One of the things I enjoy doing in my spare time is DJing at parties. I get a massive kick out of being able to play music that puts people in a good mood.
Most party DJs will tell you that the greatest pleasure is being able to select one song after another that keeps people on the dancefloor.
We consider it a failure when we carefully fire off a song that causes even just one person to leave the floor. Over the years, my speciality has evolved to become 70s and 80s music to suit all types.
As a result I have entertained rowdy patrons at shebeens in Khayelitsha, taverns in George, pubs in Kleinmond and bars along the West Coast.
While many of these have been product promotions, I have also DJed at company year-end parties, sommer-net parties, and parties that range from 60th birthdays to 21st parties and everything in between.
The other thing that DJs are really good at, is the ability to kill a party in under 10 minutes. There are certain songs that we know will destroy the mood in an instant. Every DJ has his own mood killer.
It’s usually three songs that we play one after another that slowly brings the party to an end. We play these songs at around 2am when the neighbours start complaining and the cops are about to arrive.
I didn’t really have songs like that on standby, but about 15 years ago I remember needing to bring a very noisy party in Melkbosstrand to a close.
The place was filled with mostly Afrikaans-speaking people who had all had one glass of personality too much. I had satisfied them the entire night with a mixture of popular Afrikaans and 80s sing-along songs.
As I was going through my CDs, I spotted Mandoza’s Nkalakatha and I decided to take a chance.
I figured the few coloureds and blacks would hit the dance floor and the whites would certainly call it a night. I have never been more wrong in all my years as a DJ.
That party went from zero to 60 in under 10 seconds. People who weren’t even dancing before, suddenly started busting moves that made it look like Mandoza was actually performing live at that moment.
That night I learned a very valuable lesson as a DJ, but also about the transformation powers of the arts.
Not only did I misjudge the crossover appeal of Nkalakatha, but I had completely underestimated my crowd – something that any DJ will tell you we should never do.
Now don’t get me wrong; I am not trying to reduce South Africa’s very complicated race issues to one song.
But there is something beautiful about playing a home-grown song that nobody understands and yet they are all singing along to.
It is a wishful snapshot of what we could be as a nation.
Mandoza was by no means the first muso to have achieved this in South Africa, but he can claim to have done it at a very crucial time in our history.
That surprise moment when my dancefloor was packed with sweaty white people dancing their hearts out to Nkalakatha, helped me to explore more songs that cross over in the same way.
Sometimes I still get it horribly wrong, but I now have a list of songs that work for any crowd anywhere in the country; something we DJs consider to be gold.
I won’t reveal them all, but here are a few: Thathi Sgubhu, Loslappie,Vuli Ndlela, Udakwa Njalo, 2-Bob, Leeuloop, Burn Out and right at the top is Nkalakatha.
So thank you Mandoza for contributing to our diverse unity.
You left us too soon, but rest in peace.