Sal Masekela’s Next Act

On Wednesday, August 22, a barrage of action sports heros and celebrites packed the Sonos Studio in Los Angeles, to celebrate the latest endeavor of the man we’ve grown to know and love, the Voice of Action Sports himself, Mr. Selema “Sal” Mabena Masekela.Over the last few months, the Sonos Studio—an acoustically designed, sonically tuned listening gallery—has played host to some of the music industry’s biggest, yet simultaneously most intimate events. Listening parties and performances with Alanis Morissette, Mike Shinoda, and Jimmy Cliff, as well as a concert by the legendary Booker T Jones have packed the venue.While most of us might not know Sal’s musical roots, this event fit right in with the other A-list performers on the galleries roster. The Dingo and Chris Pastras were amongst some of action sports biggest names, but Sal’s ability to transcend the space of action sports and entertainment was also reflected. In the crowd Fergie, Josh Duhamel, Morgan Spurlock, Cisco Adler, and Michael Rapaport were also spotted.After seeing Masekela and his band Alekesam perform, and the on-screen display of his roots as friends and fans looked on, the admiration for Sal’s broad array of talents was heightened. We sat down with Sal just after the screening to hear what he had to say about action sports, music, and making his first album at the ripe old age of 39.

Congrats on the new movie and album—tell us a little about the inspiration to focus on music and putting this film project together.

Thanks. The inspiration was pretty simple. Towards the end of my four-and-a-half year stint at E! Entertainment I wasn’t very happy. Talking about celebrity news had pretty much taxed my soul and I was feeling really restless. Then ESPN offered me a gig working the 2010 World Cup as cultural reporter. I took a leave of absence from E! for two months and went down to South Africa. My dad and I shot a road trip documentary for a few weeks called Umlando and I did a bunch of human interest pieces during the World Cup.

By the time it was over, the trip had essentially helped me rediscover who I really was. I capped it off with a week at Jeffrey’s Bay surfing perfect waves and just chilling. On the plane ride back home I put it out to the universe that I was done at E! and ready to do something’s from the soul again. Two months later in October, my show got canceled and I was outta there. Suddenly I had all this time on my hands and E! still owed me eight months on my contract. I took a couple of shred trips, studied improv comedy, and then finally decided to make this record that I’d been wanting to do for about 10 years now. My cousin Sunny Levine, who is a great producer, actually put his foot in my ass to finally do it. We had collaborated on a few of his albums over the years where I sang backup. We took two months and just went for it, six days a week, 15 hours a day. Once I had a couple of tracks my partner in my production company, UX Entertainment, Jason Bergh decided to put some cameras in the studio and the documentary was born from there.

Alkesam Performs at Sonos Studio:

Your résumé just keeps getting deeper—from the voice of action sports to the voice. What are your plans for future projects? 

 There is a feature film in the works. Paul Haggis is producing it with me and I’m working on the script development right now with a South African writer/director named Mukunda Dewitt.

Are you going to continue to focus on action sports or move away from it to focus on your music career?

Action sports are my heart and soul, so they will always be a part of my life especially with my foundation Stoked.org. Big picture, in a perfect world, I’d love to do less announcing and make more music, more films, and do some more acting in the future. Right now I’m just stoked to be doing these new things while still getting to play my part in action sports.

How much of an overlap do you see between those two aspects of what you do?

From the music standpoint, not much. Sitting in the studio and creating music from start to finish is like nothing I’ve ever done before. That said, as Alekesam has been playing shows now, I’d say years of being in front of people and on camera have helped with combating stage fright.

How was the film received at Tribeca?

It was received really well at TriBeCa. One of the most amazing weeks of my life. I even got to have lunch with De Niro. That was nuts.

What did you think of Sonos Studio? They’ve got some cool stuff going on there.

The Sonos space is amazing. The detail they put into making the sound perfect is nuts—I think they’re becoming, for this generation, what Bose was in the 90’s.

You going to be touring with the new album?

I hope to do some real touring in the fall. Fingers crossed. It all depends on if the buzz the music has been getting can keep on rolling. Definitely some select shows I’m looking forward to—we’ll be playing the Belly Up in Solana Beach soon which is rad because I used to be a bar back and bouncer there waaaaaaay back in the day.

Anything else you’d like to hit on?

I’d like to say thank you to all the countless people that have helped me get to this place in my life and career. The beauty of the action sports industry is that we are a family. I got a long list of those family members that have helped me greatly with guidance and opportunities over the last 20 years. Without those peeps, I’d have none of this going on. Oh, and if all of this suddenly takes a dive and I find myself out of work, I’d like to think that there’s always a place for me at my old desk at TransWorld.