When Afrika Mdutyulwa was growing up in Bloemfontein with ambitions of becoming an actor one day, his radio hero was Mark Gillman.
“He was my hero because he was so outspoken, so loud and so unconventional and it felt like he was not trying to be something else,” he tells me on a breezy Jozi afternoon.
Now, the jock who is known throughout the country as Smash Afrika has come full circle by joining the very station that was once home to his hero: 5FM. This weekend, Smash Afrika will be one of the hosts of the many events taking place in Sun City during 5FM’s Live Loud Mid-Year Break this weekend.
The 29-year-old is also outspoken and loud and unconventional - and it’s not just because he’s ordered a single espresso. For our interview, he arrives dressed in a grey bunny onesie and dons a black Daily Paper bomber jacket when the wind moves from breezy to chilly.
His dreadlocks are ombre red and he smothers them with a scrunchie before saying that he accidentally got into radio and wound up hosting a dedication show on Kovsie FM - where people request songs and give shout-outs.
“I just got into the radio scene. I knew nothing about content,” he says. “All I knew was my imagination had to paint a picture that ‘he’s having a great time.’”
Smash Afrika fell in love with radio and got his big break when he joined Tholi B’s show on YFM. I ask him if, looking back at that time, there was something he was doing wrong but only realised later.
“I’m trying to think,” he says, looking serious for the first time since he sat down. “Tholi was supposed to mould me and create the professional radio DJ. He’s radio 101,” Smash Afrika finally says.
“What he had said to me was ‘just be yourself and I’ll shape you into whatever.’ I made a stupid comment about Down’s syndrome - but it had nothing to do with the people who suffer from it. It was (a situation where there was) a caller and you reference that because you’re young and you just speak.
"Then Bob Mabena called Tholi off air like: ‘protect that boy, he’s dope. He can’t be saying dumb sh** like that.’”
Smash Afrika became more mindful of his words without losing his funky spark. He rose through the YFM ranks and anchored breakfast and night time shows before he moved to 5FM to present Live At Night between 7pm and 10pm in April. I ask him if there was anything he had to change or re-jig in order to fit in on 5.
“The only re-jig I did was less vernac,” Smash Afrika tells me. “I vernaculise, man. My thought process happens in English and Bloem lingo and when you’re having a conversation and adding these ad-libs in vernac, it makes the conversation fuller.”
After teaching me the Bloemfontein slang words for clothes, Smash Afrika tells me about what to expect from the Live Loud Mid-Year Break which kick-starts on Friday with a party featuring Ms Cosmo, DJ Loyd, Ryan the DJ and Kid Fonque on the decks.
On Saturday Mark Williams and Fabian McCarthy will host a soccer clinic for the North West youth and there will also be a concert featuring MiCasa and Distruction Boyz. The night will see Smash Afrika play MC.
“Look at the line-up, bra,” the DJ exclaims. “I’m the host with the most. Come on now! Say it with me. Everybody say ‘Smashy,’” he laughs. “When I go on stage, it’s electric and I feed off the energy from the crowd.”
* Live Loud Mid-Year Break at Sun City resort in the North West province takes place from July 13 to 15. Visit liveloud.5fm.co.za for more info.