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International recognition and success, as things look up for township DJs

September 13, 2014

More DJs are being recruited from our local townships to showcase their talents on international stages, thanks to organisations such as Bridges for Music and Redbull. However, it seems as though Cape Town itself is not so accommodating.

DJ Sir Vincent

“I think that it’s of great importance to get the youth in our communities involved in music because it teaches them a way of expressing themselves … Music has the ability to inspire,” says one of Khayelitsha’s biggest music exports, Vincent Manzini aka DJ Sir Vincent.

Describing music as something that’s made his life worth living, and something he can’t live without, Manzini’s DJ skills have earned him the respect of the biggest artists in the country, as well as that of international drum and bass sensation Skrillex.

“Music has unlocked so many opportunities and through it I have met amazing people. I hope that my audience can reciprocate the same energy and emotion,” he says.

Manzini has used his talents and experience in the music world to help upskill those in his community through opening Jump Start Music Academy, Ikapa Live, Jump Start Entertainment and Loxion Cuisine, in Khayelitsha.

Pursuing his dreams of entertainment and entrepreneurship, Manzini is fast becoming associated with the biggest brands in SA, including Redbull, Black Mango and the Cape Town Electronic Music Festival.

Manzini was one of the first people to open a DJ/music school in Khayelitsha, and the academy has taught over 200 DJs to date – both men and women. He is also the co-founder of Ikasi Experience and a talent search called Ikasi Has Talent, which he also uses at a platform from which to scout musical talent.

“I have been blessed with so many opportunities and achievements, but representing SA in Amsterdam at the Amsterdam Dance Event and sharing the stage with Black Coffee at the Boiler Room, are among the biggest,” he says.

Manzini feels that DJs in the townships are often sidelined or forgotten when it comes to the line-up selection for big music events and festivals locally.

“I would say that there’s room for improvement, however, I’ve been blessed with the opportunities of playing at most festivals held across the country. There is nothing stopping us township DJs from hosting our own festivals, and inviting all races to come and play in our townships – integration goes both ways,” he says.

Manzini lists the lack of media exposure as one of the struggles that come with launching a music career in Khayelitsha.

“There needs to be a more integrated approach to artist exposure, and we need the media to tell more of our stories,” he adds.

Thibo Tazz

Another DJ who has not only made a big success of himself, but uses this as a way of informing and supporting aspiring musicians in Cape Town’s townships is Thibo Tazz, aka Thabo Rasenyalo.

It is by no means an over-exaggeration to call Thibo Tazz the prodigal son of deep, dark Afro house music. From the release of his first album Deep House Chronicles Volume 8 in 2012, to studying at the Redbull Music Academy and releasing a Redbull Studio Session compilation, Rasenyalo has used all of these platforms to encourage the youth to make music an integral part of their lives and communities.

“Music is a form of expression to the township community. It’s always played an important role in uplifting the spirit when all hope seemed lost. It’s important to include music wherever we live and to continue the legacy of telling our stories to the world through it,” he says.

Rasenyalo says that through music he’s become able to discover a bigger calling in the industry and develop a passion to work harder everyday. Occasionally shifting the spotlight from himself to townships and their stories, he encourages other musicians within his circle to never give up and continue pursuing their passions.

“The music we play is not only entertaining but it also plays an important part in spiritual healing. The joy and satisfaction of people enjoying themselves with all their troubles left behind is therapeutic to the soul,” he says.

As a Redbull Academy ambassador, Rasenyalo spreads informs aspiring musicians of the opportunities that are available if they submit their work to the academy or participate in music workshops.

“In the last couple of years, there’s been an increased demand for more township musicians, DJs and producers to be part of major festivals and events worldwide. I believe that this is mainly because of South Africa’s uniquely distinct urban dance sound, which is original and truly depicts our everyday stories and encounters,” says Rasenyalo.

Playing a back-to-back set with Skrillex at the world famous Glastonbury Festival exposed Rasenyalo and his community to the world, adding what he calls “serious value” to his career and simultaneously drawing attention to South Africa’s music scene.

Believing that a union of Cape Town’s influential artists could change how people perceive the township scene, Rasenyalo would also like to see more township DJs developing the ability to play to a cross-race market.

