Google “South African DJs” and the list that pops up is mostly men. Even though there’s a fair amount of South African womxn DJs playing regularly at local gigs at The Waiting Room, Kitcheners and festivals like the Cape Town Electronic Music Festival as well as other corners of the country and globe, they are still underrepresented in mainstream media and online.
We caught up with seven masterful DJs as an attempt to correct this misrepresentation and to find out their views on the local industry.
Name: Angela Weickl aka ANG
Years in industry: Ten
Music genre: Booty bass
Inspired by: The idea that anything is possible.
First gig: The Independent Armchair Theatre (I don’t remember what the party was.)
Most memorable set: Rocking The Daisies 2016. (I played at #FIllTheDome3pm at the festival)
On the power of music: DJing is the only thing that can make me feel better when I’m sad, tired, hungover or sick. The idea that you can share energy with people around you through the nostalgia and euphoria inspired by the music you play is incomparable.
On challenges unique to female DJs: Aside from constantly having to answer this question (that door was left wide open, soz lol.)? As in all male-dominated industries, women are regularly judged by their appearance rather than on merit. If we are too pretty, then it’s our looks that get us all our gigs, if we aren’t pretty enough we aren’t deemed a suitable representation for our craft to certain audiences or brands. We get ranked according to skill level amongst other women in our industry rather than amongst all our peers. And we have the supreme honour of being nicknamed things like DJanes, Mix Mistresses and Deck Divas, which is always a riot.
Years in the industry: I’ve been on the periphery peering in for a while but I’d say I’ve professionally and actively been deep in it for about a year.
Music genre: My core sound floats between funk, soul, classic RnB, disco, boogie, and classic club tracks from the ’80s and ’90s. But I have a hip hop and RnB residency as well. I grew up on all of these sounds, so I pay them homage.
First gig: First professional gig has to be Rainbowtime at Waiting Room.
Most memorable set: Cape Town Electronic Music Festival this year. That’s a memory and achievement I’ll treasure for the rest of my life.
What is music: Music is a powerful tool connected to all facets of life. It’s love, memories, friendship, celebration, a catalyst for change and so much more. For me though, the most powerful thing it can be is a healer and an escape.
On challenges unique to ‘female DJs’: Not being labelled as a female DJ. GTFO with that shit. I hate the word ‘female’. Stop reducing us to a gender that some of us don’t even identify with.
(Ed’s note: K-$ welcomed being a part of this list)
Name: Tiny T (Tania De Gouveia)
Years in the industry: Five
Genre: Hip hop, RnB, dancehall, moombahton, electro and bass house.
Inspired by: ANG, K-$, Bryan Travis
First gig: 2012 in Edward Street (northern suburbs).
Most memorable set: My first debut at Uppercut Button Bashers in 2015 and Fiction for Beats Museum: Mac Miller & Anderson Paak a few weeks ago.
On the power of music: No matter what you are going through, music heals, it is an escape and sometimes it is all that we need to feel better.
On challenges unique to female DJs: There are times where you aren’t taken seriously, people look at you differently, and sometimes it feels like you have to earn people’s respect by proving them wrong.
Tiny T enjoys playing at Kennedy’s, Fiction and The Waiting Room because there are no limitations with genres and the crowds are appreciative of different sounds. “I wanted to be a music producer when I was younger, not so much a DJ. I’ve always had an interest in music to the point where my friends and family would ask me to bring music to their parties. My brother was a DJ too, I would watch him practice all the time, and when he wasn’t home, I would switch on his set up and play music (he still doesn’t know this). I purchased a DJ controller in 2012, and I started practising and playing here and there, and that’s how it all started”, she says.
Name: Tumelo “Melo” Kgwathe or SistaMatik DJ
Genre: Hip hop
Years in the industry: I started learning how to DJ back when I was a teen at Metropolis. It was the only Hip hop club at the time – don’t worry I wasn’t going clubbing in my teens. Metropolis operated during the day from 12 pm to 6 pm on Saturdays. I could safely say about ten to fifteen years in and out OG status.
