BY HELEN HERIMBI
DJ Sbu’s studio is packed. Kings of the Weekend (the DJ duo comprising DJ Naves and Sphectacular) are sitting on the other side of the room. DJ Sbu, whose real name is Sibusiso Leope, is manning the desk. There is a guy hovering behind him, checking e-mails.
There are two more guys in the room, wielding cellphones as weapons, and shooting relentlessly for social media and streaming purposes. There’s a girl reading the news and a guy ready to read sports bulletins. There is the show producer and at least two more guys who aim their phones at the stars when the interview is over.
All of the guys don “DJ Sbu Breakfast Show” T-shirts or tees with the cover art for DJ Sbu’s newest single emblazoned on the front. Oh, there is also a near-empty can of Mo Faya on the table.In case you ever get it twisted, nothing in this room will make you forget that you are in DJ Sbu’s world. And, boy, is it fun to be there.
The product placement may seem OTT, but it’s a constant reminder – to himself and others – of the importance of living your dreams. The importance of not furthering someone’s vision at the expense of your own.It has only been three months since DJ Sbu made history by broadcasting from one studio to two different radio stations at the same time. His breakfast show airs on Rise FM in Mpumalanga and Vuma FM in KwaZulu-Natal every weekday from 6am to 9am.
Now, he’s just released a new house music single called Ndingubani featuring Zahara – the singer he helped turn into a multi-award-winning household name. On the song, Zahara belts out: Bathethile ngami, baxokile ngami (they have spoken and lied about me). And before I get the chance to ask about how the past three months have been, DJ Sbu readily opens up.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” he says in that signature grof-sounding voice.
“I’m sure you can see, it’s a lot of fun! And I’ve really missed radio. Because I’ve done community radio, campus radio, graveyard radio and commercial radio – I’m a seasoned broadcaster. So when you’re away from that space, that’s all you think about.
“For me, everything was brought about by radio,” he continues.
“My music career came because of radio. That culminated in television, my own record company and everything that led up to my Leadership 2020 company and Mo Faya. All of that comes from radio, so radio is a very integral part of my life.”
DJ Sbu has been on a number of radio stations and his last foray was on Metro FM. There, he was fired for allegedly showing his Mo Faya energy drink on the station’s awards show when everyone was told no product placement other than the approved sponsors would be advertised.
“Radio is ingrained in me,” the radio and TV personality shares, “so when you’re away from it for about a year, you do suffer withdrawal symptoms. The way I left radio – it’s not like I left on my own terms. I got fired. And to get fired from your favourite job is never a good feeling.
“But what I did that was smart was that I had created multiple revenue streams of income. But still, I kind of felt empty. So when I started this breakfast show three months ago, I did not know what to expect. I never treat the stations like they are small, though. I broadcast with the internet community in mind as well. It’s a new way of creating content.”
DJ Sbu’s return to radio has reignited his passion for making music. “Last year, I was going through a lot,” he admits.
“I was on the front page of the tabloids. I was fired at Metro. I was trolled on social media platforms and people didn’t understand what I was doing when I started my energy drink company. People thought I’d gone crazy.“
I got a lot of negative publicity, but I wanted to heal, to express myself and share what I was going through. Then Zahara started getting negative publicity, so we were going through similar things. So I said: ‘We need to communicate how we feel through music. We need to appreciate where we are. A lot of people are struggling and don’t have the opportunities that we do. The best way we can communicate and heal others is to make music.’”
After months of talking about making a song, Zahara gifted DJ Sbu with a recording for his birthday. The songs encourages you to “ask who you are. What purpose are you serving? It’s an introspective song”. Judging by how happy DJ Sbu looks, it’s clear he’s trying to find these answers, too.