INTERVIEW with South African Rapper Testamenté

Born Wandile Kokwe, Testamenté is a Rapper from Mosselbay, South Africa. He’s a highly talented performer who’s very passionate about music and has a natural ability to adjust own style to suit different music genres. He is an unpredictable writer well known for his flowing techniques, rapid rapping schemes, and well-constructed punchlines. Testamente’s first successful single “HDYD(How Do You Do?)” Has over 16.7k plays on Soundcloud & over 3.9k streams on Spotify. In June 2015 Testamenté was named “Artist of the Month” by Twitty News and later that year he made the “Best Cape Town Hip Hop Songs in 2015” list by Headwarmaz (Bush Radio), since then his following has been flourishing and that has him pushing even harder to grow his craft. He is about to release his first ever project – an EP titled “HIGHKEY” that’s due to drop this month.

  1. Can you tell us a bit about where you come from and how you got started?

Testamenté: I was born in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape here in South Africa, at a very young age my Late Mom relocated to a small town in Western Cape “Mosselbay” and that’s where I grew up and started making music. I started in 2008, before that I was all about writing and reciting songs playing on Radio and/or TV until I decided to write my own in 2008, I then began recording same year.

  1. Do you handle both the songwriting and beats on your songs, or do you collaborate with others?

Testamenté: No I’m only handling the songwriting part, for beats I have few of my favorite beat makers I buy beats from, some are based here in South Africa others are abroad.

  1. Who were your first and strongest musical influences that you can remember?

Testamenté: It has to be the Rappers that introduced Hip Hop in South Africa, the one that took it to mainstream, the likes of Proverb, Skwatta Kamp, Mr Selwyn, Wikid & Amo to name a few. If it wasn’t for them I don’t think South African hip hop would be this Big.

  1. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners?

Testamenté: My content is the main key element, as much as I am telling my story through my music, I’m also telling someone else’s story because everything I am going through, you’ll also go through it or you already have, what I mean is for instance now as Black People we are all experiencing Racism whether it’s direct on indirect, so if I were to do a song on that, from my own perspective every black person would relate, that’s how broad my content is, simple as it is, it is too deep if you’re listening with understanding.

  1. For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and music maker, and the transition towards your own style?

Testamenté: Lol, true… Well that’s one of the things that kept me from making a full project. I also went through that same path, started by imitating favorite Musicians to a point of sounding exactly like ‘em. I believe it’s a perfect path of finding yourself and kind of seeing what you’re good at and try master that, then eventually end up finding the artist in you with all these elements and/or skills you learnt along the way.. To answer your question I also went through that, but for to finally feel confident and comfortable with my own style, I had to take a 2years (2017 & 2018) break from releasing music, I was just writing, recording, discarding if I sound like someone and as time went I found “Me” hence I decided to finally release my 1st Studio Project, my sound is original I don’t sound like anyone that I can say with Pride.

  1. What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, and/or social vehicles – and do you try and affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative and entertainment?

Testamenté: Music is a medium language, so I think it plays an important role in portraying a specific political/cultural/spiritual/social message. Yes I do, as I said: musicians are the voice of the voiceless, and music is an easier way of educating young people.

  1. Do you ever write a song with current musical trends, formulas or listener satisfaction in mind, or do you simply focus on your own personal vision and trust that people will empathize with your sound?

Testamenté: Yes I do, because I believe as a musician I should cater for all, and as an entertainer it’s my duty to stay relevant and keep people entertained as long as the content is still intact.

  1. Could you describe your creative processes? How do start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a beat, or a narrative in your head?

Testamenté: I do both, sometimes I get a beat, start harmonizing and/or freestyling on it until something comes up. At times I get an idea, write a song without a beat then talk to a beat maker about what type of a beat I need, with this one I’ll have to present when the beat is made.

  1. What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your career or life so far, and how did you overcome the event?

Testamenté: It has to be losing my Momma, see that haunted me from my childhood until recently when I finally made a song for her titled “Koeli” and it’s in my recently released EP. Losing her at a very young age was unpleasant because I did not understand I kept on asking questions I couldn’t get answers for, but with music being therapy I endured the pain and I can now finally say I made peace with her departure.

