Crown The Brown: Sketchy Bongo Unmasked
Crown The Brown had the privilege of learning more about the journey of South African DJ and music producer Sketchy Bongo. Yuvir Pillay, also known as Sketchy Bongo is a well-known South African record producer. Hailing from South African soul, Durban.
Sketchy has worked with various artists such as AKA, Da Les, Shekinah, and more. He is also known for his famous signature ski mask that he wears! Well, we were able to unmask the master producer and find out more about his journey in the music industry, here is what Sketchy Bongo had to share with us.
South African Record Producer, Famous for your stage persona and signature ski mask. How would you describe Sketchy Bongo and your sound?
I’m a DJ and producer. I produce a wide variety of music, mainly pop, house and hip hop music. Collaborating a lot with South African and international artists to make hit songs played everywhere. I also DJ at many different venues and events playing a mix of my music and songs I think would work with the crowd i’m playing for.
At what age did you first discover your love for music and what encouraged the beginning of sketchy bongo? Is there any significance behind the name or ski mask?
I started playing classical piano at age 9 and studied music theory as well. Started producing at age 13 because I listened to a lot of hip hop and wanted to make something like that. I worked with a lot of big South African acts while still in high school like Skwatta Kamp, Prokid, Proverb and many others.
The name Sketchy Bongo came about when I was doing a rebrand for my DJ act and wanted a name that was unique and didn’t have any other search results come up when searched on Google.
The ski mask was originally a prop for a Sheen Skaiz music video. Sheen Skaiz is a Durban rapper I work with frequently. During the music video I wore the mask and kept it as my trademark.
Which producers would you say you are greatly influenced by and why?
I love Kanye West, the Neptunes and Timbaland. I used to listen to a lot of their productions growing up and they influenced me greatly. They all had original sounds and I wanted to do the same by having my own sound.
As an artist in the industry, you have worked with many musicians such as Shekinah, Kyle Deutsch, AKA, De Les and many more. Is there anyone in particular that you would love to work with in the future and why?
I work with people I get along with, not only musically but as friends as well. There has to be the right vibe in the studio. At the moment I’m mainly focused on doing shows, but when i’m back in studio there’s a few new artists I’d love to work with. Not going to mention any names just yet.
As a South Asian male in the music industry, what challenges or stereotypes have you faced? What would you change about the music industry?
I haven’t faced being stereotyped in my industry. I have met people I didn’t get along with for other reasons that I didn’t end up working with. The music industry is built on you being your own brand and own company. People need to learn the business side to it.
There are so many young talented musicians that go unnoticed purely because they know nothing about marketing or the business of running your own company. The industry needs ways to educate the youth about what the business of music actually is all about. It’s not just about making a good song.
You have a phenomenal platform regarding the support of the younger generation in South Africa and other parts of the world. How do you wish to use your platform to encourage the younger generation, as well as artists breaking barriers in the music industry?
I work with new artists all the time if I like their music and their attitude. The industry is hard work and a lot of young artists think it’s easy. It is you literally running your own company. Any day you are not working, means your company is losing money. It’s not just about making the music, but also about promoting, selling, doing admin, keeping up with your social media. Making sure your publishing is in order, booking shows. There’s a lot of work involved in this industry, having just talent isn’t going to get you anywhere.
You have a particular sound as Sketchy Bongo, having genres such as hip-hop, house, pop and more. Coming from an Indian background, do you think that incorporating your culture with your talent would encourage more inclusivity within western society?
I play so many different events, from clubs, to stadiums to cultural shows in the communities. Also using classical instruments like tabla in my music and work with local Durban Indian musicians. I have a very diverse group of followers of my music, so at the moment I feel quite included in South African society.
Furthermore, you are a role model to many young people, especially South Asians. You have broken barriers in the industry and made a name for yourself. How important do you think South Asian recognition and diversity is within the music industry?
The industry has nothing to do with culture, race or any of that. Nobody can block you except yourself. It’s about hard work and educating yourself about the industry. Recently there’s been a lot more Indian people in the South African music industry, from Sheen Skaiz to Easy Freak to Ganja Beatz to Chris Beatz and Kyle Cassim.
In the Indian community, parents are less likely to support their children in something that can seem like a gamble. I encourage kids to get an education in business before even thinking about trying to get into the music industry. I was lucky to have the support of my parents when I wanted to make music for a living, but I was also making money from music from an early age as well.
Also working as a film school lecturer so they knew I could make this work. You can’t drop out of school and think you will become the biggest artist in the world unless you have some kind of business plan. In the end, you are basically becoming an entrepreneur. You need to study that.
Do you have any upcoming projects that our readers should know about?
At the moment i’m mainly doing shows. I’ll be releasing new music towards the end of the year.
As an artist, what advice would you give other aspiring artists out there trying to make a name for themselves?
Education comes first. If you are failing in your music business it’s because you don’t know how to make your business work and you need more education.
Lastly, Is there any quote that you live by? If yes, why is it so significant to you?
I don’t have any quote, but I do believe in positive energy and always looking on the bright side of any situation. You only get back the energy you give off. Positive energy, positive vibes all day.
Above all, Yuvir Pillay a.k.a Sketchy Bongo surely knows what it takes to have a promising music career. Talent and education working simultaneously throughout all spectrum’s of life. He certainly believes in education and being authentic to yourself with a passion for your craft. Bringing positive energy to the youth and embracing his known talent and business savvy intellect in an industry we all believe in!