Tumelo Malatji also known as T keys was forced to learn how to play piano at the age of 12 years because at church they needed a proper piano player who was reliable and committed. The church was really struggling and T Keys had to step up. He says this saw him grow and develop the love of playing keys from a young age to the extent that he saw himself playing for great artists.
It all began at church, I first heard the youth choir singing while I was still at Sunday school then I decided to run away from Sunday school to join the youth choir. That’s where I started to realize that I have to learn how to play keys as we were struggling. Then choir was dissolved and a new group was formed. The group was called the M.O.G (Man Of God) where we started to write our own songs and perform them at church and conferences. The Group became popular and every one at church knew us.
After the group were separated, Malatji decided to learn how to produce music, program sounds and write his own songs. He then became a solo artist, pianist, song writer and producer.
He says his stage name T_Keys simply stands for Tumelo Keys
I got this name from fans after a wedding gig, the reason behind this was to emphasise the level of professionalism I displayed and to let people know who I am and what I do in just few words.
Malatji says he combined all the knowledge he had when it came to music and created something unique. Being a pianist it became very simple to make music and program his own sound and produce music and all that created a new craft of music for the young man from Giyani. T Keys says his music is a fusion of gospel, jazz and pop, something he says is still lacking in the Tsonga RnB/Pop genre.
T Keys composes and writes all his songs. He says his music is inspired by a sub genre called Reggaeton which is an infusion of Caribbean style pop. He says his creative juices get inspiration from the likes of Major Lazer, JR Roten and Daddy Yankee.
Malatji’s first single Pfumela was well received. He says people are starting to get used to the sound but he can only grow more and more, and the feedback he has received from fans, gives him the confidence to push on and grow.
His latest offerings include I trust Ft Rhulani and Pfumela Ft KeyPat Valentino. He says he is currently working on a 5- track EP with KayDee From Ka N’wamarhanga, which will be released on all digital platforms later this year (2021).
Thus far Malatji’s career highlights include an opportunity to work with RnB and gospel singer Aretha Ngobeni on her coming song titled Revival. Malatji has also played for KB Motsilanyane in one of her wedding performances in Polokwane. He has also played for gospel artist Wandile ka Nkosi.
With regards to unearthing young talent, T Keys says he is also working with local hiphop artist Yung Francheese , local afro pop artist Ozil from Tiyani ka Magoro, for whom he produced one song titled Makwenzeke, and is currently connecting to Juvino Drex for one of his productions. He has also done production and backing for Gylie and King Jay from White River in Mpumalanga.
Malatji notes that it not easy for an upcoming artist to get airplay on radio.
As a new artist it is so difficult to establish yourself and get air play, so far it’s only Flair 9Nine playing my music last time I checked Trust and Dreams were on high rotation, I don’t know now.
This, according to T Keys, only shows that “I have to push more and make good music which people will relate to while still sticking to my own sound.”
Malatji has three music singles to his name. But what is his music about?
The Dream – this song is about people asking me who I really am, where I come from and how did I manage to push my music alone without anyone helping
Pfumela – this song is how I met my girl friend and how I tried to convince her to marry me
I trust – this song is about a couple overcoming challenges, sticking together through thick and thin.
T Keys classifies his music as Pop and says many of his fans are on YouTube. However, for T Keys it is important to continue focusing on expressing himself through his music and that “if it grows thats a win for me.”
Awards come after hard work and dedication. You should establish yourself as an artist then the people will decide if you are worthy to wear the crown .
Malatji feels that vernacular music is lacking in so many ways.
We have the talent but we don’t know how to harvest it. This can be in a form of getting the knowledge of distributing the music to online stores, as such vernac music remains an underground music and there is no money there. No big at all.
T Keys says he would like to see more being done with regards to the treatment and recognition of our home-grown music genres. He says he would like to see a balance when it comes to the recogntion of local music.
Tsonga music is not recognized at all, no matter how good your music is, as long as it’s in Tsonga it won’t go far. You may not even make it to the SAMAs. Tribalism has to end, and we as local artists…should support one another.
Malatji says they need more radio stations to support local talent and promote local content. He also says most opportunities are closed because of the hefty fees that are needed for airplay. He says artists should therefore work together to grow , share resources and information in order to make beautiful music.
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