“The music scene is at a point where if we continue setting trends and hosting events that appeal to a diverse audience, eventually having a corporate backing to amplify the outreach, we could definitely re-define the audience’s perceptions of townships and be able to host unified gatherings,” he says.

“Unlike other parts of SA where the music scene is incorporated into various corporate entities to help with its growth, Cape Town still faces the challenge of launching a self-sustainable music industry,” says Rasenyalo.

The changes that he’d like to see made within the industry include the creation of a sense of unity between the city and township musicians, as well as the younger generation being inspired to come up with edgier and more robust ideas that could see this through.

DJ Lavish 189

From Langa to the world’s biggest music event, Tomorrowland, DJ Lavish 189 aka Alton Headman is an inspiring young men from Langa.

“In Europe I was able to meet and connect with people that would be able to help me further my career as a musician. This made me realize that music is a very powerful tool that can empower the youth in our communities,” says Headman.

“Upon starting my DJ career I was involved in my community radio station Love Life FM, where I was able to educate and inform members of Langa about the positive impact of music, healthy living, creating a safe and productive lifestyle, and being sexually responsible,” says Headman.

He strongly believes that music allows the youth to focus a lot of their time and energy towards something positive, instead of crime or drug abuse.

“It helps create opportunities for people who might not have had the chance to empower themselves. Music has changed my life for better, broadening my perspectives on what I may become in life,” says Headman.

When he’s on the decks, he plays both music he’s produced as well as that of struggling producers from Langa who find it difficult to put their music out there. Since making his debut on the world’s biggest stage, Headman has realized how sidelined township performers are when it comes to being showcased on big platforms in Cape Town.

“I feel like most major festival creators focus on booking DJs that are already known. Of course this is meant to attract a big audience to their events, but it also causes famous artists to become more famous and the less popular to become even less known,” he says.

The only way in which Headman believes that this could change is if more music conferences and workshops are held to inform new and old musicians on the ways in which they can launch their careers.

“The struggles that come with launching a music career in here include the lack of resources. Most DJs and producers don’t have access to all the expensive equipment required to make or play their own music, and without these tools it makes it hard to grow one’s career,” he says.

“I’d like to see more of a cultural exchange and gathering that would create networking opportunities that would further the careers of township musicians,” says Headman.

DJ DiloXclusiv

DJ DiloXclusiv, aka Vuyisa Genu, represented Gugulethu in Amsterdam in 2013, and his achievements have inspired many youngsters to get into music programs. His unique style of mixing house, Kwaito, Afrobeat and world music has made him one of the most sought after DJ’s on the scene.

“To me this achievement has meant that if I continue with music and learning more about the industry, then I can become a bigger and better DJ,” says Genu.

“I’m involved in a lot of community projects and establish most through music. I’m currently part of the Cape Town DJ Music Festival, an event that’s going to raise awareness about our township DJs, also offering them a platform from which to showcase their skills to large crowds,” he says.

“Our parents don’t believe that with music you can have a good career, therefore, most music lovers won’t follow a career in music. In Gugulethu that is somewhat slowly changing – people are beginning to think of life beyond the township and these are the same people that are contributing towards the growth of the industry,” says Genu. He also lists the lack of resources and equipment as an extremely big challenge when it comes to music production.

“We don’t have stakeholders that are interested in investing thousands of rands into music and building the township music scene,” he adds.

Although living in the township can limit one’s opportunities, there are ways through organizations such as Bridges for Music, Redbull and the initiatives started by these musicians themselves.

Through uniting the musicians of Cape Town a lot of musical development can happen within townships, more so if corporate entities stepped in to create more accessible platforms where this could take place.

A local place for the exchange of ideas and the use of equipment could also help spread skills and knowledge.

Thanks to the achievements of the abovementioned artists, more initiatives and workshops are popping up in Langa, Gugulethu and Khayelitsha, educating and equipping hopefuls with what they otherwise wouldn’t have been able afford on their own.

International recognition of Sir Vincent, Thibo Tazz, DiloXclusiv, DJ Fosta and Lavish has shown the world the positive impact that music has had on their communities, thus encouraging music heavyweights to become more involved with their own surrounding townships.

Source: GroundUp

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