Themba Sikowe, also known as DJ Maphorisa shares how he became a musical force to be reckoned with as a producer and offers success tips to aspiring musicians.
If you have danced to or put on repeat hit songs such as Y-TjukuTja and Soweto Baby by uHuru and Wizkid, Khona, by Mafikizolo and Ngudu by Kwesta, DJ Maphorisa is the man behind those songs. The DJ has produced hit songs for Africa’s big stars and he is not planning to slow down. He shares, “I grew up in Soshanguve, from a musical and Christian background. That’s where my love for music was born. I grew up listening to a lot of music, especially house music. Some of the household names I was inspired by are Corry Da Groove, DJ Monde, DJ Fresh, DJ Oskido and Black Coffee. When dad got me a computer 15 years ago I used it to learn how to make music. I was in grade 11 when I made my first song, which I feel didn’t do well. I was lucky that my family supported me to a point where they bought me a sound system. I started offering music services at local events, such as weddings and birthday parties. I was 17 when I got my first record deal and produced my first album called Funny Face. The album didn’t do well though but I continued to perfect my craft. It was when Tiro introduced me to Kalawa Jazmee that things started picking up for me. A major production that gave me my big break was Putu Putu by Vetkoek vs Mahoota, at the age of 19. By the time I was signed to Kalawa I had already produced hits, such as Jazebel by Professor, My name is, by DJ Zintle, Zamatebele by DJ Oskido, Jika by Dr Malinga, and Ngoku by Busiswa.
In 2012 I decided to form the group uHuru with DJ Clap, Mapiyano and Xeli Mpilo. It was our second album, Our Father, which made waves, and it went platinum! It was actually Mafikizolo’s single, khona that bridged our access to other African countries and we worked with acclaimed musicians such as Davido, Sefo Pedo, Wiz Kid, Akon, Diamond Platinumz, Becca and Gaza and the Doug. Khona also sits as one of the highest viewed singles on Youtube. Last year was one of my busiest years, as I worked with many stars for the Coke Studio production, where I did a collaboration with American singer, Trey Songz.
My biggest highlights were the release of Y-TjukuTja as it made uHuru noticed, as well as Soweto Babe, which has many views on Youtube and won me the MTV African Music Awards in 2016 for best collaboration.
I saw a big market in the hip hop industry and I started branching into it. I worked with the likes of AKA and Major League. It was an amazing experience producing hit songs such as Maibabo and the award winning single, Ngudu by Kwesta. I think what makes me good at what I do is that I listen to a lot of music. To be honest, there is nothing new under the sun. It’s about how you make it appealing that differentiates you as a producer.
One of the challenges I face in my career is maintaining the standards I have made for myself. The music industry is fickle in that you can’t guarantee relevance and longevity. You have to accept change and be ahead of competitors.
I think I have found my calling in music because I believe that my purpose is to bring people together through music. I have also reached a point where I want to help where I can because I know how hard it is to break into and remain in the music industry. Being a music producer can be a long-term career but you have to branch out to make money. As a producer, money comes in after the song’s airplay. But you need cash flow as well. This is why I decided to be a promoter. The last gig I did was in May 2016, where we hosted close to 5 000 people. It was the Tshwane Music Festival, where we did a three-day music conference. We brought other musicians and producers and scouted out talent. It was a huge success and I want to make it an annual event. My advice to the aspiring musician is have respect for your craft and people, work hard, have the dedication and be passionate. The rest will fall into place.”
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