Kwa-Zulu Natal is known for producing world-class music talent. DJ Black Coffee, DJ Tira, Toya Delazy, Shekhinah, Sketchy Bongo, Nasty C and legendary lyricist and producer Mbongeni Ngema all come from this coastal province. DJ Merlon, real name Sibusiso Mhlongo, has just added his name to the list.
Merlon is no stranger to the music scene: he shot to fame in 2014 with the chart-topping single Koze Kuse, a collaboration with music sensation Mondli Ngcobo. Merlon says he is thrilled about his latest project, The Pure Black Album, and his mentorship programme in partnership with his friend and mentor DJ Black Coffee.
Merlon says his album, dropped last month, is already making waves in the digital space. “This album is the best release of my career so far. It’s really big and already doing well in the markets. Since its release there’s been a buzz on digital platforms. And it’s coming from all over the world… people have been posting from European countries mostly… it’s been amazing.”
South Africa seems to be the hub for the world’s best house music and Merlon revealed that local musicians, some relatively unknown to their countrymen, were making waves overseas. The sad reality, however, is that these artists are not being paid for their work, an issue he would like to address.
“And the guys from here are doing amazing things. Sometimes these guys release 100 songs for free, good-quality music, but their music is not making making money for them because it’s too available. So we need to show them platforms where they can release their music to make money out of their music. This is not protecting them only; we’re also protecting the industry. So if, for instance, I’m selling my music and they are giving theirs for free, there’s bound to be conflict of interest."
“The youngsters do this with the intention of promoting themselves, so we want to teach them how to use credible channels, the use of social media and introduce them to relevant stakeholders. They must not continue giving their music for free. These guys are very talented and to see them living under poverty while their songs top international charts, is just heartbreaking – they need to start seeing the commercial value of their hard work.”
Merlon says although they cannot sign them all, the programme aims to support the youngsters until they are ready to stand on their own “There are about 15 guys that we mentor on a day-to-day basis. It’s not a once-off thing. We’ll mentor them until they are big enough to stand on their own. However, we are there for them if and when they encounter problems… when they need any kind of help, they have us, any time.”
One of the young people affiliated with the programme is Enoo Napa, real name Siphiwe Mkhize, who recently signed with Soulistic Music. Napa, a self-taught DJ and producer, featured alongside Black Coffee and Da Capo at Ibiza and is now part of the Shimmy Beach summer residency in Cape Town. Merlon also challenged female house music creators to raise their game “because there is a such big gap in the industry”.
“We don’t have female producers. We need a producer, a female, who can say: ‘I can make nice music.’ That space has been open for years. All the females are just DJs.”
The Pure Black Album is available across all digital platforms and music stores nationally.