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GITS Fest 2024

Beginning Monday, January 29, 2024; GRAMMY In The Schools Fest (GITS Fest) presented by the GRAMMY Museum, is a festival celebrating music and music education during GRAMMY Week, leading up to the 66th annual GRAMMY Awards.

Featuring engaging educational panels and workshops, artist interviews, songwriting masterclasses and record label spotlights with music industry professionals. GITS Fest will truly localize the GRAMMY Week experience in the world-renowned Clive Davis Theater at the GRAMMY Museum.

Participants will be able to ask direct questions to the panelists during the in person sessions. All GRAMMY In The Schools Fest sessions will also be livestreamed across the country. To ensure easy access to the sessions, each one will be re-posted the following morning in their entirety on our GRAMMY Museum Streaming Platform; COLLECTION:live. Please note, no matter what session(s) you are able to attend or not attend in person, you will have access to each the very next morning as well.

A Worldwide Celebration of Music & Music Education

Re-live the magic from the GRAMMY Museum’s inaugural GITS Fest featuring engaging discussions, performances, and lessons from students and top professionals. GITS Fest truly localized the GRAMMY Week experience in cities and schools nationwide. Woven throughout the virtual festival are free lessons and other valuable information provided by top practitioners across the broad spectrum of music, music education and its connection to other school subject areas.

program schedule

There will be two 1-hour sessions per day that include compelling interviews from artists and other music industry professionals, and Q&A sessions beginning on Monday, January 29, 2024 at 11:00AM Pacific Time (1:00PM Central, 2:00pm Eastern).

Day 1
Monday, January 29th 2024
Day 2
Tuesday, January 30th 2024
Day 3
Thursday, February 1st 2024
Day 4
Friday, February 2nd 2024
Session and Speaker
11:00am - 12:00pm PST
Backstage Pass: Coco Jones
1:00pm - 2:00pm PST
1500 Sound Academy Presents: Turning A Listener Into A Supporter Masterclass
11:00am - 12:00pm PST
Live Out L!ve Presents: Creating Your Space In Live Music
1:00pm - 2:00pm PST
Def Jam at 40: The Evolution of Hip-Hop’s Greatest Label ft. Tunji Balogun, Chuck D, and Benny The Butcher
11:00am - 12:00pm PST
Global Music Panel ft. Adam Byars, Sipho Dlamini, Yoel Kenan, and Zakes Bantwini
1:00pm - 2:00pm PST
Global Music Panel ft. Eze Ezegozie, Major League DJZ, Nomcebo Zikode, and Sibo Mhlungu
11:00am - 12:00pm PST
Roland Cloud: 808 Goes Lo-Fi Workshop ft. Sarah the Illstrumentalist
1:00pm - 2:00pm PST
Roland Cloud: 808 Goes Lo-Fi Workshop ft. Sarah the Illstrumentalist


These guest professionals will be joining us for an exclusive conversation to kick off Music In Our Schools Month at the GRAMMY Museum.

Adam has worked on some of the world's leading brands including Michelin, Qatar Tourism and build some Africa's most valued brands including KFC, FNB & MTN and in 2021 started an Entertainment agency called 608, an offering within GRID Worldwide that’s allows brands to authentically play in culture.
608 has achieved remarkable success in two years, including building Grammy Award-winning artist Zakes Bantwini brand onto a global stage.
Adam’s intention is to change the world one brand at a time and believes it will be the creative industry that will have the biggest impact in breaking down culture barriers and driving positive change.
Antonio Dowe
Antonio Dowe is the CEO of Global Music Touring. He is responsible for providing visionary leadership to all levels of the entertainment industry. His hands-on experience and his ability to build teams along with his passion for engaging communities has resulted in numerous successful projects throughout his career. Prior to building his own brand and creating his own production company, Mr. Dowe spend 8 years in the music industry working as an account executive in radio for Steve Harvey, a tour promoter for multiple record labels, an entertainment marketing consultant for various brands, and a political marketing consultant for elected officials. Mr. Dowe has affiliations with several large agencies and multiple national media companies. Mr. Dowe is an accomplished talent agent with experience in concert operations, marketing, event planning and event organizing. Antonio Dowe has been the project creator or lead for: the City of Norfolk’s Census 2020 team where he built marketing campaigns and filmed a short documentary – Party on The Plaza, a Hip Hop Festival – raising money for charity, and Trap the Vote, A Voter Registration Initiative Concert to encourage young voters, and he has produced multiple high profile shows and productions. Most recently, he produced the High Tide Cannabis Summit in 2022, a production on education in alternative wellness paid for by the City of Portsmouth. Mr. Dowe also co-founded the RNB Block Party that has sold over 23,000 tickets in 1 year and produced multiple activations for Virginia Beach’s Something in the Water Festival. Mr. Dowe was born and raised in the city of Norfolk, VA.
