ZIMBABWE-BORN artiste and producer Sipho Ray Sithole, publicly known as RantoBokgo, is making it big overseas.
By Tinashe Sibanda
Ranto, who was born in Rusape and attended John Cowie Primary, Kutama College and Prince Edward School, features on the award-winning song Worldwide by Kwaai Records.
The artiste, who is more renowned in Scandinavia and South Africa for his Afro-soul/hip-hop reggae sounds which features some Afro-reggae tone vocals accompanied by his unique acoustic guitar strumming, has been considered an inspired songwriter with lyrics mainly addressing socio-political issues on a global scale.
“I was on the Kwaai Tour last summer organised by my Swedish colleagues Victor Marko and Jens Siverstedt which toured around Scandinavia, sponsored by the Swedish Arts Council and Red Bull, opening up for top international acts like Alicia Keys and Kendrick Lamar,” he said.
He said his single Kumba Kure was recently selected, a major development for the artiste, by the United States Department of Immigration last year to play as the lead song to the country’s current immigrant refugees media kit film.
“This development means that every refugee entering the US as of 2013 will get to listen to the song as part of their orientation Welcome to The United States DVD which is issued by the State to them upon arrival in the country,” he added.
Ranto said he was the first artiste in history to open and perform at a Fifa World Cup concert, which was introduced for the first time as part of the World Cup event at the 2010 Fifa World Cup held in Johannesburg, South Africa.
He produced the entire film score to the Scandinavian film Hidden Heart, which is about revealing the truth behind the intellectual property of the first human heart transplant, between Christian Barnard and Hamilton Naki.
“The film was a huge success at Cannes and Sundance film festivals in Europe and besides that my feature on the single Worldwide by Australian rapper/producer Simplex won us the Best Rap album as voted via popular magazine Onion in Adelaide in 2012,” Ranto said.
He will also be appearing on Israeli producer Meli One’s debut album Through My Beats scheduled for release sometime this year with a single called Designers Of War featuring Israel’s top reggae artiste Soul-J.
The artiste has produced and written singles in South Africa for major acts like: Jahseed & Thandiswa Mazwai of Bongo Muffin, Jozi, Ishmael MXO, Tshidi of Rhythm City soapie, and one of the main singles Crush which appears on the 2012 award-winning My Way a debut album by Lucky Dube’s daughter Nkulee Dube, among others.
“My first record deal in 2000 was with South Africa’s Ghetto Ruff Records alongside artistes like Zola, Ishmael, Skeem, Prophets Of the City, Jozi, Da Les and Bongani Fassie before becoming the first Zimbabwean to be signed to Warner Music AB via Juju Records, in Scandinavia in 2001, then signed to Universal Publishing AB in Sweden in 2007 which got me relocating to Sweden in 2001,” he said.
Ranto released his debut album Urban Africa in Europe in 2005 via indie label Juju Records, home to Swedens best solo rapper/label owner Timbuktu.
The album went on to score the most licence deals via major Playground Music AB, spanning from Scandinavia, Spain, Italy to South Korea, Japan and Australia to mention a few territories.
He then collaborated on various releases including works with major acts like: Timbuktu, Chords, LoopTroop, Turbulance and Tha Alkaholics of the US.
His founding contribution to album Tellings Of Solitaire by LoopTroop’s producer Embee went on to win the MTV Europe Best Producer award in 2006 for the album.
He produced the lead track and popular video 1 000 People on the compilation CD Steps which led the Scandinavian project also called Steps featuring 33 films across Africa raising awareness about HIV and Aids. The CD features Oliver Mtukudzi, Manu Dibango, Lucky Dube and Phillip Miller etc. Steps won the 10th South African Music Awards Best Compilation category.
Ranto is currently working on new music for Kwaai alongside Driemanskap rap group of Cape Town, Eli Maysarah, a rapper from Johannesburg, and also has a production deal with Red Bull Studios in Copenhagen, Denmark.
He also owns label Urban Afreeka Records based in South Africa, under Universal Publishing whom he has a four-year exclusive deal with in Johannesburg and is always looking for talent.
Ranto is also currently involved in a music compilation album featuring Zim artistes, as well as consultancy work in general for the Zimbabwe Rural Libraries Initiative that is to be launched by Primary Education minister Lazarus Dokora at Book Cafe in Harare on April 3, 2014.
Together with his group, Kwaai, a collection of Swedish and South African artistes, they have won the Swedish Grammy in the Manifest Awards “Best Rhythm” award held in Stockholm, Sweden.