WORTH A SIP

By Thembelihle Ngcai

South African DJ, producer and keyboardist Nathi Maphumulo, now recognised as Black Coffee, first cut his musical teeth as part of his school’s choir, and then studied music theory at the Natal Technikon where he met the other members of his group, Shana.

His career was jumpstarted after participating at the Red Bull Music Academy in 2003, and he’s been producing his brand of deep afro-house and remixing both local and international artists ever since.

With countless awards both in the international arena and locally, Black Coffee is  now an internationally recognised act playing along the sides of local and International DJ’s including Christos, Oskido, Little Louie Vega, Franck Roger, Mr V, Vinny DA Vinci, Charles Webster, DJ Spinna, Osun Lade, Quentin Harris, Fresh, Jeff K, Glen Lewis, Mimi Kesaris, Ganyani, Ready D, Mbuso – another list that goes on and on.

His much anticipated studio album Home Brewed debuted in 2009, but is still the album that is played in clubs or parties today. What is about the album, and indeed about Black Coffee that makes his sound so timeless. Let’s find out.

The first single off Home Brewed was Black Coffee’s incredible collaboration with legendary performer Zakes Bantwini titled Juju. Whether you heard it in a taxi or local radio station, Juju is the track that guarantees that you not only get up on your feet, but that you never want to sit down again! The sound, as in many of Black Coffee’s masterpieces is African instrumentals meets contemporary sound.

Black Coffee has many influences in his songs, setting his feel and audience apart from the likes of fellow House music practitioners like Vinny da Vinci and Teddy Douglas. Traces and indeed elements of jazz and RNB influence create this sultry, romantic and relaxed ambiance. Yet, you?d be able to take the very same track you listened to on Sunday afternoon and play it to a welcoming audience at a night Lounge. It?s not only versatility in sound, but versatility in audience and mood too.

Black Coffee has produced some good work such as my personal favourites Superman featuring amazing female vocalist Bucie and Someday featuring Zano and what I’ve enjoyed about his music and his songs is that it grows on you. In his collaborations, Black Coffee has again, proved himself to be versatile and accommodating to all audiences, but more than that, you can discern from the featured artist what kind of feel the song will have before you take a listen. You know that with Zano, Thiwe- who is featured on Crazy – and Zakes Bantwini, you are getting a hit for the dance floor whereas with Zonke (in Gardens of Eden), Ringo ( in Mama), Tshepo who takes on the vocals for Never Saw You Coming- and Bucie, it is a song for the heart.

There is no doubt that Black Coffee produces an African feel that is still so global, hence his growing success on the international stage. His music is classy, sophisticated, yet still very relatable. What sets this album and him as a DJ apart from many South African House artists is his ability to have quality sound that is so effortless yet complex at the same time. There seems to be complacency in House music now, with many DJs recycling sounds we’ve heard over and over again, but Black Coffee revives House music over and over again with every track.

Before I let his music do the talking, be sure to buy Africa Rising, his LIVE IN CONCERT DVD to see what they mean what they say IN HIS OWN LEAGUE!
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