  1. On the contrary, what would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your career so far?

Testamenté: Releasing my 1st studio Project independently, I wrote all the songs, recorded, mixed and mastered them myself. I’m super proud, this is a definite achievement.

  1. How did the moniker Testamenté come about?

Testamenté: Lol, well it’s crazy ‘cause it was never meant to be my stage name. Firstly I did not come up with the name, but I chose to use it as my Stage name. I got this moniker from a friend who was then a teammate, we were soccer players back in the day, we were just fooling around playing soccer and calling each other random names, like I would think of any “Not So Soccer Player Name” and call him for the day, and he called me Testamenté which is also a name for a Bible (Testament) but in our language it has an “é”.

Years later I started Rapping and then I realized I needed a unique name, Testamenté came up and I now chose it because of its meaning i.e “Evidence”, I believed I’m a living evidence that with Art & Sports you can be kept away from unjust doings and other mischievous acts, I say this because majority of my childhood friends went the other way, started smoking and doing all the other stuff but I managed to stay clean without unfriending them, but because I’m an artist I educate about these things I didn’t do any, so yeah that’s it man.

  1. With social media having a heavy impact on our lives and the music business in general, how do you handle criticism, haters and/or naysayers in general? Is it something you pay attention to, or simply ignore?

Testamenté: I do pay attention to Critics can somehow help me improve. As for people that say things to put me down, I ain’t paying no mind.

  1. Which aspects of being an independent artist excites you most and which aspects discourages you most?

Testamenté: The freedom of creativity, doing thing my way at my own pace, no pressure at all.The most discouraging aspect is doing everything myself, time is a factor and indie artists merely rest due DIY mentality. The inaccessibility of the industry and the challenges of getting Gigs, Airplay etc.

  1. If you had a choice to go on tour with any acclaimed international artist in the near future, who would you choose, and why?

Testamenté: It’d be Hopsin my Idol, because he is independent yet doing the most. From his music content and how impactful he is, the dude is the GOAT.

The EP Cover
  1. Could you tell us something about your latest EP project, and how did the Fans receive it?

Testamenté: “HIGHKEY EP” is my 1st studio project, it has 8 songs all original, every song is different. I chose the title “HIGHKEY” because I believe it’s high time my craft gets exposed to the world, and if you also feel the same way don’t keep it on a low, say something about it, in the Title song which is track number-2 in the EP there’s a part that goes: “Tell the world about the King, this kid is like a Mercedes when he burns”. The supporters’ response is amazing, I did not expect it at all. Same day I released the EP it got streamed over 20k times collectively, the most streamed song had over 5.7k streams within few hours, people already have they favorite songs. All in all I’m happy so say but there’s still more work to do.

  1. Do you have a personal favorite track amongst your compositions on the EP that has a specific backstory and/or message and meaning very special to you?

Testamenté: Track number-2 “Koeli” the song I made for my late Mom, and it happens to be everyone’s favorite too.The title “Koeli” is an acronym for my Mothers First Name and Last Name i.e “Elizabeth  Kokwé” KO (Last Name) ELI (First Name).

  1. Creative work in studio environment, or interaction with a live audience? Which of these two options excite you most?

Testamenté:  Can’t I choose both? Lol I love making music, but I am making music for people, so interaction with a live audience is more exciting because I get to see them enjoying what I’ve been working on, and that’s fulfilling .

  1. What’s your favorite motto, phrase or piece of advice, you try to live or inspire yourself by?

Testamenté: “Be yourself, ‘cause everyone else is taken.”

  1. How essential do you think video is in relation to your music? Do you have a video you could suggest fans see, to get a better understanding of your craft?

Testamenté: It is very essential, because it is a great way to show a visual interpretation of the song. It is also a good way to further market a song that could potentially garner more fans. No I don’t have any videos yet.

  1. What do you find most rewarding about what you do? And do you have a specific vision or goal set in your mind that you would like to achieve in the near future?

Testamenté: The most rewarding aspect about making music is being able to help/heal people you’ve never met before and changing they lives, see that is heartwarming. Of course, it’s that same vision that keeps me true to myself provides a meaning to strike optimism by making my goals seem profoundly achievable.


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Twitter: @TestamenteZA
IG: testamente_za


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Rick Jamm

Journalist, publicist and indie music producer with a fervent passion for electric guitars and mixing desks !

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