. Musically, public buy-in will hinge on the way we work around fair use and profitability for artists.

In traditional workspaces, fears will be neutralised if more effort is made to illustrate how it enhances the working experience and doesn’t actually spell the end of millions of jobs. And where jobs are lost, a concerted, premeditated and thorough plan must be funnelled towards skills development and redistribution.

Any project you’re unveiling or wrapping up?

Well, if you’re reading this, Altar Call is out right now. Please go stream it on all major streaming platforms, come to my shows and spread the word. The project effortlessly blends multiple genres in a mature, cognitive and yet seamlessly intuitive manner.

Otherwise, I will be dropping the much-anticipated I QUIT (9.2.5) soon. Watch out. Cape Town… do you know Simon Nkoli? DM

Mick Raubenheimer is a freelance arts writer. This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R35.


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