Interview by Elmarie Kruger (@elmariekr)
We’re very excited for the first Park Acoustics of the year – and DJ Okapi is also on the line-up, getting the party started on the dance floor after the bands. We chatted to him and found out about this way of thinking around music, his recent trip overseas and his set at Park Acoustics.
You’ve recently announced that you’ll be doing a monthly show on LYL Radio. How have you found this experience so far?
Online radio is growing and for a DJ it’s a great way to get heard by a far larger audience than at a live event. This show isn’t streamed live and there is minimal talking so there’s no stress; it really just gives me a chance to play a more diverse range of music than in a live setting and to dig a bit deeper into my own collection. LYL is a French station that’s growing fast so I’m looking forward to getting some radio experience this year.
How do you decide which tracks to play at live performances?
This is what being a DJ is all about and can’t really be put into words. It’s an intuitive thing that comes with experience and depends mainly on reading a crowd or a vibe and knowing your music, rather than trying to prepare or practice. Playing vinyl keeps you focused on what you put in your bag, so on the day there’s no real risk of being overwhelmed by choice, which might be the case for a laptop DJ.
What can fans expect from your set at Park Acoustics this February?
Funky, fun South African dance music from a parallel universe. No doof-doof!
Which artists are you most excited to see at the first Park Acoustics event of the year?
Boxer and Strait-Jackal look like fun.
Who are some of your biggest musical influences?
A generation of South African artists who pioneered electronic music here and embraced local influences.
How do you think running your own vinyl store in Maboneng has influenced your own music?
For me DJing came long before selling records so it hasn’t really changed my style. But it has given me access to a lot of new music from the rest of Africa and the Caribbean, so I guess my sound is becoming a bit more international.
You recently returned from a tour in the UK. How did that go?
It went very well, thanks. I was there for 3 weeks and did 11 live gigs and 7 radio shows. It was amazing to be able to share South African music on platforms like Boiler Room, Worldwide FM and NTS Radio. More than anything it really got me more interested in radio. I met plenty of amazing people and also managed to come home with some great new records for the store. And through making the effort to get to UK and also before that to Amsterdam and Berlin in September, I’ve now been invited to play at bigger festivals this year, like Dekmantel Selectors in Croatia in August. So it’s really opened doors for me.
How do you usually prepare for live sets?
Nothing drastic, I try to just spend enough time in the days before getting the right records together, including a couple of surprises or new discoveries so that it’s a unique set. Then it’s just about getting to the venue in time, locating the beer and trusting that the turntables will be working OK!
Tell us more about you. How have you landed up being on Park Acoustics’ first event for 2017? In other words, what has your musical journey been like up until this point?
I’ve been DJing for over 10 years and run a website and record store called Afrosynth. On New Years Eve a few weeks ago I played at Search, a cool festival outside Cape Town. Henk was there, he dug my vibe and wanted it at Park Acoustics so he asked me to play. I’m really looking forward to it as it’s not often I get to share a stage with rock bands.
What kind of set can we expect from you at Park Acoustics and how do you think the Pretoria crowd is going to react to your music?
I play African disco music from the 80s and 90s. This is not something people hear every day (or ever!) so they are hopefully in for a bit of a surprise.
Why do you make music?
I don’t make music at the moment but I DJ to share fresh music with people, to create a positive vibe and to celebrate our culture as South Africans.
We always think about things like, “How can we use street style photography to change the world?” or things like, “How can we use festival coverage to change the world?” so we’re going to a pose a similar question to you because we believe that there’s always something you can do to improve peoples’ lives in the areas that you are passionate about. I ask you, “How can we use music to change the world?”
Music has a unique power to connect people and bridge divides, which is so important in South Africa, and to make us proud of what we have here.