Benny the Butcher
On Benny The Butcher’s songs, there’s no place to hide. That goes for shady figures from his past or foes from the present, whose flaws and insecurities are rendered with unsparing detail; it goes for his friends and loved ones, whose support and loyalty are given the respect and space they deserve. But it’s also true of the Buffalo, New York native’s lyrical style: his razor-sharp punchlines and technical acrobatics, all delivered through his inimitable voice, make him a rapper’s rapper of the highest order, someone whose skills are always pushed to the foreground. And with his Def Jam debut, Everybody Can’t Go, this radical transparency is put to use in making one of the most layered, cinematic rap albums in recent memory. Though he had been tinkering with that style from the 2000s through the early 2010s, often under the name B.E.N.N.Y., The Butcher emerged in full force when Griselda, the collective founded by his cousin Westside Gunn, became a major force in underground rap in the tail end of the Obama years. Benny and Gunn, alongside fellow extended family member Conway the Machine, the anonymous enigma Mach-Hommy, and in-house superproducer Daringer, quickly became perhaps the key creative movement of that era in hip-hop. “We’re like hybrid backpack rappers,” Benny says, “modern backpack rap who wear jewelry,” with a passion for uncut street tales and unbelievable punchlines that revealed a passion for the genre’s golden age. That passion dates back nearly as long as he can remember. When Benny was a small child, he recalls, his mother would call for him to run into the living room when the music video for Kool Moe Dee’s “Wild Wild West”—an early favorite—came on the television. Before long he was rapping with his peers and his peers’ older brothers, always the most precocious young MC in the room. But even in those early days, he had one of his most prized attributes. “I always was told I had a good voice,” he says. “People used to say, ‘You sound like a real rapper.’” And before long, he was. Before the Griselda crossover, Benny established himself as a notable regional figure, pumping out mixtape after mixtape of rigorous, aggressive raps. While he carved a niche for himself, he was also acutely aware of just how wide the gap was between his position and the stars who had replaced Kool Moe Dee on TV and radio. When asked whether he ever got discouraged in this period, he doesn’t censor himself: “Hell yeah!” “I remember T.I. asked us that question,” Benny recalls: “‘What made y’all keep rapping?’ We put out mixtape after mixtape after mixtape. [Gunn and Conway] were in their mid-30s by the time Griselda was blowing up. I been knew Conway was a generational talent; West always.” But they were also forced to come to terms with the somewhat grim commercial prospects. “ I had to look in the mirror and go, ‘You know this might never, ever happen for you,’” he says. “I made my peace with that. In about 2013, I made my peace with always being a local rapper.” Fortunately—for Benny but also for the culture writ large—the tectonic plates were about to shift. Through his work with his compatriots, but chiefly on his beloved albums Tana Talk 3 (2018), Burden of Proof (2020), and Tana Talk 4 (2022), as well as cult classic mixtapes, EPs, and collaborative projects, including My First Brick, The Plugs I Met and its Harry Fraud-produced sequel, Pyrex Picasso, and the 38 Spesh collaboration Trust the Sopranos, he’s begun to run laps around his competition. And the legends have noticed: Benny’s unique blend of lyrical pyrotechnics and personal introspection scored him a management deal with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and helped cement a Griselda deal with Eminem’s Shady Records. Everybody Can’t Go is both a deepening and widening of that sound, an epic, autobiographical LP in the mold of the classics on which he and his collaborators grew up. He folds in the soul samples that provided the spine for The Blueprint; he scythes through them with the raw aggression that animated Mobb Deep’s Murda Muzik, one of his personal favorites. On “How to Rap,” he resurrects the time-honored tradition of rappers dispensing game through concept songs. And throughout the LP, he proves him time and time again next to the greats from every generation, from Armani Caesar (“Buffalo Kitchen Club”) to Snoop Dogg (“Back Again”), Babyface Ray to Jadakiss (the MCs appear together on “Pillow Talk & Slander”). When Benny joins forces with Lil Wayne, on the freewheeling “Big Dog,” listeners hear an element of his skillset that may sound entirely new. “I think I’m getting better at hook writing,” Benny says. “I’m really proud of the hook on that song. When I went into this record I got hints on how to do these songs from some of my professional rap friends, my mogul friends. I went in the booth and experimented; I had never harmonized before.” And still, collaboration brings out Benny’s competitive spirit. “You gotta play your game,” he says. “I bring the best out of people. When I’m on a Benny the Butcher record, I have to be the Butcher. Those guys are killers, too.” Above all, Everybody Can’t Go is a statement of purpose. “The album title comes from me being in a position where I’m now trying to separate myself from people,” Benny explains, “places and things that were at one point in time good for me—but are no longer good for me, no longer conducive to my winning process. This is the point where I’m marking it down in my book: where everybody can’t go.” Despite the years of runaway success and universal praise from his peers and elders, Benny knows just how fortunate he is to occupy the position he currently holds. “I’m a three-time felon,” he says. “I played the dope game at every level you can play it at.” Instead of ruminating in that space, writing raps as if he’s still caught in the kitchen or on a street corner, Benny writes specifically about the way those experiences linger in his subconscious. The result are songs that are kinetic and propulsive, but also examine the long arc of history, of trauma, the full vision of the artist and the human being at once.
