DJ Christos is the kind of person they had in mind then they coined the term OG. Producer, DJ, label owner and mentor; in a career that has spanned more than two decades, Christos has co-founded the Kalawa label, as well as his own Katsaitis Music. He has mixed and released some of the finest deep-house compilations, played to audiences from Miami to Mafikeng and groomed numerous talents who have since become legends in their own rights.
“The unity among DJ’s has helped put the music scene where it is today, and it’s an enduring part of what it is to be DJ in this country.”
Affectionately known as the Godfather of House, he has been a pioneer in the South African house scene from the very earliest days and has played a pivotal role in shaping it into what it is today
You’ve just dropped Magic Sessions 2, the follow up to Magical Rhythms (2002). Why the change of name?
We realised that there was a naming conflict, and I’d been hosting the Magic Sessions events for a few years now, trying to put out a certain quality of house music, so it just seemed very appropriate to go with that title for the album.
Tell us more about the Magic Session events.
The Magic sessions have been happening for close on five years now in Joburg, Durban and Cape Town, drawing crowds of five to six hundred people. We’ve brought down artists like Rocco, Franc Roger, Manoo and Ralf Gum, focusing on delivering high quality music through high quality sound set-ups to crowds that appreciate soulful, musical house.
Tell us about your partnership with Ralf Gum and GOGO Music
We’ve got a great working relationship with Ralf. We brought him down to one of the early Magic Sessions events, which led to him releasing Shana’s Uyangichomela through his label GOGO Music. We’ve been working together ever since. Katsaitis music is also Ralf’s booking agent in South Africa and we’ve just released Ree Morris’ Inside of Me through GOGO music.
Katsaitis music is the label you started after leaving Kalawa?
Yes. Katsaitis Music started as a small scale set-up, again focusing on high quality productions and grooming artists to grow enough to go out and do their own thing; Black Coffee is an example. We also do events and artist management.
There is hardly any difference in quality between locally and internationally produced house tracks these days…
That’s true. South African producers are among the best in the world, many of the tracks in the top download sites are locally produced. You look at the number of local productions on the album (Magic Sessions 2) and it gives you a good indication of how good the sound is getting. It wouldn’t surprise me if in the next few years you only see one or two international tracks on our compilations.
How important are vocals in a good quality house production?
Vocals are vital to any production. As a producer, you put out an instrumental track and sure, it may become popular, but people will generally know it as “that great instrumental track”, whereas if you have good vocals on a track, it becomes instantly recognisable and people can associate it with your work. You look at guys like Liquideep and Mi Casa who do very good vocal house; there’s not much that’s distinct about Mi Casa’s melodies but their vocals grab your attention and that’s what you remember.
You’ve been around since artists were selling house albums in six figures. Do you the think the advent of the internet age has hurt the industry?
Not at all. Artists make more money from performing their music than they do from album sales in any case. The internet has just made it quicker and easier to get your work out there to the people instead of relying on a record label to do it for you.
You’ve been heavily involved with promoting the South African brand of house at the Miami Winter Music Conference. What remains the biggest challenge to local producers trying to penetrate the international market?
Knowledge. Local producers need to gain the knowledge to go out and do it themselves, and to realise that they don’t need to rely on international record labels to push their sound; they don’t have to share their money.
Speaking of knowledge, how important is the South African Music Conference [www.samc.dj] as a knowledge sharing platform?
SAMC is the most important event of the year, and it will continue to happen with or without sponsorship. So many of the top producers in the country are products of the SAMC, and it’s great to see those same artists going back to teach and share their knowledge and experience.
You’re known as the kind of mentor who would give someone the shirt off your back. Do you think there is still room for that kind of humanity in an industry that’s becoming more and more about the business of music?
Definitely. If music is your love and your passion, you’ll give everything you’ve got to it. That’s just how I see it. I’m always looking for something new, what else we can give the market. The unity among DJ’s has helped put the music scene where it is today, and it’s an enduring part of what it is to be DJ in this country. If you go into music to become popular, make a lot of money or get women, then you won’t last long. It’s all about the passion for the music and producing the best quality of work you can.
Passion over Profit?
How do you balance being a family man with your career as a DJ?
You’ve just got to give time to both. I play and tour most weekends so it’s important I take time out and go on holiday with my kids. Children really change your life. I love what I do and I love my family, I work at making time for both.
Tell us about the Urban Beat Radio show you host on Metro FM
The Urban Beat started just about three years ago now. It was an effort to reproduce the club vibe on the radio. It’s all about exposing new music, new artists and new vocal talents. You’ll hear a range of mostly deep house music, including instrumentals and local productions. It’s become an industry platform, because a lot of new music is being broken on the show that you normally don’t get the chance to hear anywhere else. It’s great to work with Vinny and Zeal. She and Siyanda also host a Saturday edition of the show which has a slightly different mood to our Friday night show.
DJ Christos Favourite…
Classic house track?
Shadows of Your Love – Steve “Silk” Hurley
Hey DJ ft Lebo Mathosa – DJ’s At Work
Own remix? Ralf GUM ft Kafele – Complicated (DJ Christos Magic Sessions Mix)
Place to play? Definitely Pretoria, the crowds there have such a great appreciation for the musicality in house music.
Magic Sessions 2 features international productions and remixes from Atjazz, Anane and Rocco, with quality local contributions by 60-Hertz Project, C.9 and Hoodnatives among others. It also features a wicked update of Brenda Fassie’s classic Weekend Special by DJ Christos himself and is available in stores now.