A massive congrats to Gallo Records artist, Henry Philemon, who bagged himself a prestigious Metro Music Award on Saturday night for his urban jazz album – “Man of definition”.
Sounds like the making of a fairy tale? Well, it almost is. That’s how the guitarist, multi-instrumentalist and singer got to be the first artist signed to Kuwe Records – home of soul, gospel and jazz. For two months, Bheki Nqoko’s musical ear couldn’t help it but to notice the stupefying sounds coming from the complex across his unit.
As to be expected, the story doesn’t begin there for the artist from Randfontein, West Rand. “I already understood harmony when I was five,” says Henry, “and picked up the guitar when I was six. I later moved to playing the piano from age 14,” reveals Henry whose father was a Pastor, and leader of the church band. That saw Henry growing around instruments. “My mother (Betty Philemon) is a singer as well, and she was a choir conductor. She was also the backing singer of the legendary Margaret Singana, when she was still a Jacobs.
Henry turned professional musician at the age of 18 years, and then toured as part New of Age to the famous Why Not at Ezulwini Casino in Swaziland. “We played to sold out shows and began to tour nationally and international including, Gauteng (Centurion), North West, and Free State (Welkom), he played with acts such as Condry Ziqubu, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, the late Nana Coyote, Senyaka, Ali Katt, Mercy Pakela, Ebony, Patricia Majalisa, and his favourite artist Steve Kekana.
Speaking about the album (his second as a producer, after he produced The Philemon Family album 13 years ago), Henry says that he writes songs that are conducive to any situation one will find oneself at any time. “Music is an emotion, and I would like to tap into that emotion, and write stuff that will take people’s minds to higher levels, add to their value and importance as well. Because that’s what you are.”
“I believe that I am the degree of distinctness,” describing why he called the album, “Man of definition”, “and also an outline of my musical character. Some might think of that as being arrogant, but that’s all it is – simply defined.”
Breaking down some of the songs in the album, Henry says ‘Bambelela’ was inspired by events following his father’s passing. “There was so much pain after he passed on and my family was really mourning. I Wrote it for the family left behind, and not my father. I am Hoping that people will hold on and have the strength after they lose what they value the most, be it a relationship, job, any situation. This song is there to say ‘just hold on and things will get better. The melody of the song is so simple, yet so powerful. It’s a good example for one to understand how simplicity can have major effects.”
With a smile on his face, he says that ‘Happiness’, “my favourite track, “lightens me inside”. I like the chord co-ordination and the beautiful message of it as well. You shouldn’t place your happiness in somebody else’s hands, and just a reminder that you are responsible for your own destiny and happiness.”
Man of Definition features former Joyous Celebration singer Mahalia Buchana Feature on his take of the Letta Mbulu & Caiphus; ‘Music In The Air’, and Oliver Toora, with his Baby sister Rhoda assist on the meaningful ‘Meant To Be’. He promises fans that they are going to have great times with ‘Lovely Day’ that’s about “just having a lovely day”; “4am” that was written after “I got up at 3.50 with this melody and recorded it there and then; and the up-tempo wedding song ‘Ke Rata Wena Fela’, a full on party track, amongst many gems.