Candace Newman
Candace Newman is the CEO and Founder of LIVE OUT L!VE, a boutique touring & booking agency and non-profit dedicated to encouraging marginalized teens and young adults to pursue careers in live entertainment. Her LA-based organization exists to open more doors for future leaders in live entertainment and instill confidence through mentorship, events, seminars, and more. LIVE OUT L!VE is forging the path to bring better representation to the music industry, while helping others discover their own passion and purpose. As CEO of LIVE OUT L!VE, Candace provides consultancy services for artists, brands, and companies. Candace is skilled in project management, marketing, and finance, and she is passionate about creating live music experiences with established and emerging artists. LIVE OUT L!VE creates impactful experiential platforms and opportunities. Her team helps with talent and management structure, as well as producing content and live experiential events.
Chuck D
Rock and Roll Hall of famer, icon and hip-hop legend, Chuck D is a social activist, author, multimedia producer, digital music pioneer and visual artist. He first rose to acclaim in the 1980’s with a string of critically lauded and commercially successful albums that addressed weighty issues about race, rage and inequality with a jolting combination of intelligence and eloquence never seen before. The New York Times has named Public Enemy’s music to their list of the “25 Most Significant Albums of the Last Century” and in 2005 The Library of Congress added Fear of a Black Planet to their National Recording Registry. “It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back” (15) and “Fear of A Black Planet” (176) were both named to Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list in 2020 while “Fight The Power” was named #2 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 2021 list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (which also included “Bring The Noise“). In 2013, Public Enemy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in 2020 received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the GRAMMYs. When the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC began curating its archive, the group was asked to donate iconic items from their history and Chuck D has remained personally involved in the institution ever since. In June 2020 he released the single “SOTU (STFU)” with Public Enemy and a few weeks later the group opened the 2020 BET Awards with “Fight the Power Remix 2020,” featuring guest performances and new lyrics by Nas, Rapsody, Black Thought, YG and Questlove. By August, Public Enemy announced a return to Def Jam, the record label that launched the group’s career, led by the release of “Fight the Power Remix 2020” and followed by a new album, “What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down” that was met with global critical acclaim. From 2016-2019, Chuck was a member of Prophets of Rage, a “supergroup” with former Rage Against the Machine members Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk, Cypress Hill’s B-Real and DJ Lord of Public Enemy, releasing an EP, an album and touring the world. Chuck D is also a visual artist whose work has been shown in galleries nationwide, is the subject of a fine art book, “Livin’ Loud” and has been featured in several graphic novels. He is a best-selling author (including 2017’s 300-page “This Day In Rap and Hip Hop History”), a highly-sought after guest speaker, has been a prominent member of music industry non-profit organizations MusicCares and Rock The Vote (which honored him with the Patrick Lippert Award in 1996 for his contributions to community service), runs his own record label, SpitSlam, and launched the websites, and He is Co-Founder and President of the Hip Hop Alliance and has served as national spokesperson for Rock The Vote, the National Urban League, the National Alliance of African American Athletes and Hip Hop Public Health. In 2022, Chuck was named UCLA’s inaugural Artist-in-Residence for it’s new Hip-Hop Initiative. As a film, television, podcast and digital content producer, he founded the production company Channel Zero and has partnered with BBC Studios and PBS for the docu-series, “Fight the Power: How Hip Hop Changed the World.” He also created an installment for Audible Originals’ Words + Music series, “Songs That Shook The Planet,” in 2022 and is Executive Producer for the company’s forthcoming “Can You Dig It” audio documentary. Chuck has co-hosted an episode of the lauded PBS series on the Blues, created by Martin Scorsese, and the critically-acclaimed Watts-Stax documentary. He also wrote the theme song to ESPN’s Monday Night Baseball show, as well as the 2003 ESPY Awards and hosted the network’s documentary Ali Rap in 2006, which was nominated for several Sports Emmys including one for his theme song composition. Public Enemy’s song, “Harder Than You Think,” was used as the theme song to the MLB Network’s 2013 baseball season coverage and Chuck, along with Amani K. Smith, composed and contributed additional music to LeBron James’ Showtime docu-series, “Shut Up And Dribble” in 2018. He was the host of a 2006 Sundance television special, Chuck D’s Musicians Studio, where he interviewed Quincy Jones at length, returned to the network for an episode of Iconoclasts with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and was an executive producer of their lauded Dream School series (2014).
