AFTER a year of great music releases from some of Mzansi’s great musos, it has become somewhat of a tradition for Ukhozi FM to announce the song of the year that is most popular among its listeners.
When the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve, it was DJ Hlo who emerged as the lucky winner of the popular contest for her song Isbani. But this time around, Mzansi has one question on their lips: ‘who is DJ Hlo?’.
The 23-year-old muso remains unperturbed and calls what happened last week as ‘a week of blessings’.
Born and raised in KwaZulu Natal, DJ Hlo – real name Hlosiwe Mthalane – is the last born of three siblings who were raised by both their parents in Durban's Sea View.
She completed her studies at the University of KwaZulu Natal’s Howard College where she obtained her qualification in Industrial Psychologist and Management.
“Tertiary was really to appease my parents, although my love has always been music. So after completing my studies, I decided to pursue my true passion, which is music, in the year 2020 when I released my very first single titled Ebusuku, featuring Rethabile Khumalo.
“I started music as soon as I graduated because I didn’t want to waste time on something that I know I am not 100% into – being in the corporate world,” she said.
The music bug bit the DJ at a tender age of five because she comes from a home that is big on music. Her brother, a huge kwaito fan, would blast popular jams of the time, while little Hlo lingered around and soaked up Mzansi’s greatest products like Brenda Fassie and Lebo Mathosa. Not forgetting her sister's love for R n B which she also counts as her biggest influence in her music career.
The DJ released a few more singles after the first, leading up to the winning song Isbani, which means light.
“Isbani is a dedication song to our loved ones. Those who push us to do better to see better versions of ourselves. This can be your partner, our parents or anyone who gives you hope and brings light,” she said, adding that this very song has brought light into her own life.
Although she is a DJ in the amapiano genre, Hlo made the bold move of creating a mixed sound with her winning song Isbani, which includes amapiano, deep house, afro-pop, among others, and it was an exploration song that deeply challenged her.
Being from Durban where Gqom music is the dominating sound and for her to make amapiano music, became very confusing for a lot of people. But that choice was born from not wanting to limit herself as an artist, and Isbani is the purest reflection of that freedom, she said.
“Amid all the negative comments that I have been trying to ignore after my win, especially because I know that people who have been following my work know me, I want the rest of Mzansi to know that I am a hard worker. That even getting this song into the top 10 selection was all hard work.
“If people think that this was just handed over to me, no I worked hard. I campaigned. Since the release of this very single in question, way before the nominations for the Ukhozi FM top 10, I have been working. I would use word of mouth to tell people to download the song, to check it out on Youtube and other platforms.
“So when the nominations opened, I just pressed on harder. There is no place that I didn’t go to with my campaign. I went to various taxi ranks to the most respected places here in KZN including Isilo Samabandla. So I was very much active in campaigning and gaining the votes,” she said.
Hlo’s win is also one that will be written about in music history books as the first woman DJ to bag this prestigious win, going against giant songs like Young Stunna’s Adiwele and even Osama by Zakes Bantwini that dominated the airwaves last year.
From here on, DJ Hlo is ready to conquer the world.
“I am ready for the beautiful year ahead. This win has brought so many opportunities towards me and it is all exciting. Beyond all this, I feel that this is validation of my dreams, that hard work really pays off and that I am on the right path,” she said.
DJ Hlo will soon release an EP as a token of appreciation for this win and all the support she has garnered in such a short space of time.
“Let my story and this win be a testament that hard work and passion can work hand-in-hand. The brand DJ Hlo is here to stay and I am just excited for what is to come,” she said.