Bubele Booi has been hard at work taking his career to new heights. After producing and writing music for a string of local acts like Craig Lucas, Tellaman, Ryki, Jethro Tait, Dominic Neill and more, the star moved to the United States last year in the hopes of hitting the big time as a producer stateside. Today, a year later, he’s released a new single titled with Beyoncé titled ‘Find Your Way Back’.
In a tweet, which has since gone viral, Bubele admits he’s eternally grateful for the journey he has embarked on. “Almost a year ago a South African kid left home with a suitcase and a keyboard. A year later that same African kid was given an opportunity to produce a song for @Beyonce. That kid is me, and I’m humbled,” he says. Now, he details how this exciting collaboration happened.
The star admits that he had been promised meetings with Universal Music Group, who he has a publishing deal with, but hadn’t happened for months. Things changed when Ari Gelaw joined Universal Music Publishing Group as an A&R rep and met with him in October. Gelaw saw something in Booi’s abilities, and she set him up with Mariel Gomerez, an A&R rep at Parkwood. That Parkwood, as Booi would come to learn — Beyoncé’s label. He sent through some music to the label and, again, hadn’t heard back from them for months.
Then, one day, he got a call from a representative at Parkwood. “She says to me, ‘Hey, I just wanted to tell you something. My boss likes your music,’” Booi says “So I’m like, ‘Okay, cool. Who’s your boss?’ And she’s like, ‘I can’t legally say her name.’ So I’m like, ‘Oh, you mean the boss-boss.’ And now I’m freaking out on the inside.”
The months that followed included long stretches of silence and a call from the label every so often. “Her team operates like the CIA, they are incredible at what they do,” Booi says. “They do not tell you even a little bit more than you need to know; they’ll tell you exactly how much you need to know, maybe a little bit less.”
A turning point occurred when he was visiting a friend in Los Angeles and was about to head back to New York when he got a call from the label asking him to stay in LA. “That was an incredible moment for me. I can’t even express how ridiculous it was,” Booi says. “It’s a week of meeting and interacting with the coolest people. And during that you create a bunch of things and it gets passed around, and you never really know what’s happening.”
However, ‘Find Your Way Back’ wasn’t birthed at the songwriting camp. Booi worked with Robert Magwenzi on the song at his mom’s house in Johannesburg without knowing Beyoncé would even hear it. “She happened to pick it up, and for some reason, really resonated with it, and then gave a random bunch of kids from Africa a chance,” Booi says. “I just can’t even believe someone of her caliber would do something like that. But I guess someone of her caliber can do something like that.”
The song eventually landed up on ‘The Lion King: The Gift’, an album dedicated to the film and African music in particular – something Booi feels honoured to be a part of. “The Lion King has massive significance in South Africa, being released in 1994,” he says. “And there’s also the freedom you also have in South Africa, where the apartheid regime officially came to an end. So being involved in a project like this, for me, is monumental.”
The album features a string of African artists including our very own Moonchild Sanelly and Busiswa as well as Wizkid, Burna Boy, Yemi Alade and more. Booi adds that Beyoncé and the team’s dedication to creating authentically African music is something that sets this project apart. “They didn’t take shortcuts and appropriate or be like, ‘Oh, we like Afrobeat, let’s get a whole bunch of American people to make African-sounding things,’” he continues. “They’re like, ‘This Lion King means so much. And it’s based in Africa. And I think that we need to give people an opportunity from this geographical location to be part of it.’”
Working on the project is certainly a career highlight for Bubele. “The dream is to live a life and have your kids have a normal life. And once in a while though, Auntie Beyoncé comes in for a barbecue,” Booi says. “I said that completely jokingly many years ago. I wasn’t able to meet her on this project; I missed her by two hours when we were in the studio that one night. But now it’s like, ‘Wow, it’s a possibility.’”
We can’t wait to see where the star takes his musical journey next.
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