Coco Jones
Most known for her role as Hilary Banks on Peacocks Bel-Air, the rising R&B songstress made major waves with her debut EP, "What I Didn't Tell You.” Her lead single, "ICU," has catapulted her to success, earning her the Outstanding New Artist Award at the 54th NAACP Image Awards, Best New Artist at the 2023 BET Awards, and most recently 5 Grammys Nominations for Best R&B Album, Best New Artist, Best R&B Song, Best R&B Performance, and Best Traditional R&B Performance. The Hollywood Reporter named Coco one of their 25 Platinum Players in Music. The hit single "ICU" also became her first Billboard chart-topper, making her the first woman in R&B to hit No. 1 on the Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart since Normani's "Wild Side." Coco released the official “ICU” remix featuring fellow Tennessee native Justin Timberlake, which gained over 185 million global streams in July 2023. The hit single continued to build momentum, gaining Coco another first – leading the R&B Digital Song Sales Chart for Billboard. Her talent has been recognized by Spotify, Pandora, and Amazon, including her on their 2023 Artists to Watch lists. Apple named her as one of their Future 40 Artists, Billboard honored her as the R&B/Hip-Hop Rookie of the Month for May 2023, and if that wasn’t enough – Coco wowed audiences with her performance of “ICU” on the Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and again at last year’s BET Awards.
Eboni Gentry
Eboni Gentry is the Owner of Gentry Touring Inc, a Boutique Tour Management Agency that focuses on tour management services, live show production and artist development specifically for live shows. She has had the pleasure of being the Tour Director for many artists including Doja Cat, Fantasia, Ice Spice, Lola Brooke, Snoh Aalegra, PARTYNEXTDOOR and Pink Pantheress, just to name a few. Gentry Touring streamlines what it takes to properly execute an artist’s vision for their live shows. For many of the artists Gentry Touring works with, they lead not only advancing, budgeting and overall logistics, but also creative discussions and staffing for all areas of the artist's live shows. When the pandemic hit in 2020, Eboni had time to sit and reflect on her journey through the industry. Recognizing the gap between education, skillset and touring opportunities, “The Gentry Way,” a 10-week Tour Management Bootcamp was created. The Gentry Way provides a structured program that teaches the basics needed to succeed in touring and creates a pipeline into the Live Concert and Touring Industry. Eboni looks forward to furthering her growth in the industry, helping to bring The Gentry Way Bootcamp to Colleges and Universities across the globe and blending her Live Event and Development backgrounds to produce original content connecting brands and artists to their global communities.
Elliott Wilson
Author, host, editor, and producer, Elliott Wilson has documented hip-hop journalism for over three decades. He is also co-host of the critically-acclaimed Rap Radar Podcast (Interval Presents/WMG). Rap Radar is where hip hop creatives discuss “everything from fatherhood to competition to the album process to politics.” The show — deeply nerdy and America’s- most-trusted — has featured Drake, Nipsey Hussle, Cardi B, and Jay Z. Elliott’s past lives include: being editor-in-chief of XXL magazine and co-author of ego trip’s Book of Rap Lists (St. Martin’s Press, 1999), and ego trip's Big Book of Racism! (Regan, 2002). Elliott’s work includes recent GQ cover stories (Snoop Dogg, Future), and appearances on projects from ESPN to BET to the BBC. An avid urban hiker, Elliott lives in Southern California with his wife, Danyel Smith.
