Focalistic opens up about losing his dad, growing up in a shack, fame and fortune. He recently returned from a historic performance at Afro Nation in Miami. Despite having jet lag, he is unable to stop doing what he loves.
On Youth Day, Lethabo Sebetso, well known as Focalistic to his fans, will release his single Khekheleza. The Soweto Uprising, which took place in 1976 when Afrikaans instruction became required in schools, is commemorated on June 16 each year. Focalistic informs afromambo that his battle as the figurehead of the new school culture is to maintain youth motivation.
Focalistic opens up about losing his dad, growing up in a shack, fame
He calls himself an activist for the youth. “I’ve always made music that is about self-help. The message in Khekheleza is for all the young people to remain encouraged and not khekheleza (be lazy), to stay focused in a world full of distractions,’ he says.
“My music is activism and spiritual messaging at the end of the day. The messages can never mislead but I always make sure that I find a cool way of presenting them that even our parents can approve of. That is why people call me, president ya straata,’ Focalistic says. He adds that being a musician comes with many responsibilities.
“Back then there was Chicco Twala and Bra Hugh using music to protest apartheid. Now, it’s our responsibility to reflect our times.’ This June 16, Focalistic says he is fighting to stay focused in a world where there are a lot of opportunities for positivity but also for negativity. “We need to find a way to starve our distractions. We are in an era with potential but there is also a lot of stress,’ he says. “Releasing Khekheleza on this day is a monumental moment. It’s what I stand for and coming from Pretoria and rapping in SiPitori, a language that is not even official in the world, and pushing a positive message is my way of protest.’
Finding his voice
He was in grade nine when his father died and he lost his voice due to grief. ” When my dad passed away, I went mute, I didn’t say anything to anyone. I did not talk. I couldn’t express myself until I found music. I watched a Lil Wayne documentary and he kept rapping. I thought I could do that, rap,and speak my mind. Everything happening in my life, I spoke about in music,” he says. “Everything I think about in life in general, I can squeeze it into a song and give it a positive spin. For me, it’s the thought of going to bed knowing that I changed people’s lives,’ he says.
He always knew that he would make something of his life. “But I didn’t know I would be an international sensation,’ he says. “You try to push the mark, try to prepare for when you do become popular. But I didn’t know for sure. I am a spiritual person, I always ask God to help me to inspire my generation.’ Focalistic wants to make history. “Now I aim to have a hood hall of fame. We are so far from that. There is nowhere to learn what Brenda Fassie and what the likes did and their hard work.
Focalistic claims that his career took off when he and Davido performed at London’s 02 Arena. “I was the first South African to perform there. On that day I felt like Di Thapelo di landile for real. To perform Amapiano on that stage and see people sing along was my entry into the international stage,’ he says. “I still watch that moment in disbelief,’ Focalistic says.
He is inspired by many people, but his mom’s strength and seeing it every day when he had nothing still motivates him to rise above every day. “I am inspired by my mom and her hard work. I grew up in a shack in Pretoria. She taught me that there is no situation bigger than God. I saw the inspiration at home and nothing can be more inspirational to me than that.’
Focalistic loves fame and audiences receive his music positively. “I would be lying if I said I hated it. But I miss having my personal space. I make music to be consumed by a lot of people and to be famous. But I sometimes miss not being able to go out with my mom the way I used to. At the same time, there are more perks to fame than before.’
Like many Amapiano musicians, he has drawn criticism for his pricey sense of style, and many people are concerned about how he manages his finances.
“Amapiano artists are evolving. Of course in the beginning we were excited by the money. We love looking good. I don’t think anyone is spending copious amounts on clothes and brands anymore. In the beginning, people would be wearing R100k and R400k. We have grown. I call this the reaping phase. It’s hard to explain this to anyone who is not part of it,’ he says. “I do spend on nice clothes. I have my own merch dropping and I am dropping the second line on Pride month as well called “All Of Us.’
Focalistic says he is an ally of the LGBTQI+ community. “I am definitely an ally of the alphabet community. I’m an activist and I want to make everyone feel free and safe in their space. We are all about spreading love and positivity.’