The restaurant is not exactly packed but my eye is immediately drawn to Doowap. Turquoise bangs with beads on each braid form a bowl around her head and bright pink braids peek out from beneath the turquoise and cascade down her shoulders.
She wears a green jumpsuit with a plunging neckline and pink flowers on it, and waves. The way she stands out, she really didn’t need to.
Born Khetsiwe Morgan to a Swati mother and a British father, Doowap has always had an affinity for bringing all of who she is to the table.
She has this infectious positive energy - the kind that is essential for an event like the inaugural VW #Vivonation Festival which takes place in down town Johannesburg this weekend.
Tickets to the free festival are officially all allocated, but you can still watch the likes of Doowap, Kwesta, Cassper Nyovest, Shekhinah, Babes Wodumo, Black Motion, Lady Zama and more online. Doowap will be on the decks on both Saturday and Sunday.
“I heard the new Polo Vivo is specifically for South Africa and it’s a car that gives back to South Africa for always supporting it, so I decided that that would be the inspiration to make a fully South African play list,” the DJ tells me over mint and corn spring rolls.
“Gqom, right now, is my favourite genre and it’s getting big overseas, so I’m going to play a lot of gqom and I’m going to mix in kwaito because kwaito is one of my biggest inspirations. I want to add a bit of that. I will also mix in some future kwaito - that’s people like Moonchild.
“I always dance during my sets. I’m Swati, so I try to incorporate the Nguni tribe in everything, including the skirts and beads I wear when performing. I always dance, but, eish, the dancing is getting a bit tough,” she draws out the “tough” and does a slight shimmy as if she’s shaking the thought off her shoulders.
“I never keep the same set, so I always need new dances for new songs,” Doowap adds, “but my favourite dancer, Taryn Boom Boom, is in France right now, at Paris Fashion Week with Die Antwoord. I’m super happy for her, but that means we’re not going to be able to dance together this weekend.”
The 20-something creative has made it her mission to push her boundaries and never settle for the same as everyone else. As a kid, her father “was always about doing things completely different from the norm and always said ‘never, ever, ever work for anyone. Be your own businesswoman.’ ”
This mentality allowed her to unapologetically express herself. A gifted springboard diver, as a teenager, Doowap was awarded a scholarship to study in Canada and then in the UK.
It was during a dark period, while living in London, that she missed her opportunity to actually achieve her then-dream: to compete in the Olympics.
So she returned to South Africa, found herself again and decided to study sound engineering as well as learn how to DJ on the side. Her very first gig - at Roxy’s in Melville - didn’t quite go how she expected.
It went better: a YFM employee offered her a job as a DJ on the station. She left after three years and was glad to shed the dubstep label that had been thrust onto her brand.
“Dubstep was maybe a vibe in 2008,” Doowap says as she rolls her eyes.
“I also think that radio is so long ago. If you go anywhere in the world and ask: ‘What’s the best station here,’ they’re not going to say 99-point-what-what.
“They’re going to say: ‘www.’ It’s all online. I started bassperation radio on Soundcloud. I do want to have my own online show but I need sponsors.”
Doowap is also slowly working on creating her own music, so perhaps when the second #Vivonation rolls around, she will not only be on the decks, we’ll also hear her vocals.
* Catch Doowap and more artists at the VW #Vivonation Festival on March 10 and 11. Stream the concert live via skyroom.com
Pictures: Ilya Baskakov