Clock-ing up the hitsComment on this story
One could almost call this round two of the phenomenon that is the hit track Pluto (Still Remember You). A few weeks after speaking to Beatenberg in Cape Town, Therese Owen finally tracked down the other creator of the song, DJ Clock.
What is it with kwaito artists that sees a whirlwind of chaos follow them wherever they go? It is clear that from the beginning this genre attracted the rebels, those who thought outside of the box. From TKZee to Oskido and Spikiri to Zola, Mandoza and Bricks, these are the bad boys of the South African music industry.
Now, while DJ Clock does not create kwaito per se, one look at that naughty face and you know he be a bad, bad boy.
The photographer, Itumeleng English, and I are at a Selimathunzi shoot in Buzz 9 in Melville where the country’s most popular entertainment show has invited Liquideep’s Ziyon and Zakes Bantwini to cook for two of their viewers. Also invited are Slikour and the vivacious Bucie. Star-studded indeed. Aside from the two viewers and Ziyon, everyone else is late, including Clock who was scheduled to meet us there for the shoot.
English and I had chosen the silver-beaded curtains inside Buzz 9 as a feature for the shoot. I wanted to reflect Clock’s rock ’n’ roll side, but also show that he hides behind his music.
When I ask his manager if he realises the irony of Clock’s name versus his concept of time, he again apologises for his artist being late.
While waiting for Clock I chat to Ziyon and realise that in no way could this good and pure soul be a kwaito artist. He just doesn’t have the “grrrr” which comes with that artistic kwaito head space, the arrogance and open rebellion it takes to be in that genre.
Now, yes, Clock is known for his house music and Pluto is a gentle, yet extremely catchy pop dance track, but remember that Clock first came to our attention in about 2008. He was working with none other than the fantastically successful Tira and his label, Afrotainment.
Clock was born in Vosloorus on the East Rand, but moved to Durban with a vision to work with these then up-and-coming stars.
The track Mahamba Yedwa, featuring Tira, was massive that year and broke DJ Clock nationally. This year, The 4th Tick – A Clockumentary has yielded his biggest hit yet. Pluto was at No 1 in the media guide as the country’s most played track for a record-breaking 16 weeks. On top of that, this album is the artist’s biggest undertaking ever. The six-CD album comprises 71 tracks and shows his versatility from house to hip hop to, yup, Durban kwaito.
It features the kwaito biggies Thebe, Tira, Mshoza, Professor, Character and Alaska. Hip hop is represented by Okmilumkoolkat, among others, and then there are the dance tracks. It’s pretty impressive stuff and is indicative of Clock’s visionary and unusual approach to life.
When he finally arrives, my irritation is diffused by Clock’s charming ways and mischievous smile. He takes to the camera like a solid professional and gives English exactly what he needs with little instruction.
After the shoot and once he has greeted his fellow musicians and the Selimathunzi crew, including presenter Zizo Beda, I decide it’s best to whisk him away for a chat.
We leave for the quietness of Lucky Bean further down 7th Street where Clock offers to buy lunch as way of an apology.
Of course the first question has to be: why a six-CD album?
“I was quiet for years because I wanted to spend quality time with my family,” he replies. “I was always working, plus I was tired. I decided to just chill and rebrand myself. I am also a parent now. This album is for my fans who’ve missed my music.”
And what a return it’s been, almost on the scale of Mafikizolo’s comeback. His reply is surprisingly modest: “My work with Beatenberg is something different. My vision, my dream is to feature more rock musicians.”
Now what about this bad boy I know is lurking behind this charming façade?
Clock laughs and shakes his head: “I am a maestro, actually. But each and every time I go into the studio I pray. Sometimes I pray for an hour. I even read the bible. I am not going religious, but you need to understand that I believe God will lead me. I believe that if you want to make a difference you have to be spiritual. The studio is where I pray. God talks through me and my music.”
With the huge hit and this big project, does the diminutive Clock believe he is a game changer?
He considers this for a while before replying: “I would say ‘yes’. I also felt indebted to my fans and guilty because I was absent for so long.”
Listening to the album it is clear that his concentration in the studio is super intense. There is obviously a lot going on in that mind of his that he needed to exorcise. He’s been in the industry for nine years and is just going from strength to strength.
At the time of publication, his record company, Universal Music, had decided to reduce the album two a double album. However, the decision was not yet final.