We are meeting ahead of his appearance at the Feel Good Series party at Joziburg on One Eloff Street (literally on 1 Eloff Street in Joburg).
And the question is: what makes Just Themba feel good? His first thought is ice-cream since that’s the only edible he’ll drive out for at any time of the day, whenever the craving calls. But essentially, he knows and I know that the real answer is music.
As one of the founders of culture-shifter Music At Last, Just Themba (real name Themba Mbelu) is a regular at We Heart Beat events and one of a collective of boundary-pushing DJs on Kaya FM’s Sound Supreme.
He never fails to put music lovers onto new, emerging or even old jams which aren’t traditionally slotted into mainstream radio. In short Just Themba is The Plug. And it started when he was a kid.
“Music was always around when I was growing up,” he told me inbetween bites of California rolls. “My dad had a huge vinyl collection and he’d play music all the time. He was a ballroom dancer on the side at some point.”
I asked him if he’s got the moves now. “He didn’t pass on those genes to me - that’s why I’m a DJ.”
A video editor at an events production company during the day, this sometime-producer matriculated at 16, which gave him a chance and the courage to ask his mother if he could pursue his dream.
“I studied accounting and I think it was in my second year of studying that I just knew I did not want to do this for a living.
“I have a passion for music, photography and film. And instead of quitting school in the second year, I decided to finish. I graduated and got my accounting diploma. Before that, I’d heard about Boston Media House so I spoke to my mom and told her I wanted to actually try it out so she said okay.”
Just Themba. Picture: Facebook
But even that wasn’t a piece of cake. The Vaal Triangle-born and raised DJ said: “Boston Media House was hard. The fees were very high and I had to travel via taxi from the Vaal to Rivonia every single week day.”
He graduated in media studies and majored in video and radio broadcasting.
Although he was the only one of his siblings to study radio, he was the last one to get into it. Just Themba’s younger sister is a 947 DJ and his older brother is behind the scenes at Kaya FM.
“I took a class at Boston and from that first lesson, I fell in love with the philosophy - if I can call it that - of radio,” Just Themba said. Three years ago, he started his foray into the theatre of the mind as a mix DJ for various shows on Kaya.
“I think they (bosses) were just following what I was doing outside of Kaya,” he said, “all the events and even my online mixes. I think they liked the kind of audience we were catering for and they wanted to tap into that market and that’s how I got into Sound Supreme.”
During his slot, Just Themba takes the listeners through a journey of sounds that they probably hear very seldomly. And he also takes great pleasure in interviewing international figures like Beat Sampras, Eric Lau and Phonte.
So expect to hear these sounds if you’re in the city of gold on Saturday. Joziburg will also screen Winnie, the documentary, as a part of its Film Noire Nights tomorrow.
Before I let Just Themba go, I asked him what his grand plan was and while it doesn’t include ice-cream, it’s another answer I could have guessed just because of how passionate he is about it.
“I just want to keep making people happy with what I’m doing. It’s always a great feeling when that one person comes up to you after your set and tells you they loved it.”
* DJ Themba is at the Feel Good Series party is at Joziburg on One Eloff Street in Johannesburg on August 26.