Inspired by: I’m inspired by the streets, graffiti, art, fashion, skateboarding, unlimited and unapologetic self-expression and love.
First gig: Horror Café in 2001 – the event was called One Love Movement.
Most memorable set: At the Hutuz Hip Hop Festival in Rio de Janiero.
What is music: I believe that music is a great healer and an awesome archivist of memories both and good and bad. Notice how a song can take you back to a certain event in your life every time you hear it.
On the challenges unique to female DJs: Promoters feeling that they don’t need to pay because they are giving me a platform as a woman. People putting the emphasis more on the fact that I am a woman and DJing coming secondary. People trying to speak with you while you are trying to mix.
“I really really do enjoy playing at Kitcheners in Braam. The sound is great, it’s intimate, and there’s freedom to play and enjoy underground music, plus there really isn’t any kind of pretentious celebrity status thing, and you are always guaranteed an audience on any day of the week. I love the Constitution Hill and the Tennis Club as well.”
Name: Gontse “Phatstoki” More
Years in industry: Three years mixing and one year live DJing.
Genre: Non-genre specific
Inspired by: A long list of shit. I can’t get through it all, and I’m not corny enough to say shit like “life”, so I’ll leave it at that.
First gig: 1st Pussy Party
Most memorable set: Cunty Power
On the power of music: So powerful you could probably only describe it with a song, or a picture painted to the sound of it.
On challenges unique to female DJs: Yeah, question’s like these are challenges, constantly having to deal with people bringing up the fact that I have breasts compared to the DJ who doesn’t. I find it strange that how I was born determined my capabilities before I even got the chance to try anything. The challenges consist of having to constantly prove myself to people solely on the basis of how my body is built. Hearing things like; “wow your set was amazing, I had no idea you were a girl”. That shit is what I’m trying to eradicate. If people liked my work, I’d appreciate it if they acknowledged that I did good when I have, not that I did good “for a girl.”
Name: Phola Gumede aka LoveslavePhola
Years in the industry: Six
Genre: Hip hop, old school and R&B.
Inspired by: Hannah Faith
First gig: The Throwdown
Most memorable set: DJing in Stockholm and the folk there were going nuts over my kwaito set.
What is music to you: It has the power to heal, unify and ignite.
On challenges unique to female DJs: There aren’t any.
“The Wknd Social was my most favourite place to play my sets. I played one of my first sets there and grew with the crowd for 4 years. It felt like home”, says Phola, adding that she thought DJing would be a cool skill to acquire but “getting into the industry” was never her initial intention. Of the local industry, she says, “definitely on the up. It’s so dope seeing a lot of musicians and DJs being innovative and putting out their best work”.
Name: Rosie Parade
Years in the industry: Five years DJsing, more bts.
Inspired by: Bare skin, sweat down your calves and community.
First gig: A woman’s day event, LOL.
Most memorable set: Social Market Pretoria. There was one of those multi-member hip hop groups on stage before me, and when I played my first song, all the boys at the front walked away. Like a tide pulling in all the honeys in the spot came to the front and moved their bodies like it was a hymn. Joburg knows me and my weird beats by now, but it was affirming to see the same reaction from honeys who knew nothing about me. It proves the worth of what some of us are doing – follow your heart, be yourself, show yourself and your honesty will be returned in light.
On the power of music: Not just music, but the magical partnership of music and dancing is a medicine that heals your body and your soul.
On challenges unique to female DJs: When the decks are too high, and you have to stand on a flight case… and having your gender automatically prefix your profession.
“Pussy Party at KCB. KCB is my home-base, and I’m the most comfortable playing there on the gear I know and a system I can trust to do my weird jams justice. No manager is going to tell me to play more upbeat. Pussy Party, in particular, has become a really supportive space for our DJs. You get a lot of love from other women on the dancefloor, which empowers you to experiment and test yourself”, explains Rosie on where she enjoys playing most. Of the local industry in Joburg she rates, “Some of the most electric personalities live in Johannesburg. We have a reputation for wanting to party, to dance, to connect…Music, dancing and nightlife are so important for social cohesion and healing. I wouldn’t be anywhere but here”.