DJ Shimza. Picture: Supplied
Ashley Raphala has always preferred the music to talk on his behalf.

The DJ, who is now simply known as Shimza, began to show promise at a very early age. He won competitions left, right and centre, eventually becoming one of the most sought-after DJs on local and international line-ups.

When we sat down shortly after his debut album, Shimuzic, was released, he wasn’t fazed about the international acclaim he was receiving. He remains laser-focused on the music.

The only distraction is a good one: his annual One Man Show. Held every single Christmas since 2009, this party with a purpose sees Shimza raise funds to equip children from his hometown of Tembisa in the East Rand with school uniforms for the following year.

“My surroundings were very musical,” he recently told me. “My parents used to have friends over and they’d play music very loud in the house. I had friends, I played soccer, I went to school. I lived a very normal life growing up.” But he was always aware that that was not everyone’s reality.

“I’m still privy to going back to the hood and seeing how people live,” he said sombrely. “You know next door, they come over and ask to borrow some sugar. You can see some people need a helping hand where possible.” But why get school uniforms as opposed to the proverbial sugar?

“I chose the school uniform route as opposed to buying groceries for them because I want to equip them to be able to use their knowledge and the confidence they have when they get to school in January,” says Shimza.

“The children saying: ‘ah, look, I’m wearing a new uniform just like any other kid’ will boost their morale and push them enough to do something with of their lives. So I’m investing in their stamina to go to school and look forward to their next year.”

Ashley Raphala, better known as Shimza, is focused on the "Shimuzic". Picture: Supplied

As is tradition, the One Man Show takes place on December 25 and features the likes of Riky Rick, AKA, Emtee, Moozlie, Lady Zamar, Cassper Nyovest, Nadia Nakai and comedian, Skhumba, among others, on stage. Doesn’t quite sound like a show with one man, does it?

“It’s actually a one DJ show, but we have performers coming through,” Shimza laughs.

“I play for eight hours before the first performer comes through. Throughout the year, you get to a gig, play for 30 or 45 minutes or an hour, max.”

“Then the fans think they didn’t get enough. So I’m trying to create something where fans can get the full Shimza experience. I don’t want this to be like a typical charity show. I want it to be a turn up like any other turn up, but one with a purpose.” As such, all proceeds from ticket sales go towards buying the uniforms.

DJ Shimza. Picture: Instagram (@shimza.dj)

It’s not just the East Rand that gets to experience Shimza. In fact, on Christmas Eve, One Man Show: The Soweto Edition takes place. Both events will no doubt feature a plethora of music from Shimza’s catalogue. His slow-burn vocal house hit, Tidal Wave, featuring Kimosabe is a firm fan favourite.

“Tidal Wave is a different vibe from what I’m used to making,” Shimza admits.

“That was the main reason why I did this song. I was like: ‘everyone is doing this gqom sound, party music. I’m just going to come in and do a song that’s totally different.'"

Another jam people are loving is the cheeky and chart-climbing Makhe - a joint effort between Shimza and Maphorisa which features the quirky Moonchild Sannelly. Shimza laughs when I bring the song up. “Makhe is a December party song,” he exclaims.

“I had the beat but felt like something was missing. So I went to DJ Maphorisa and said: ‘hey man, I have this beat.’ He said he might have something that could work. So we worked on the song together. Just worked and worked and then he said he’d got these Moonchild vocals that he hadn’t used. Once he threw those vocals on the beat it just worked.”

Through Swiss record company, Cadenza Records, Shimza has just put out his new EP, Ascendant. He also has major plans for the One Man Show. “I started the Soweto edition three years ago and I plan to move the event to Durban or whatever,” he says. “Hopefully, in the next few years, we’ll have one in Dubai.”

Shimza’s One Man Show takes place at Mehlareng Stadium in Tembisa on December 25. Tickets at Computicket

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