Jay Cucumbers presents a mix of alternative South African sounds featuring electronic, futuristic, New Age Kwaito and trip hop
Xhanti Jafta aka JayCucumbers aka TocaMe Pictures is a 27-year-old artist focussing on photography, blogging and music. The latter takes the form of digital mixes, house party sets, online podcasts and hip hop. While he's known for a keen fashion sense as much as he is his photographic eye and laid back personality, it's Xhanti's exceptional taste in music why we're featuring him here today.
Press play and find out more about the artist after the jump.
What's your sound story?
For as long as I can remember I've always had the luxury of music in my life. I was exposed to music from a tender age, and my aunts and mother used to play deep soulful sounds and fresh local jams while getting on with their daily lives. My uncle even made us (my cousins and I) record shows for him while he went out partying. TV shows like Technics: Heart of the Beat, Studio Mix and Jam Alley to mention a few. So I learnt a lot from the 90s generation of sound, especially Kwaito, hip hop and house, as well as the visual aesthetic that goes with each sound.
What was the first album you owned?
My aunt bought me a Snoop Dogg cassette. I don't recall fully what the album was exactly, but ever since then I kept purchasing more cassette tapes and CDs with my pocket money. I'd hang around grown ups with cool cars and play my music for them. If there was a gathering I would always end up playing the music.
How did you come up with the name JayCucumbers? Have you had other nicknames and aliases over the years?
Know the expression "cool as a cucumber"? It's that and what most people call me most of the time, Jay, because of my surname, Jafta, and the difficulty of pronouncing my real name, Xhanti. So Jay plus my laid back, not in a rush and cool, lazy and sauve personality equals JayCucumbers. I've had thousands of aliases. X from those who I grew up with, or TocaMe because I used to love the dance track by Fragma. Bhut'Styela and Pegaus Xing (King), which means he who with the most swank. Lord Zwelethafa. Xhanti Van Persie...
How long have you been in the game, and how has your sound changed over the years?
I'd say I've been in the game for not more than five years as an artist, but as a performer it's more recent. Like about a year. I've done underground hip hop gigs around the Eastern Cape and Cape Town and now that I've moved to Jozi I'm hoping I score bigger gigs.
I used to be a big house head, I followed Soul Candi Records from the first session by DJ Mbuso, 45bpm by The Heavy D Crew, Mid tempo, Kwaito, acid jazz and afro beat. Those were my go to genres, and as I grew older I became interested in the hip hop culture because Kwaito was dying out. If a song had an average beat or instrumental I would quickly change it up or not pay attention to it. I was very sensitive to things like that. I moved from Boom Bap, to Conscience Rap, to Ganster Rap and eventually focused on the easy going chill type of rap with classic samples that I'm into now.
When I interned with LiveMagSA and MoreThanFood in Cape Town I covered gigs like Red bull presents: Lil Dragon, Wolfkop Weekender and CTEMF to mention a few, and fell in love with the futuristic, electronic, heavy baseline style of music. I remember a close friend of mine gave me a collection of Fela Kuti's albums, a real musical genius. All the while I was following the sounds of tomorrow by a group of super creatives called Soulection. I kept up to date with their podcasts and was inspired by their fresh take on music. I found that really inspiring and started creating my own podcasts, Wake & Bake and House Antidote, with my friend the Soulful Sulton.
What's in the mix you made for The Way of Us?
The mix offers alternative sounds. Electronic, futuristic, New Age Kwaito and trip hop. This mix features Fela Kuti, Daev Martian, Stiff Pap, Card on Spokes, SPZRKT & Sango, High Heels Breaker, Tallblack Guy, Okmalumkoolkat and Frank Casino to mention a few.
You feature a lot of local tunes in your mix, what's your take on South African music in 2018?
I have to push the South African sound to my audience because it's not just local people I play for. I feel like our music industry has grown to the point where you can literally play a full set of local music without turning to artists from other countries. South Africa has become a hub for creative's because of artists like Black Coffee, Culoe De Song, Spoek Mathambo, Kwesta, Okmalumkoolkat, AKA and Cassper Nyovest.
In 2018 I expect the sound to grow to new heights. I love how the standard of visuals has improved in our story telling. Guys like Kyle Lewis have raised the bar impressively. Artists from abroad are flocking in to help enhance and build the South African music industry so I'm expecting more collabs from international artists.
Who do you consider your contemporaries, who have you collaborated with, and who are the artists you would most like to work with?
My contemporaries would be guys like Beat Sampras, Shane Eagle, Stiff Pap, Anthony Naples, Sahin Meyer, illuMonate DJ's, Maramza, Kid Fonque, DJ Speedsta, Julian Gomes, FK Mash, Shekhinah and Zaki Ibrahim.
I've collaborated with Wandile Mbambeni, Andy Mkosi, Bra Daki, House Natives, KVN, Maramza, Shift, Kumnandi (Juju), Dome of Head Honcho, Sjava, The Passionist, Fashion Gods, and Soulful Sulton, whom I have a podcast with.
I would love to work with Katt Daddy from Darkie Fiction, Fonzo, Vuyo Renene, Jazzuelle, Reba Red, Sho Madjozi, Soi, Bra Sol and Soulfaktor from BFG, Nonku, Ma-E, The Internet, Yanga Chief, Zoë, Kyle Lewis, Evil Needle, Detroit Swindle FKJ, River Tiber, Lars Behrenroth, Laduma and Loyiso Mkhize to mention a few.