What is the secret to a sizzling summer anthem? Fresh versatile talent, a playful pop tune and, for good measure, a pinch of local flavour – and that’s exactly what the talented South African-born Qwade Dunn is bringing with his new single, GIRLFRIEND.
With its playful interpretation of lust, the track – written by Dunn, Jazz Purple and ManCub (who recently collaborated with Ray J and Rich The Kid) – is a feel-good pop song that fuses Dunn’s signature South African sound with international flair. But what sets Dunn apart lies less in the music and more in the person behind it.
“My material is brutally honest; it is a quality I’ve tried to keep throughout my body of work and in life, in general. I wear my heart on my sleeve, good or bad,” explains the artist.
Photography for the single was done by Edward Cook, who has worked with artists such as One Direction’s Liam Payne, Jorja Smith, Khalid and Craig David, among others.
Listening to GIRLFRIEND, it’s easy to think of this up-and-comer as an overnight success but, having been in the industry for over a decade, Dunn confesses that “success in any shape or form requires hard work, focus and a little bit of luck”.
Qwade grew up in a small town in KwaZulu-Natal, called Eshowe. As a teen, the South-African born singer relocated to New Zealand to study. With a passion and desire to make it in the music industry, he self-funded his first music demo and video, which caught the attention of British manager, Johnathan (Jay) Jules. After being scouted by Sony Music, Dunn released his debut single, We Are, produced by British producer James Reynolds, in 2012. It featured as song of the week on New Zealand’s ZM Radio, making Dunn the first African artist to achieve that status in Australasia – quite an achievement for a developing act! In 2013, Dunn returned to South Africa where he continued to pursue music, albeit in a different way.
“It was at this point that Jonathan Jules and I founded Jabba, a music company with a difference. It provided a solution for international music companies seeking to establish a footprint in Africa, one of the world’s fastest growing economies. We not only wanted to bring products into Africa for African music lovers, but also wanted to create a vehicle for exporting African music beyond borders.”
While the business became his primary focus, Dunn continued to release music ad hoc from late 2015 to 2017.
“During this time, I did a radio/television tour of east Africa; it just so happened that our company was label partners to an Idols-type show in Zambia. I loved touring east Africa because the people were so warm and the vibe I got was incredible. It made me fall in love with our content all over again.”
Dunn was also invited to be a campaign ambassador with UNICEF in Africa in 2015, campaigning against child marriages.
“I was a UNICEF guest speaker at the All Women Summit in Uganda. It was a very special occasion and made me realise that we should be investing our energy in our fellow Africans.”
In terms of his musical career this ambitious artist – he describes himself as 90% business – believes that he has hardly scratched the surface of what can be achieved. “You’ve got to set unobtainable goals and keep working” – wise words from a kid who started out as a DJ at school events and now not only runs his own successful company, but who also writes and produces his own music. While Dunn often writes his own material, he is an advocate for the power of collaboration.
“I’m all for collaborating with songwriters and producers,” he says. “I think too many artists make the mistake of keeping things too close to their chest, when really, the magic comes from having several people with different perspectives working towards the same goal.” He is equally open-minded about where his inspiration comes from.
“It’s not music or a specific artist that influences me, but rather the culture dictating the needs or wants of listeners. Nowadays, all we need to do is turn to Spotify, Deezer or even YouTube – there are loads of new acts doing really cool things. Quite often, it’s a case of ‘man, that sounds cool and I want to be a part of it’,” he explains. “That said, I do resonate with Russ. We have similar ideas in terms of the avenues of revenue we place importance on in the music business and as artists. For me, music and business go hand in hand; there is no reason why one should not compliment the other.”
With plans that include conquering Africa one country at a time – both as an artist and an entrepreneur – it is clear that Qwade Dunn means business. The artist, who is currently conquering the overseas market and living abroad, will be returning to South Africa in November 2018 for the official release of his latest hit!
Listen to GIRLFRIEND here!