Eze Ezegozie is the Head of Empire Inc. His primary focus is economic impact and ecosystem development in and for Africa’s creative & entertainment industries, constructing the intersection between commerce, culture, and content. His secondary focus is route to market strategy development for entertainment-based international, diaspora entities interested in establishing presence and operations in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Prior to this position, he was the General Manager for Universal Music Group Nigeria & West Africa. He is a seasoned and tested entertainment industry executive with a focus on bridging the gap between Africa and the world. With an ear for sound and an eye for brand potential, Eze is developing the entertainment landscape of Nigeria.
Gail Mitchell
Gail Mitchell serves as Billboard’s Executive Director of R&B/Hip-Hop, covering the R&B and rap genres as well as music industry business news across all genres and sectors for the magazine and Mitchell has moderated panels and keynote Q&A’s for industry organizations and companies such as ASCAP, BMI, the Recording Academy, Grammy Museum, Revolt Music Conference, Music Business Association (Music Biz), Warner Records, Pollstar and MIDEM Digital 2020. She has also represented Billboard in stories and broadcast interviews for media outlets including Anderson Cooper 360, CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, NBC’s Today, CBS This Morning, CBS News Radio, CBS Evening News, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show, BET, A&E, Associated Press, Cheddar News, USA Today, The New York Times’ Popcast and the 2021 Showtime documentary Bitchin: The Sound and Fury of Rick James. Mitchell holds a BA degree in communications from Loyola Marymount University/Los Angeles. Her music industry service includes two terms as a national trustee representing the L.A. Chapter of the Recording Academy. Mitchell was honored at Facebook + Instagram’s second annual Women in Music #EmpowHER luncheon in 2020, alongside Epic Records Chairwoman/CEO Sylvia Rhone, former Motown Records chairwoman/CEO Ethiopia Habtemariam and Jacqueline Saturn, President of Capitol Music Group’s Caroline division. Mitchell was among 2021’s Empowered Women honorees, as recognized by the Culture Creators organization in partnership with Elle magazine and CIROC. She also serves on the advisory boards for the National Museum of African American Music and the Living Legends Foundation.
James Fauntleroy
From Inglewood, Ca, 4x Grammy Award winner James Fauntleroy is perhaps best known for co-writing seven of the songs off of Bruno Mars 2017 multi Grammy-winning album 24K Magic, including Song of the Year, That’s What I Like - having become the first [pure] songwriter to ever bring home a Grammy for Album of the Year. Other notable songs/albums Fauntleroy has worked on include 9 Chris Brown songs, 25 Justin Timberlake songs, 12 Rihanna songs, 5 Beyonce songs + "On The Run" with Jay-Z and featuring on songs with Nipsey Hussle, Drake, Big Sean, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Nas, Travis Scott, ASAP Rocky and more. Oh you wanted to hear the "more"? He's also co-written and/or produced songs performed by John Legend, Sza, Snoop Dogg, Stevie Wonder, Ty $, Joe Jonas, Jordin Sparks (No Air), Britney Spears, Brandy, Kelly Clarkson, Frank Ocean, Chris Cornell, Vince Staples, David Archuleta, Pet Shop Boys, Timbaland, Jhene Aiko, Mariah Carey, Jay Electronica, John Mayer, Leona Lewis, Diddy, Ashanti, Usher, Teyana Taylor, Anderson .Paak and inexplicably many others.James Fauntleroy, alongside producer Larrance Dopson and entrepreneur Twila True, have founded the 1500 Sound Academy. Students come from the area (Inglewood, CA), all across the nation and around the globe to learn about engineering, producing, branding, publishing/business, songwriting from expert guest speakers and a curriculum that includes practical information along with the musical and technical lessons.
