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Like Bonang, Minnie Dlamini, Zizo Beda, Sade and Refilwe Modeselle before her, DJ Zinhle now has her own clothing range at Legit stores. The gorgeous DJ spoke to Therese Owen about that and how she rose to become one of the country’s most in-demand female DJs. Ladies and gentlemen, her name is…
I never recognise DJ Zinhle. Never. As with many classic beauties she is a chameleon in her looks, changing her image and hair styles to such an extent that she is unrecognisable.
In fact, a few days after I interviewed Zinhle at her DJ school in Newtown, I bumped into her at the Feather Awards’ nominations breakfast.
Her long, dark weave had been replaced by long, blonde braids which were accompanied by bright red lipstick. It took me about five seconds before I recognised her because she looked like a different person.
Another favourite characteristic of hers that I like, is that unlike many celebrities who are self- obsessed, Zinhle has a natural curiosity about the world and her surroundings. She is observant of human nature and has the endearing quality of frequently using your name when speaking to you. She is also totally at ease with herself and unfazed by the fact that she is famous.
Then there is her deejaying style – very sexy indeed. She has this alluring but understated way of rocking her hips behind the decks. Think of the MTN South African Music Awards earlier this year when she played her anthemic My Name Is featuring Busiswa on raspy vocals. It was one of the most memorable performances at the Samas in the past two decades.
Fast forward to her recent Legit clothing launch at Shine Studios in Braamfontein, and the performance was as powerful. She had invited her Kalawa Jazmee stablemates, Candy, Busiswa and Nokwazi, to perform and naturally they did a sterling job. Of course, there were many celebs present including the grand-daddy of Kalawa, Oskido.
Her clothing range lent itself to a 21st-century punk look. And, although the jeans and T-shirts were ripped and had studs on them, there was also an elegant “rebel yell” feel to the items.
“Legit asked me to submit looks for jeans and Tees,” she explained about the creative process.
“Print is important at the moment and I wanted to make sure there were details, rips, studs. The feedback has been positive. My biggest worry was that people wouldn’t like it.
“I like how Legit are able to make trendy and fashion affordable. For example, they commissioned David Tlale and now Gavin Rajah to design ranges for them. Even with my Era watches, I couldn’t price them high.”
She first started designing her range of Era watches because of her love for accessories.
“I think I wear too many accessories. I love them and I have been collecting watches for the longest time.”
So, with this love of fashion, why did she become a DJ and not a fashion designer?
“I enrolled to study fashion and it became tedious. I want to have fun when working on something. This range is a two-month campaign and then Gavin Rajah’s line comes out.
“I’ve been a Legit DJ since the days of Bonang and Minnie so it’s been about five years. They wanted to move away from television presenters. I knew back then it wasn’t time for me. I was too young. It is a journey that came full circle and I am glad I have the opportunity otherwise I would have been too angry with the world.” (Laughs)
Aside from her deal with Legit, DJ Zinhle’s career has been travelling along quite nicely, thank you very much.
By 2009, her all-female DJ school, Fuse, was established. She was signed to Kalawa and says she was “quite stable with Fuse and the gigs. There was nothing major until My Name Is…
“Kalawa Jazmee producer, Maphorisa, played me this beat and it was amazing. He said to get behind the mic. It was terrifying because I hate mics. He said that I must just say ‘Zinhle’. Finally I had my name on a song.
“I played it at Macufe for Fisherman and Liquideep who advised me not to change it. Oskido said it was a pap song. Eventually he played it during one of his sets and people liked it. If people hadn’t liked it then he would have canned it. He called in Busiswa to record the vocals and then sent it to DJs. It went all over Twitter. That was two years ago. I received nominations for it and it was on the Strawberry Lips campaign.”
Then there was the Miami Music conference last year.
“There is always a song that dominates. The year before it was Zakes and Culeo de Song with Black Coffee. Anane Vega’s label, Nulu Records, licensed My Name Is. When we got to Miami it was playing in every restaurant. Louis Vega is a powerful force in dance music.”
Her career is now international with Zinhle playing Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique as well as the UK and Malaysia. She recently returned from playing in Washington, DC.
“We are lucky as South Africans. As long as you play South African music, overseas people want to connect with you. It’s easy to shine overseas. In terms of cities, I like playing Pretoria and definitely Botswana. They just want to party, not like Jozi clubs where it’s ‘hello darling’.”
She says she is first a DJ and immediately after that a businesswoman. She is also over clubbing and attending events, preferring to chill at home when not working or deejaying.
As for her future, DJ Zinhle has been in the industry for 10 years next year. She smiles shyly: “I am hoping to persuade Oskido to let me release an album.”