JOHANNESBURG — His marketing savvy is brilliant and business acumen exceptional. Oskido as he is fondly known in the industry, has carved out a successful career in the spotlight by building a multi-million rand brand and record label.
Now 47, Oscar came to Johannesburg, South Africa (SA) as a young man. Despite being barely 20, he already knew what he wanted to do and was intent on cracking the music industry.
It had been a lifelong dream. He recalls his mother telling him that when she listened to music while pregnant with him he would kick when he heard a beat. At school he played around with music and had his own cassette collection.
Born in Bulawayo, Oscar often visited Brits in the North West province. By the time he became a regular on the Hillbrow scene, selling boerewors rolls outside clubs at first and then managing a club, he had become a fully fledged SA resident.
While running the now-defunct club Arena, Oscar heard two girls singing and dancing. They were 15 at the time, and lively entertainers. Amazed at their vibrant personalities and confidence, Oscar immediately saw their potential and realised they were budding stars.
He approached the girls and Boom Shaka was born. Oscar would spend the next year developing the group and marketing them extensively and in a way that was considered unorthodox. He sold Boom Shaka’s debut cassettes from the boot of his car.
We are on top of our game because we know it’s important to sustain artistes and to grow and develop your business by supporting young artistes “With members of the old ANC Youth League — people like Peter Mokaba, Malusi Gigaba and Fikile Mbalula, we would go to taxi ranks and gigs and play their music while rallies were on there. Those youth league members gave us an opportunity to market ourselves,” recalls Oscar.
As Boom Shaka became famous, major record labels began knocking on Oscar’s door.
“When we were doing marketing undergound, we had approached major record labels and distributors, but they didn’t understand us and what we were doing.
“Boom Shaka became huge in the underground market and there was a growing demand, but we were selling it (the album) from the boots of our cars.”
Deals were soon brokered with distributors and Oscar’s first discovery became a nationwide hit. At that point Oscar and his partner Don Laka were operating from Don’s house in Midrand.
A meeting with Trompies, who had their own label called Jazmee Records, led to them merging and forming Kalawa Jazmee Records.
They were well on their way to becoming respected industry players. It was a dream come true for Oscar and his partners.
“As a young person you are a dreamer and you know what you want to do. That was the point really, to achieve our dreams instead of saying ‘I can’t do this’. To replace the negativity with positive thoughts. Knowing that one day you want to own this and because of positive thinking, it has really led us to where we are today.”
As the record label grew, Oscar says they experienced difficulties common to any new start up. The major record labels who were distributing their music still found it strange that they chose to do their marketing on the ground.
For Oscar and his team it was imperative not to ignore the masses and they catered to their musical tastes by marketing directly to them often using informal means. After a few discussions and meetings, Oscar stood his ground and it was accepted that his marketing methods were there to stay.
Don Laka, DJ Christos and Oscar were the major shareholders at first. The trio were inseparable and each brought to the table a strong set of skills that helped shape Kalawa Jazmee into the formidable force it is today.
DJ Christos eventually left the label to focus on his own career. Producer Bruce Sebitlo joined the label and they were a trio once more until Trompies joined and their company became a six-member cooperative
Fortunately for the Kalawa Jazmee team, the label turned a profit from the get-go. At that point in time, cassettes were easily accessible and sold for about R10. When Boom Shaka’s tape was released, the first load of 500 was sold out within weeks.
What has set Oscar apart from the rest is that he has inculcated a standard of not only offering artists a record deal, but growing their brand and supporting their efforts to become independent and own their own record labels should they wish to do so.
His success stories are numerous. He helped Black Coffee become a household name and global DJ who established his own company. He did the same for DJ Tira who is now the founder and owner of Afrotainment.
Oscar is proud of his protégés and the possible threat of the two becoming his competitors never deterred him from helping them.
“We’ve used the same formula for years. If you check now, we have Doctor Malinga, Heavy K, Uhuru and others. It’s the same formula we used to grow Boom Shaka and Bongo Maffin.
“We are on top of our game because we know it’s important to sustain artistes and to grow and develop your business by supporting young artistes.
“Even if they go on to become a competitor, it makes the game exciting. For us though, its not about that. When I see Tira dong well, I say ‘wow, I am so humbled to have been apart of that’.”
Kalawa Jazmee is a well-run machine. With a team of 10 divisions that focus on booking, marketing and production, the label has become one of South Africa’s best.
It’s not about how much money you have in your pocket. It’s about how many people you bring up with you.
The company also runs the I Believe programme in conjunction with the National Youth Development Agency and under it’s auspices, has served as a incubator for new talent.
Musician and producer Heavy K, whose smash hit Wena lit up dance floors last year, is one of the programme’s offshoots. He won best dance album at the Metro FM awards on Saturday.
The initiative is proof of Oscar’s good will and principals. He lives by the motto “give to others and God will bless you with more”.
“It’s a formula. Just open doors for other people. When you have the opportunity to do so, go for it. It’s not about how much money you have in your pocket. It’s about how many people you bring up with you.
“We are all visitors in this world and success is not determined by how much money you have — it’s about how many lives I’ve changed.”
His humility, deep respect and drive to see others succeed has secured Oscar a permanent place in South Africa’s entertainment history. Oscar is well aware of his status, but it hasn’t changed his outlook on life.