“One of the reasons we called it Africa Rising is that we want to uplift our own community, artists and music.”
The year is 2013 and almost out of the blue the DJ announces on his Twitter account that there’ll be a second Africa Rising and this time it’s in Johannesburg! The response was incredible. His Twitter account and Facebook wall was immediately flooded with ‘I’ll be there’ and the like. The city couldn’t wait!
I sat down with the legend just 3 days before the big event. It wasn’t easy pinning him down because as he explained, there were far more variables to this concert than the first one that were keeping him incredibly busy.
“We’re doing this one on our own”, he tells me. The first Africa Rising was in partnership with Vodacom so from an organizing perspective that put a little less pressure on Coffee. The new set of challenges though does little to deter him and he elaborates on how even though they’re facing the usual issues an event promoter would face, everything is going according to plan.
Africa Rising is for the people and there is sincerity in his voice when he speaks about his community. It is evident that Black Coffee envisions far greater things than making people dance and he genuinely has the people at heart. With the resources and reputation he has amassed throughout his career, he could have taken Africa Rising overseas at the snap of a finger but home is where his heart, or rather the beat is.
“One of the reasons we called it Africa Rising is that we want to uplift our own community, artists and music. So doing it at the Walter Sisulu Square is more meaningful than doing it anywhere else.”
As we chat more about Africa Rising he explains how not only does he want to make it a yearly event but turn it into at least a two day festival where the first day is dedicated to youth empowerment through workshops and seminars and the second day can be the musical showcase.
It’s not all a bed of roses though for Black Coffee. With his level of success it is easy to think the path has started to run smoother but sadly that’s not the case. One of his most recent problems came in the form of a highly publicized dispute between him and a popular commercial radio station. Besides a handful of radio interviews, few people got to hear Black Coffee’s side to the story so I was compelled to press him on the matter.
“Initially I didn’t want to talk about it but then I realized I’m doing more harm by keeping quiet. Basically we went to the particular radio station to negotiate media sponsorship for Africa Rising. After discussing with the team that handles this aspect of the station we reached an initial agreement that we both liked. Days later we received an email from the CEO of the station saying he wants me to perform at one of their own shows, ‘Live and Rewired’, which I didn’t think was a bad idea and I then asked for a contract. The contract though was not a good agreement and had clauses like life-long licensing rights. I responded to the email asking for a Word document version of the contract so I could amend it to work for the both of us but we then received a reply stating that unless we agreed to the terms of the initial contract, the sponsorship deal was off.”
Of course Black Coffee quickly declined the deal and stamped his authority by severing all ties with the station including having all of Soulistic’s music removed from the station’s playlist.
There is a hint of disappointment in his voice when he speaks about this incident. Not just because he was being screwed over in broad daylight but because he was well aware that there are other artists that had agreed to the ludicrous contract without clear knowledge of its long term implications. He adds with a hint of sadness in his voice, “this is why so many artists die broke.”
House Is A Home
It’s no secret that Black Coffee is the current torch bearer for South African house. His music and influence has stretched as far as the Real Madrid changing rooms and the shores of Greece, but come what may he is always looking to do the biggest things back home. I’m curious to find out what his honest opinion of the local industry is and he wastes no time in sharing his thoughts.
“The scene here is very big but we need more people believing in the local industry. We have an industry that can take someone with absolutely nothing like me and make them something huge but we’re not doing enough. We need to start thinking outside of the box and stop doubting ourselves.”
His sentiments echo back to a previous interview he gave where he was speaking on the challenges he has faced with his charity organization, The Black Coffee Foundation. Simply put he felt people, and the corporate world in particular, are yet to fully understand what it is exactly he is trying to achieve within the music industry and on a larger scale. In his hauntingly truthful words, “We have a long way to go”.
Coffee. No Sugar
Much like his stage name, Black Coffee is strong willed. He is as blatantly blunt about his opinions as he is humble about his stature and through talking to him and seeing him beyond the music, it is clear to see that everything he has done thus far was thought out at great lengths before implementation and the fruits of that process are clear for all to see.
Borrowing from where this all started, the music, Black Coffee truly has become South African house music’s ‘Superman’.
Want to know how the Africa Rising event at Walter Sisulu Square was?
Simply click here to read Tendai’s review of the event.
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