Black Coffee: Rags-to-Rich’s South African DJ continues despite Covid

The coronavirus pandemic has silenced many artists, but South Africa’s house music pioneer Nkosinathi Maphumulo, popularly known as DJ Black Coffee, shook him – dropping an album and creating a streaming platform.

The legendary DJ released his sixth album, the first in five years, just weeks before his 45th birthday.

As the pandemic hit the pause button on live musical performances and pushed many in the concert industry to the brink of collapse, the township-born musician-turned-star of the house navigated between composing a new album, the creation of its own music streaming service and philanthropic work.

On February 5, he delivered a 12-track album titled “Subconscfully” featuring an eclectic mix of local and international artists, including American singer Pharrell Williams, French DJ David Guetta, Australian musician RY X and the South – African Msaki.

“Every artist who is there brings a certain musical side to me,” the soft and slender-voiced artist, considered one of the richest in Africa, told AFP.

Maphumulo is one of a generation of black South Africans who rode the wave of democracy from 1994 and lifted themselves out of poverty.

“He’s our biggest international hit really because he’s worth $ 60 million,” said University of the Witwatersrand anthropologist David Coplan, echoing Forbes magazine’s ranking of richest artists.

The DJ has carved out a niche for himself in the highly diverse house music market and is sometimes compared to legendary South African cultural exports – Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Johnny Clegg.

He’s more than just a star, Copland said, but “the real story.”

Maphumulo’s latest album had over 100 million streams even before it was released, following the string of hits from previous albums that recorded local multi-platinum sales status.

University dropout

Born in South Africa’s fourth largest municipality, Umlazi, he moved to live with his grandmother in Mthatha, a rural town about 30 kilometers (18 miles) from Nelson Mandela’s birthplace, after the divorce. of his parents.

It was there that his grandmother’s old radio introduced him to the sounds of local maskandi, jazz and soul.

He then joined his high school choir before going to study jazz at a college in Durban.

“The decision to study music at a tertiary level was the line between just being a fan of music and loving it and really taking it seriously,” he said.

“As soon as I stepped into that space I knew I needed to make a career out of it, so that was the defining moment and all I did after that was right after that. start.

Unable to pay the fees, Maphumulo dropped out of music college. In 1997, he joined forces with two former music students and formed the afro-pop group Simply Hot and Naturally (SHANA).

He then detached to fly solo.

Maphumulo’s success in 2005 was a remix of “Stimela” by jazz maestro Hugh Masekela, a popular political ballad of jazz and afro-funk that was a metaphor for the migrant labor industry.

Her self-titled album debuted a few months later.

Under his Soulistic Music label, he released nine bodies of work, including a platinum DVD, entitled “Africa Rising”, recorded live in 2011 with an orchestra of 24 musicians.

In 2016, he became the first South African to win a BET Award in the category of best international act. Jacob Zuma, then president, hailed it as “a first class international export”.

Next, Maphumulo is launching a streaming app called Gongbox, intended to help emerging African artists who are fighting for platforms to showcase their music, while retaining proprietary catalogs.

But his lively two-decade career has not been without controversy.

Her divorce from actress Enhle Mbali Mlotshwa has seen court battles splash the tabloids amid allegations of abuse.

A viral video clip from 2016 showing him slapping the manager of a local rapper backstage shocked fans.

Behind the scenes, he runs a charity that supports people with disabilities.

Now bespectacled, bald and sporting a beard of salt and pepper, Maphumulo was involved in a mini-bus accident that left him paralyzed in one arm on the eve of Mandela’s release in February 1990, forcing him learn how to spin discs with one hand. .

The injury made him work harder, he said. “I need to work probably five times as hard as anyone.”


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