Pops Mohamed

Bio

Pops Mohamed is a South African multi-instrumentalist and producer based in Johannesburg.

Born in Benoni east of Johannesburg, Pops Mohamed is said by many to be South Africa’s ‘unofficial minister of music’. In the '90s he began recording the music of the San from the Kalahari in Namibia and integrating it into various projects ranging from jazz and funk to drum ‘n’ bass and trance.

His nickname dates back to his childhood enthusiasm for the comic seaman Popeye. At the age of 14 he founded his first band The Les Valiants, with whom he played kwela, soul, pop and Latin music. With his band Children’s Society (early 1970s) he recorded his first hit in the townships, 'I’m a Married Man'. In the '80s, Pops worked as a producer and sound engineer, while also learning to play the mbira and other African indigenous instruments.

In 1991 and 1992 he produced for the South African market the solo albums 'Kalamazoo' and 'Sophiatown Society', both nominated for the Best Jazz Album Award at the South African OKTV awards, now known as the SAMAs. In 1995, he issued his international debut album 'Ancestral Healing', recorded in New York with New York musicians like the native American vibraphonist and percussionist Valerie Naranjo and Emma as well as with musicians from South Africa. Pops himself played the piano, the kora, the mbira and various percussion instruments. This album won the 3rd annual FNB SAMA Award for Best Traditional Performance.

Before turning to traditional sounds, he played the keyboards and guitar with eminent jazz musicians live and in the studio. The end of apartheid was for many of his colleagues a personal relief and a professional setback, since the public then rushed to hear popstars streaming in from abroad instead of their own musicians. Pops Mohamed countered by launching himself on an international career, which has since led to many tours. At the same time he took more interest in traditional music from all over the world. Fearing that it would vanish in the wake of electronic music, he wished to have it not only recorded but also suffused with modern sounds and rhythms to appeal to a wider audience. As he put it: ‘If people don't understand where they come from, there is a hole in their soul.’

Some of the countries and regions Pops has toured include the US, UK, Scandinavia, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania (especially Zanzibar), Germany, Switzerland, Kathmandu in Nepal and Vietnam, among many others.

Pops' most successful album is 'How Far Have We Come', the first product of his long-lasting connection to the San people from the Kalahari. In the Kalahari waste he made recordings which he then processed with a computer and supplemented with tracks made by studio musicians in Johannesburg and London. In a similar project with the singer Samia from Bangladesh, he accompanied old Bengali songs with not only traditional instruments but also keyboards and a drum machine. He has produced other records with such various colleagues as the...

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Pops Mohamed - Election Day Serenade
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In operation since: 
1972

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