Loren Medina
Guerrera (female warrior) is a word that’s deeply personal to me. My father was a political prisoner in Cuba who survived the revolution. My maternal grandparents survived the war in Palestine in the late 1940s. I was born to a family of political & war refugees on both sides. As a woman & entrepreneur in the music industry, in order to thrive you have to be a Guerrera, a warrior, a محارب. Strong like the rose that grew out of concrete. Shout out to all the guerreras who fight to be heard and respected like our male counterparts.” Guerrera PR, Marketing & Management is a hybrid agency focused on public relations, marketing, consulting, and brand partnerships representing avant-garde Latin bilingual artists who strive to create their own musical lanes. Our goal is to create unique and effective campaigns tailored for our clients in order to maximize their visibility and create awareness for their brands. Prior to opening up Guerrera PR, Marketing & Management, Loren Medina founded and co-owned Digital Girl in 2009, a PR and digital marketing company whose client roster included icons such as: Shakira, Maná, Calle 13, Ricky Martin, Romeo Santos, and Aventura, amongst many others and companies such as: AEG, Live Nation, Universal Music, Epic Records, Sony Music, SESAC, Quincy Jones Productions. Loren has worked in the music industry for over 22 years - 14 years at Guerrera as a publicist, consultant and artist manager, 4 years as a product manager at Sony Music Latin and 3 as an artist manager and independent record label owner.
South African music powerhouse, Major League DJZ, are craving the sound of the future with an exciting blend of immersive African sonics and futuristic production. The twin power duo, Bandile And Banele Mbere have sustained a high level of commercial success and received critical acclaim across a career that has spanned a decade. Born in exile to a family of anti-apartheid campaigners, the twin brothers grew up in Boston, MA but moved back to South Africa after Apartheid era. First learning how to play the piano, the duo began chasing a music career, disc jockeying and producing songs after graduating from high school. Over the past few years given music fans a reason to celebrate South African music through their version of New Age Kwaito and Amapiano launching some of the biggest songs such as Le Plane Elandile & their latest album Outside, with its songs “Bakwa La” & “Straata,” to name a few. When the COVID pandemic paralyzed the music industry, the duo sought alternative ways to keep the culture alive & bring amapiano into consumers living rooms by launching their own music platform on YouTube - Balcony Mix Africa. Most recently, the duo released a collaborative album with global superstars, Major Lazer, featuring songs with Ty Dolla $ign, Tiwa Savage & Channel Tres. Over the past few years, it has become clear, this duo is a force to be reckoned with.
It became the most Shazamed songs in the world in 2020, with people in almost every country dancing to its social media challenge. Today, Jerusalema is still one of the most successful songs to come out of South Africa, and the songstress behind the hit, Nomcebo Zikode, is continuing to fly high. Beginning her career in 2003, Nomcebo initially worked as a backup vocalist for various big name stars in the gospel industry, including Lundi and Sfiso Ncwane. She sang with Debora Fraser as a backing vocalist for 10 years, while at the same time, dabbled in being a successionist for other artists in order to enrich her musical prowess. “My exposure across different genres aided in my ability to be diverse and versatile,” she recalls. In 2006, Nomcebo toured with the legendary Tshepo Tshula in London, and not long after, worked with popular Kwaito group Mafikizlo for a year. With so much experience under her belt, it was in 2010 that Nomcebo launched her prolific music career by working with singer Zahara on her hit studio album, Loliwe. However, despite the many opportunities she was given, Nomcebo still felt like her voice was not being heard. According to the songstress, she was in a very dark place in her life and was constantly praying for a breakthrough in her career.

Eventually, this opportunity came about. “I held on to the belief that God has a divine plan for me,” she says. “And by His grace, in 2018, I wrote and performed a hit song alongside DJ Ganyani called ‘Emazulwini’”. The song, which was Nomcebo’s first exposure into the world of house music, was featured on the album Ganyani’s House Grooves 10, and went on to top a number of charts, both internationally and locally. It even won House Record of the Year at the Dance Music Awards South Africa. “That was a huge moment for me which set the stage for what was to come next,” she says.

It was in 2019 however, when the trajectory of her career catapulted her to being a global superstar. She collaborated with Master KG to produce Jerusalema - an opportunity she says, that was like a lifeline to her. “This was a turning point in my life and altered the course of my journey,” she says. The song topped music charts across the continent and was nominated for Song of the Year throughout all music platforms in South Africa at the end of 2019. To date, the song has over 430 million views on YouTube and has achieved Diamond and Platinum status in a number of European countries. Safe to say Jerusalema achieved international acclaim and caused a social media frenzy. Following its success, Nomcebo embarked on an African tour, performing her collection of music. She performed in countries including Côte d’Ivoire, Congo, Malawi, Mozambique and Burkino Faso, to name a few. She also released her solo album Xola Moya Wam, in August last year.

