Dance Music Royalty, Zakes Bantwini dabbles in DJing

The multi-award winning musician chats to us about why he is finally showcasing his DJing skills.

By: Lin Aztekville & Mokgadi Letsoalo
Photos by: Lin Aztekville

Zakes blessed us with anthems, Bum Bum, Wasting My Time, Juju (With. Black Coffee), which instantly propelled him to fame, locally and internationally. But, it’s his electrifying performances and dance moves, which are reminiscent of James Brown that solidified him as a world-class entertainer.

With three albums under his belt, Zakes put his solo career on hold, in 2014, when he was appointed the Executive Head of A&R at Sony Music.

In 2017, he headed back to the studio and gave birth to his long awaited fourth record, Love, Light & Music 2.

We met the man at the SJN Agency’s From Africa to Europe Celebration where he entertained the guests as the DJ. He played an array of local and international house music, showcasing his global musical palate.

Zakes on the decks

Blacklight sat down with him for a quick conversation about music, touring Europe and fatherhood.

So far, how is your 2018?
Zakes Bantwini:
We have done a European tour and performed in Amsterdam and the Netherlands. We also did an International Music Summit (IMS) in Ibiza and we will head back to London later on this year to release a single for the European and US Tour. There is still so much more we plan to do.

What characteristics do you look for when you are looking for a management team?
Zakes Bantwini:
I represent a lot of things from fashion to music production and entrepreneurship. I’m all about people, education and health. I speak on many different things, therefore I need people who understood my full vision and not just see me as a music brand. I want to been seen as something greater and more meaningful.

When did you start dabbling with DJing?
Zakes Bantwini:
It has probably been 18 years since I started DJing but I have never wanted to do it for people. SJN opened me up to the idea because there are some venues that are too small or inadequate for my performances but people still want to see me there. So, I needed to mould my performance to still provide entertainment in those spaces where it’s just a DJ’s deck. That is what we are currently doing at the moment.

Considering that you are known for being a master producer, how does that influence your DJ sets?
Zakes Bantwini:
It has been a holistic approach it terms of presentation. I do not consider myself a DJ, and other DJ’s should not look at me as one. I am an artist and it’s just another form of presenting my music in a space where I may not be able to get up on stage and perform.

From your point of view, what is the difference between a producer and a DJ?
Zakes Bantwini:
A lot of people will start off as music producers and then they will eventually want to DJ. When you’re a producer, you only want to hear your music being played. DJ’s are people who introduce you to different music – someone who will play everyone’s music to show how diverse music really is. I believe we do not have that in South Africa.

Zakes at the SJN Agency party

The music industry is telling us that to be a DJ, you need to have your own music and play your own music only, which is not true. As a DJ, you need to be able to introduce us to new music and promote new artists. DJ compilations and mixing is what makes a great DJs and that is what I stand by.

You’re quite open about your journey as a father on social media. What is that like?
Zakes Bantwini:
I have a blended family, but most people only know about my new born because my wife and I are in the public eye. I have three kids out of wedlock and I try so much to be a present father. There has always been a perception in black families that the mother must look after the children, but our generation is changing that and redefining the norms. Fathers should be there for their children, period.

What do you think young musicians can learn from you?
Zakes Bantwini:
I want to show the youth how they can present their music and get more of an understanding of how music works. The way in which two different songs in the same key can be paired up, this is the structure that I want people to be aware of and use it as a tool to enhance their music and go out there and make money out of it.

Love, light and Music 2 is available on iTunes.
Instagram: @zakesbantwini
Twitter:@ZakesBantwiniSA

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