Fresh Meat: Bonga ‘Stargyal’ Kwana

Bonga Kwana, affectionately known as Stargyal, is a multifaceted creative firecracker. She is a singer, songwriter, poet, writer, budding producer, and DJ based in Langa, Cape Town. Kwana is the founder and creative director of Ramblings of a Black Queer Womxn, a series of intimate shows which consists of live music/poetry entertainment, craft markets, film screenings, and art exhibitions.

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As a recent scholarship holder, Kwana is now a graduate of Bridges For Music Academy – an internationally acclaimed Music Entrepreneurship and Sound Production academy in Langa, Cape Town. Shortly after having joined Bridges For Music, Bonga was selected as one of eight musicians to represent South Africa at the Nando’s Music Exchange Programme that took place at the prestigious Round House in London, after which her song was selected to hit the airwaves on BBC Radio1.

Bonga is a signed artist to a London-based company, Platoon Ltd, and in 2019, she co-released a powerful song titled ‘Ungazilibali‘ (Don’t forget yourself) with South African musical giants Zolani Mahola, Msaki, Ami Faku and Eryn Allen Kane from the States, which was an ode to young womxn to remain grounded and rooted in themselves.

Why was this field of study an option for you?

I left varsity because I was not happy at all with a) what I was studying and b) the institution I had been studying at. I still hate that place! After leaving varsity, I had no intention to study anything anywhere so I hustled and worked HARD on music. Also because I wanted to prove to my parents
and all the ‘haters’ that I actually CAN and music WILL sustain me. So I worked my butt off. To cut a long story short, I was invited to host a writing workshop at Bridges For Music, alongside Zolani Mahola and Clay (USA). Thereafter they suggested that I join the academy and offered me a scholarship to study music entrepreneurship and sound production. Initially, I was like ‘there is no way that I will go back to school for anything!’ but after giving it some thought, I realised that I had nothing to lose. Not even money! So I took the leap of faith and damn, it PAID OFF!

Tell us about the type of music you create.

I create music. I can’t really say that I am genre-specific, but I tend to gravitate towards neo/afro soul, jazz, RnB – those vibes!

When creating music, where do you draw inspiration from?

I write a lot about queer love and queer stories. I’m a black queer womxn and I write about black queer womanhood. I write about things that affect me, directly and otherwise. I write about heartbreak, falling in love, good and bad times! In my essence, I am a storyteller, and I share stories about life, in the lens of Bonga Kwana. If it moves me, negativity or positively, I am writing about it.

Who are some of your influences within the music industry?

I am influenced by the late Brenda Fassie, Simphiwe Dana, Stompie Mavi, Sipho Gumede, Beyoncè, Thandiswa Mazwai, Aretha Franklin, Yebba and a whole lot of golden oldies. Young bloods, too. The list is endless.

What message do you aim to communicate through your music?

This is a hard one to answer. I communicate different messages at different times and stages of my life. It really depends on where my head, heart, and spirit is at. The trio has a caucus, they come to a decision and I am commanded to sing!

Can you share with us what your experience as a student has been like and some of the valuable lessons you learned along the way?

Bridges offered a beautiful balance of music entrepreneurship, wellness, and sound production. In having joined Bridges, I have learned a lot about my self as an individual and as an artist; being able to separate the two as well as acknowledging and appreciating that these two entities are inseparable.

The best part, for me, about Bridges was the element of mindfulness/wellness – I am an advocate for mental health and I believe, very much, that more creatives need a programme like Bridges to encourage, and foster mental wellbeing within artists, so that we do the necessary work that we do, and THRIVE at it, siRight!

After having graduated from Bridges For Music, I have been accepted to the Future Females Business School for the year 2020! I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, Bridges did an amazing job at refining that entrepreneur in me and in assisting with the necessary skills and equipment to harvest one of my most innate qualities.

What is it that excites you about the South African creative industry?

What excites me about the South African creative industry is seeing more and more queer, womxn and black creatives emerging and taking up space!

What direction would you like to see it move in over the next few years?
I would like to see more of our content on mainstream media. The industry is still very dominated by cis-gendered, heterosexual men and womxn. Representation matters.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years?

Yho! Can’t get, can’t tholakala, if tholakala, can’t afford! hahaha! I’ll be there with my clan – the stars, as the Stargyal that I am, collecting my Grammys, Oscars, EMMY’S, SAMA’s, you name them! By then I’ll have collaborated with Beyonce and we will be besties, and I’d hit her up anytime on some “mamela ke Ma’Beyo ntombi ndizothi tshe apho kwakho ngomso for din dins”.

Give me 10 years and the world will be eating at the palm of my hands haha! I’ll be touring and twerking around the whole globe, spreading love and colour. I have huge dreams, they freak me out.

Between 10 and 5