Some other meaningful highlights include performing for the children of Madagascar and getting to collaborate with superstars she has admired for years. Although Nomcebo is on the cusp of doing great things, and taking her career to the next level, she has been involved in a lawsuit with her label that has currently been weighing her down. Thus, “Independence!” she says, is the goal she would like to conquer next. “I would like to be free from any unfavorable agreements and contracts that prevent me from achieving my highest potential.” Making music that will “advance the rights of women, which will take African music to new heights, and celebrate our uniqueness and Africannes proudly,” is currently on her agenda. Not to mention, she would also like to win a Grammy and further her humanitarian work in the spirit of Nelson Mandela. Nomcebo’s main aim is to create and perform music in the truest and most authentic way possible. “I will continue to make music that connects with listeners emotionally, and sincerely convey my heart and soul in anything I do,” she says. “I live by prayer and by placing everything before God. I am not able to explain why God chose me and gave me the gifts that he did, so I can only accept that I am here on this earth to do his will as a servant of God. I live by Ubuntu and know that each of us plays a role in the betterment of the lives of all global citizens.”
Sarah, The Illstrumentalist is a music producer, content creator, and vinyl junkie from Raleigh, North Carolina and currently lives in Los Angeles, CA. Sarah creates soulful, lo-fi, boom bap hip-hop beats with a dusty jazz spaceship vibe. Sarah’s music has been featured in thousands of videos that have generated over 2 Billion YouTube views. Her music is loved by creators around the globe and has been featured in videos by various YouTube stars such as PewDiePie, Niki and Gabi and celebrities such as Will Smith and Jack Black. Aside from music, she owns and acts as creative director for beat-making lifestyle brand No Quantize and shares her beat making skills and experiences through her YouTube Channel, Sarah2ill.
Sibo Mhlungu is a South African Grammy Award-winning producer, creative entrepreneur, music executive, and talent manager. Known as the talent manager to Grammy Award-winning artists such as Zakes Bantwini, Nomcebo Zikode, and multi-platinum recording artist and brand personality Boity Thulo. He and his longtime business partner and friend Zakes Bantwini are co-founders of IMG Africa & Aline talent & brand Agency. In addition to a business portfolio featuring various retail and hospitality ventures.
Sipho Dlamini is President of Africa & The Middle East for gamma., an artist-first multimedia platform providing creative and business services across all artistic and commercial formats. Recognized as a strategic leader and one of the founding fathers of Africa’s modern music industry, Sipho holds expertise in the recording industry, live production, festivals, artist management, television production, marketing and operations. A pioneer in African entertainment, he was handpicked by gamma. co-founders, CEO Larry Jackson and President Ike Youssef, to provide leadership within markets that are vital to gamma.’s long term vision and success.
Prior to joining gamma. Sipho was CEO of Universal Music South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, after four years as Managing Director. While in this role, he lead market share for Universal Music in revenue performance (as per IFPI reporting) and radio airplay (as per Radio Monitor reporting).
In addition to expanding into several new territories, Sipho diversified the business to adapt to the various needs required in the African market. He established a sync division within each office as well as branding, talent booking and live event production to develop the ecosystem that artists so desperately need.
Sipho previously played a pivotal role in the stabilization and growth of the largest and most profitable royalty collection society in Africa — Southern African Music Rights Organization (SAMRO) — first as General Manager and eventually taking the reins as CEO.
Before joining SAMRO, Sipho was Vice President of Operations at CSM Entertainment in Dubai and had oversight of the largest concerts and music festivals in the region at the time. From Kanye West to John Mayor, Akon to Robert Plant, Iron Maiden, Incubus, Lemmy (Motorhead) to Fat Joe, Ziggy Marley, 50 Cent & G Unit, CSM was one of the leading event promotion and production companies in the Middle East.
Career highlights include the South African government and FIFA engaging him to produce ceremonies for FIFA’s Confederations Cup in 2009 and 2010’s World Cup, making him one of the creative architects for these momentous occasions. He also Executive Produced the entertainment for the Cape Town Fan Park and the Durban Beach Festival during the World Cup in 2010.
