There’s little doubt that Zakes Bantwini is in his moment. Not only has the veteran dance DJ and producer been enjoying a career year off the back of his two mammoth hit singles, “Osama” and “Imali”, he’s also successfully launched his new company Independent Media Group Africa (IMG Africa) with business partner and manager Sibo Mhlungu.
Now, in the ultimate culmination of this success, Zakes recently earned his first Grammy Award nomination for “Bayethe”, his magnetic collaboration with Wouter Kellerman and Nomcebo Zikode. “I was having a lunch meeting with Sibo when he got the news that we’d been nominated for a Grammy,” he recalls. “I couldn’t believe it. It was just such a beautiful moment that we’ll never forget. We put the meeting on hold and immediately called for some champagne to celebrate.”
Looking back at the process behind making the song, Zakes recalls how they specifically set out to make a song that was worthy of Grammy consideration. “When we met up with Wouter and his manager, Tholsi, at Marble a few months ago, we specifically intended to create a song that could potentially win a Grammy. We manifested it and we were very intentional about that. By God’s grace it all just came together so beautifully. I’m so happy and proud that we were able to manifest such a special moment.”
With awards season in full swing, Zakes has already bagged two South African Music Awards (Highest Airplay and Best Collaboration) and is primed for even more glory at the upcoming At All Africa Music Awards (Afrimas), which are widely regarded as the premiere award show on the continent. He’s nominated for several awards there, including the prestigious Artist of the Year gong. Sibo credits this success to hard work and a team effort. “We’re all super humbled by the success that’s come these past few months,” he says. “It’s incredibly rewarding to know that all the time, commitment and team effort we are putting into the music is being recognised at the highest level. We can’t wait to start 2023 on a high note.”
Apart from the Grammy consideration, Zakes and the team are now looking forward to Zakes’ Mayonie Summer Block Party at The Playground, Braamfontein on Friday, which will see Zakes play host to the likes of Sun-El Musician and Shimza.
INDEPENDENT MEDIA GROUP AFRICA
When Zakes Bantwini (Zakhele Madida) and Sibongakonke Mhlungu better known as Sibo or (SiboTheZulu) assembled to create Independent Media Group Africa (IMG Africa) in late 2021, they were brought together by a genuine and purposeful love for music. While the two long-time friends had beaten the odds and flourished in their respective careers over the years (Sibo as an entrepreneur and manager to the likes of Boity and Jerusalema singer-songwriter Nomcebo Zikode, and Zakes as a music executive and pioneer of afro house), both had arrived at a crossroads and felt in need of new beginnings. That new beginning came in the form of “Osama”. Realising that they had a special record on their hands, Zakes and Sibo sought to figure out how to make “Osama” more than just a moment. Having experienced many moments and weary of how fleeting they could be, they realised there was a need to make sure that there was consideration to a bigger plan. During this moment of reckoning, the pair conceived the idea of establishing a new entity that would primarily operate as a standalone management company to serve as the business hub for the next stage of Zakes’ career. Additionally, they established a vision to work towards growing a business that could, over time, represent globally competitive talent from Africa and the diaspora. Zakes was the perfect benchmark, a seasoned African act with a global DNA. As true students of the game, they analysed what other successful management companies around the world were doing. Instead of merely handing over management duties to the handful of global suitors that had been vying for Zakes’ signature, they established that they were uniquely positioned to build something special on their own. Something that catered to the unique demands and needs of great local talent. And so they did.
What’s unfolded in the year since the company was founded has been nothing short of remarkable. Not only have the company’s visionary founders built a concrete foundation for a sustainable business for the future, they have also positioned the company for instant success. As the pair had predicted, “Osama” exploded into South Africa’s quintessential global hit of the past year and went on an record-breaking run of 14 weeks at #1 on Radio Monitor. “Osama” and Zakes’ subsequent magnum opus album “Ghetto King” have seen the company bag a host of awards, including two South African Music Awards for Highest Airplay and Best Collaboration. At the upcoming All Africa Music Awards (Afrimas)– which is widely regarded as the premiere award show on the continent– Zakes is nominated for several awards, including the prestigious Artist of the Year gong. In an unprecedented culmination of this success, Zakes recently earned his first Grammy Award nomination for “Bayethe”, his magnetic collaboration with Wouter Kellerman and Nomcebo Zikode. The highest level of accolade that can be bestowed in music, the Grammy nomination was testament to the fact that Zakes and Sibo have a winning recipe.
A FOUNDATION FOR SUSTAINED GLOBAL SUCCESS
Zakes’ career renaissance with our company has been breathtaking, full of the dizzying highs and globetrotting befitting his talent. This success has not come by luck. It is the result of years of experience, hard-earned business acumen and alignment. Like true mavericks, the founders of the company bet on themselves and created a model that positioned them for sustained success. Critically, this process involved seeking out the assistance of TBWA companies Yellowwood and Grid to assist in developing a winning strategy and identity for the Zakes Bantwini brand. Armed with this insight, IMG Africa has been able to successfully convert musical success into a formidable brand. The name Independent was born out of the company’s desire to not be a subsidy of any major organisation and to instead be 100% self-sufficient. In support of this, IMG Africa has patiently and methodically assembled a focused, all-black team that encompasses all the requisite personnel that you find in established, multinational management companies. No corners have been cut and no expenses have been spared in pursuing its global agenda. In an exercise in intentionality and purpose, Zakes and Sibo have not only built this team around a philosophy of working with black employees, but by also making a commitment to utilising black suppliers and black creatives across the board.
BRANDS & PARTNERSHIPS
From the onset, IMG Africa’s unique model has seen the company leverage the founders’ business acumen and industry know-how to work with various brands at a high level. The company has been able to work closely with and build strong partnerships with brands like KFC, FNB, Vodacom, Tanqueray, Glenmorangie, MTN, Diageo, Bathu, Drip and Supabets. As a result of their calculated approach, IMG Africa is now well positioned to leverage these partnerships for future projects. “Music led us to partnerships– partnerships which we’ve been able to leverage to create other moments.” explains Sibo, who has a rich background working with brands across various stints in radio, eventing and management. “I think that looking at it from a truly multifaceted perspective is what helped us. If we just looked at it as selling music and trying to leverage purely music, we may not have been able to keep the momentum going. But when people started to see Zakes in a different light, and when people started to see Zakes partnering with different brands, they started to see that we were positioned in a different way.” In future, sports, art and film are spaces that the company is set to play in. “The vision for the future is to create a globally competitive black owned company that looks to venture out into the world and lead from Africa. This is a truly black business rooted in its Africanness with a global outlook.