“Looking back on that part of my life terrifies me,” says emerging musician E Gazzakof. He is referring to the time he was involved in drug trafficking in South Africa in a bid to finance his lavish and extravagant lifestyle.
Candidly opening up about living life on the edge, the 29-year-old artist told VIBEZ! that he now views that time as part of his “artistic journey” and becoming the man he is today. Born and raised in Mozambique, E Gazzakof, real name Michael Tsenane, moved to South Africa at the age of 23, hoping for an improved livelihood for him and his family. Along the way, however, he was introduced to drugs, glamorous lifestyles and “fast money”.
“I had to adjust to the life of the streets; changing myself, my character, just to maintain the lifestyle I found myself in,” he explained. Despite his dream to create an honest living, drugs turned him into a gangster overnight, said the software engineering graduate.
“I went from an honest hustle in software engineering to the underground life of drug trafficking. My life spiralled out of control. I was not addicted to drugs but was addicted to the money, the cars, the fast lane, the lifestyle, and found myself living on the edge of death.”
Narrating his ordeal, including attempting suicide five times, E Gazzakof said he had several clashes with drug lords from Mitchell’s Plain and Grassy Park in Cape Town, and saw people being murdered right in front of him, all because they couldn’t fulfil their promises to drug cartels.
“I have seen and lived it all.”
His life was transformed for good following the death of his best friend from a drug overdose.
The deceased was E Gazzakof’s drugs’ quality controller.
“I promised him before he passed away that I would change my life. He was not South African and died in a foreign country, far from home. His death was neither honourable nor dignified. I told myself that will never be me.”
That experience spurred him on to restart his life. “I realised that is not what I wanted, and asked myself if I couldn’t do more or be more than what I was. I know it sounds like a movie, but it’s very different when you have lived to tell the tale of how you escaped the underworld with your life intact,” he sobbed.
In 2013, E Gazzakof permanently moved to Namibia to pursue a career in music. Reflecting on his ambitions and dreams, the Amapiano artist said his life is a successful story of coming from the streets to the microphone.
“I always wanted to do music. After quitting drug trafficking, I decided no matter how long it takes, I will focus on what I love and enjoy, which is music. ”After debuting in 2018, E Gazzakof said the Namibian music industry ignited his musical spirit and he never looked back.
“My music is from a happy place – a happier and healthy Michael. I want to spread joy and peace through my music. Music has changed me a lot; expressing myself through music has healed many scars.”
As action speaks louder than words, E Gazzakof’s growth in music is reflected in his latest Extended Play (EP) released last month. Titled ‘K E Mjaivo’, the EP is a showcase of his flexibility in music, and expresses his vision on the music scene. Produced and mastered by highly-decorated music producer Mr Glo, ‘K E Mjaivo’ is a five-track Amapiano EP, and explores a wide variety of themes and musical ideas.
The EP is testament to E Gazzakof’s depth of engagement with music, as he flaunts his multilingual skills. The songs are expressive and lyrical, and his collaboration with other artists is carefully picked, adding value to the EP. “On this EP, I have also featured Tazz Goemi on the song ‘Salama’, which means peace and security in Swahili.”
While focusing on his personal development, the bad boy-turned-good is aiming to revive other lives through music, and wants to inspire the youth to find their purpose in life. “I wish I could have done things differently back then, but I am glad I have survived the worst. I aim to inspire young people to introspect; you can change anything you want to change, sometimes you just have to look at life differently,” he urged.
‘K E Mjaivo’ can be downloaded on all digital platforms.