Legendary A&R and record executive Tunji Balogun, who in 2021 was named chairman and CEO of Def Jam Recordings, has become one of the most respected and forward-looking creative executives in the music industry. His rapid ascent speaks to the deep respect those in the know have for his role in shaping some of the most unforgettable records and iconic artists of the past two decades including Kendrick Lamar, Doja Cat, Childish Gambino, Normani, Bryson Tiller, H.E.R., Khalid, SZA, Wizkid and more. After a childhood surrounded by music, he earned an internship at Warner Records, then eventually moved to Interscope, where he worked as an A&R and helped shepherd projects that changed the hip-hop landscape, like Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city. At Interscope, Balogun refined his ability to push artists to the limits they hoped to explore. In 2018, three years after joining RCA as senior vice president of A&R, Balogun was promoted to executive vice president. Perhaps even more importantly, he unveiled a new imprint, Keep Cool. In many ways, Keep Cool—which has counted Normani, Lucky Daye, and Freddie Gibbs among its stars—is the perfect distillation of Balogun’s philosophy: operating nimbly and quickly within an established corporate environment. Since joining Def Jam - where Balogun has been perennially named to Billboard’s Power 100, Variety’s New Leaders and the Ebony Power 100 amongst countless other accolades - he’s overseen the signing and development of new stars like Muni Long, Coco Jones, and Armani White, and led ambitious partnerships with fellow forward-thinking artists like Kendrick Lamar (pgLang), Issa Rae (Raedio), and Lena Waithe (Hillman Grad). Balogun has emphasized the label’s global efforts, attracting boundary-pushing international stars like Adekunle Gold (Nigeria), Elmiene (UK), Debbie (UK), Nonso Amadi (Canada), Masicka (Jamaica), and Stonebwoy (Ghana). As Def Jam looks forward, it’s clear that it has the right man at the reins—one who knows that the only imperative is to adapt.
Yoel Kenan
Yoel Kenan is the founder and CEO of AFRICORI, a leading pan-African digital music company. Africori offers label services, digital distribution, synch licensing and publishing services to artists, songwriters, labels and other music rights holders in Africa.
Yoel has over 30 years experience in the international music industry at senior executive level in the fields of A&R, marketing and business development at Universal, Sony-BMG and
In 2005, Yoel moved to South Africa to develop new digital business opportunities for the music industry across the continent.
Today Africori is based in Johannesburg and has offices in Lagos and London and representation in a number of African countries including Zambia, Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya and Zimbabwe.
Africori is now a Warner Music company.
Zakhele Madida was born and raised in KwaMashu F-section in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. After matriculating, he went on to study at Natal Technikon (now known as Durban University of Technology) where he received a national certificate in Light Music. This is also where he formed his own record label called Mayonie Productions while completing his final year. Over the next two decades, Zakes has gone on to establish himself as a pioneer and in the dance music scene with a slew of classic singles and albums such as “Bum Bum,” “Wasting My Time,” “Clap Your Hands,” “The Good Life” and “Love, Light and Music.” In 2013, Zakes released the studio album “The Fake Book and Real Book: My Music Bible” and, the following year, the album was nominated in the Best Dance Album Category at the 20th SAMA Awards. Since “Osama” first went viral on South African Twitter in late 2021, it has become a global sensation. Zakes has since been booked to perform across the world in places like Portugal, Spain, Dubai, Qatar, and Bali. Fresh off the massive success of his hit single “Osama,” the veteran dance DJ and producer Zakes Bantwini is undoubtedly the man of the moment Over the past year, his mammoth hit single “Osama” has exploded onto the scene and become South Africa’s quintessential global hit of the year. During its historic run, “Osama” has smashed several records, including embarking on a record-breaking run that saw it top Radio Monitor SA for 14 consecutive weeks. (Radio Monitor is a music company that tracks the worldwide airplay of songs). Zakes’ subsequent single “Imali” and his magnum opus album “Ghetto King” have seen him bag a host of awards, including two South African Music Awards (SAMAs) for Highest Airplay and Best Collaboration. In an unprecedented culmination of this success, Zakes recently won his first Grammy Award for “Bayethe,” his magnetic collaboration with Wouter Kellerman and Nomcebo Zikode. The highest level of accolade that can be bestowed in music, this award is testament to the fact that Zakes has a winning formula. This historic win put to rest any doubts that Zakes is one of the greatest South African musicians we have ever seen. Never one to take his foot off the pedal, Zakes recently relaunched Studio, his new lifestyle venue located at the world-famous luxury Cape Town hotel, The Rockefeller. Studio is a lifestyle venue that speaks to an audience of over 23’s that are upwardly mobile young professionals and revelers that enjoy well curated lifestyle experiences. With his imminent retirement following his upcoming victory lap album “Abantu,” Zakes is set to take a back seat and focus on building his company IMG Africa, which is a boutique media agency that manages the likes of Boity Thulo & fellow Grammy winner Nomcebo Zikode.