DJ Kenzhero is an OG who has stuck to his guns, and is known to have the best deep cuts from a long history of truly loving and collecting music
By Ian McNair at Platform
DJ Kenzhero’s career is a masterclass in the ethics of serving a dancefloor. One of the few OGs that has stuck to his guns for many years, using his well-proven skill to give a dancefloor exactly what it needs, and where others have opted to follow the money to transient trends and gone-tomorrow hype. For people who care about the music they dance to and are on the dancefloor to express themselves AND learn at the same time, Kenzhero is the one.
Building on his many years of trying many aspects of the machinations of the music and dancing industry, his latest project with journalist and publicist Maria McCloy and fellow dance music veteran Kid Fonque is proving to be a much-needed dancefloor space for those with mature taste. Tonght, held bi-monthly at And in Newtown has hosted legends like Stogie T, rare gems like Zaki Ibrahim, and future legends like Samthing Soweto as their headliners.
Kenzhero’s next big show is a set at the Afropunk Joburg NYE Festival on the 30th and 31st of December.
Read our Q&A interview with Kenny after the jump...
According to video profile on you, your DJing career started in Cape Town in 2000, after catching the train to escape Jozi, where you were living off crumbs and making it work by any means necessary… that was pure DIY career-making. What are the crucial aspects of making a DIY career work? What are the challenges that you continue to face no matter how experienced and prominent and loved you’ve become?
Well, my career started a little bit before that, around 98 – prior to that I was just collecting and getting ready. Prior to moving to Cape Town I was already doing events and DJing. Myself and a partner did an event called Open Mind Sessions that gave birth to Tumi and the Volume, to cut a long story short. I was ok with Joburg and wanted to start over in Cape Town, as such. Yes it was a DIY move, but I had some people down in CT who I was set up with already.
As a long-time favourite in many scenes in SA, what’s changed for you as a DJ/promoter/booker/listener between when you started and 2017?
Ways of communication have changed, technology opened up to everybody, and that’s a good thing and a bad thing, but things are much more nimble and there are a lot of players, so you have to stay up on your game.
People prize your sets for many reasons, but one of the primary ones is being that guy who’s got the best deep cuts from a long history of truly loving and collecting music. How do you balance the risk of being cast as a ‘throwback DJ’ with being relevant in an age of cheap thrills and trending hits?
Well, there is a gap with playing old school cause everyone wants to be current. Also, I don’t take people’s musical history for granted. If you are born in the 70s, 80s or even 90s, it means you’ve heard or listened to a lot of music. It would be a crime to just play you music from 2014 onwards and disregard your musical past. I have a radio show on Kaya that allows me to play old and new. I have different sets for different gigs – I also have a trap set that is Kenzhero-like too… it always takes people by surprise.
What is so special to you about the Tonght project? What is it that you share with the team that puts it on?
That we’re three legends that are pulling together to make the party awesome.
What are your current missions in life and in music? What’s driving you to keep on trucking (successfully, might I add) in an economically precarious time for non-formulaic, non-money-only-focused music?
Well, I have a lot of partnerships with people who have the skills I may not have, so that keeps me sharp. The mission is really to explore partnerships and create new offerings.
What was is the reason for starting up Party People upon returning to Joburg in 2006? What has been your favourite moment or outcome in all of its history?
Well, there was a huge gap in the market and a lot of people were waiting to see what I had learned from Cape Town.
What has been your favourite space to play music in and create that special dancefloor journey? To you, what makes a great space for creating those moments and journeys on the dancefloor, as a DJ or a dancer?
I think Kitcheners and Great Dane have it; ‘cause the DJ is so close to the audience. The Waiting Room in Cape Town. Man, I have played in many places, some I can’t remember.
Lastly, what are the 5 tracks on heavy rotation for you at the moment?
Kamasi Washington 'Integrity'
Tyler, the Creator 'Boredom'
Zack Villere 'Cool'
Joyce Wrice 'Rocket Science'
Daev Martian 'Umoya'