The story, influences, and incredible music video behind the latest single from her upcoming “Get That Shot” EP.
Tāmaki Makaurau-based artist Jujulipps pays homage to her Afrobeat roots while also delivering an empowering call to pause and reflect on the busy-ness of life in her latest song “Airplane Mode”. I sat down with the artist to discuss the song’s origins, the inspiration behind the music video, and the legacy that she wants to leave for the next generation of African New Zealanders.
The new track is titled “Airplane Mode”. What does it mean to be in “Airplane Mode”? Was there a particular event that influenced the song’s title?
“Airplane Mode” basically just means switching off. There are so many times I have to tell myself that if I sit down for a couple of hours and do nothing, then that’s okay. We are human beings. We need time to relax and reflect, and that is what the track is about—switching off and tuning out for a little bit.
The hook for the song actually came from a studio session I had with Tom Scott (Avondale Bowling Club). I remember thinking to myself, “I need to focus.” And somebody called me in the middle of the session. I remember picking up my phone to switch it off and saying out loud “Someone’s calling me, I don’t know why.” Immediately Tom was like, “Get up and put that on the mic.”
“Airplane Mode” has been described as “the ultimate Afro-beat ‘switch-off’ anthem”. What energy do you want people listening to the song to get from it?
Get up and dance. This track is so me in so many different ways, and I just want that energy to come through to the people listening. The creation of the song is so representative of how I want people to react to it. When we were adding new instruments or sounds, I knew they were right through how I reacted. If they made me want to get up and dance, then I knew it was a good fit. And that’s how I want people listening to feel, that natural feeling of wanting to switch off, get up, and move with the song.
Collaborations like REMA and Selena Gomez show that Afrobeat is starting to gain mainstream global appeal, do you have some Afrobeat idols or other artists that you’d like to collab with in future?
I love the girls. I am a girl’s girl. I would love to work with Arya Starr. My girl Tyla, she is so sick. Sho Madjozi as well, I feel like we would mesh so well. It’s beautiful because I feel like the sounds of the diaspora are becoming mainstream and I think it’s so sick that women are getting their respect in the Afrobeat community.
The Afrobeat sound is eclectic and draws on many different instruments outside of the classical Western catalogue, one of my favourite parts of the arrangement of the song is how you use your own voice as an instrument in different parts. What are your favourite musical elements in the track?
Probably the bass line. We were in the studio one day and Joost (Langeveld) who co-owns Bigpop came into the studio and played the bass. We gave him a general vibe and asked him to play around and he ended up coming up with the bass line for the song. It fits so perfectly.
The music video draws on the imagery of the classic South African Film Sarafina… What does the film mean to you and why did you choose to use the film as visual inspiration for the music video?
The whole music video process was amazing from the start. My team and I have been big fans of both Ezra (Simons) and Oscar (Keyes) for quite some time. So when it came time to shoot the music video for “Airplane Mode”, we knew we wanted to go with them in terms of direction. The reason we chose Sarafina as inspiration is because it reminds me of the happiest and most carefree moments of my life, back when I was a little school girl in South Africa. The outfit I wear in the video is actually a replica of what I used to wear in my childhood in South Africa. The other element I really wanted to incorporate from Sarafina was the dancing. The way they dance reminds me so much of those time periods of my life that I felt most carefree, and that’s the energy that I wanted to bring to the video.
You’ve said that elements of the music video are meant to draw on your childhood. I wanted to ask how heavily you’ve been influenced by the music of your parents and what songs you grew up listening to?
It was always Congolese music. My parents used to play all these melodies of scratched CDs that we owned. So much African Gospel as well, that was always present in our house. My parents actually inspired some of the lyrics on “Airplane Mode”. In the verse I used Swahili insults that they used on me when I’d be naughty as a kid. It was a lot of fun to add that special piece of my culture into the song. In terms of music inspiration, I think that you can definitely hear some Fela Kuti in there, and even some inspiration from newer artists like Lil Simz.
The migration of African people to New Zealand really only started in the nineties, so we haven’t really had a generation of African Kiwi’s in the mainstream of New Zealand culture. Since you have had to essentially carve out a niche for yourself, what legacy do you want to leave for the future generations of African New Zealanders?
When I first came to New Zealand, I remember being told off for being too loud. But that’s what I was used to back home in South Africa. It took me a long time to realise that I wasn’t too much, or too loud—and that I should be proud to express myself because that’s the African way. What I want young African New Zealanders to understand is who we are as Africans and for them to be proud of that. We hold a different power as Africans. Not a better power, but a different one that’s unique to our continent and our people. There were so many of our ancestors who had to fight hard battles for us to be here. Africa is full of talented people and we are blessed to be given the opportunity to use our talents in our new home Aotearoa.
But I will never forget where I came from. I am in my mother, just as I am in my grandmother and great-grandmother, who were all strong African women. I think there are going to be some amazing opportunities coming for us if we continue to grow and uplift each other. I’ve been lucky to be blessed with opportunities from people like Jess B, and I think that’s what I love about our African community, we put each other on and uplift each other. We need to continue to build that sense of community.