The friends behind the events revolutionizing the party scene in Johannesburg
Words: Tommy Dennis | Photography: Andile Buka
Six years ago, seven friends sat around in a flat trying to figure out how to throw the best parties in Johannesburg. For Youth Day, 16 June, friends of friends were called up, a guy knew a guy who could provide "sound for like 2k", someone's parents were on holiday and could use their house as a venue, there was a conversation about who would get the beer... "High School Cool" was the crew's first party and the Johannesburg party scene has not been the same since.
Until Until is a name that, appropriately enough, refers to the vague closing time of their parties. "How long does it go until? Until until…". Likewise the original seven show no signs of stopping, and Until Until has morphed into something far bigger than just parties and is now a creative agency intimately involved in changing the narrative around black youth culture. Want to be even more impressed – the eldest in the group is only 30!
Mfumo "Shilly" Mhinga, Charles "Chuck Tailored" Lusengo, Sandile "Shaz" Shangase, Thulani "Thulz" Dandala, Thandile "Honx" Mafanya, Amahle "Jaxx" Jaxa and Ndumiso "Ndu" Buthelezi each run a part of the business according to their strengths. Mhinga is the businessman, Lusengo is the Creative Director, Shangase the account director, Jaxa – the baby of the group at 25 and only woman – is the COO, Mafanya is the level-headed general manager, Buthelezi is behind strategic development (when he's not rapping as 2leestark) and Dandala is head of artists and talent.
Our photoshoot happens with a soundtrack, some drinking and everyone having fun. It's clear that this is a business borne from friendship. Quick to tease and rash each other, but even quicker to compliment and hype each other up, Until Until is a business run on almost familial bonds. Lusengo believes that this closeness translates to a feeling of authenticity for their consumers:
This bond has served them well whenever they've come up against the challenges facing seven black twenty-somethings trying to convince sponsors and venues that they can pull off what they say, and know, they can. Mafanya explains:
This piece would be one long list if we had to name every single event that Until Until has done, so let's just say that their output is impressive, especially in its diversity. Having developed a relationship with Ultra fest – the global electronic music behemoth inviting them to bring that Until Until energy to their stage for the past three years – this year's event features some of the hottest local hip-hop talent in the country and will include Major League, DJ Spontaneous, Banques, Frank Casino, Menzi XL, Lubonk and more. Give DJ Phodii's mix to warm up while you wait for Ultra SA, (CAPE TOWN – FRIDAY, MARCH 1ST at THE OSTRICH FARM; JOHANNESBURG – SATURDAY, MARCH 2ND at EXPO CENTRE, NASREC).
They dislike the word 'disruption' though, and explain what they're doing as opening doors. "I don't think we're disruptive at all, says Buthelezi.
Fashion predictably plays an important role in the aesthetic of any party, event or show and Until Until's most hyped parties – Genesis, High School Cool etc – have all been themed. Dandala has an interesting take on this, and how it actually serves to showcase unity in individuality.
"One of the pillars of our Genesis event is fashion. It's all black and so we use it as a way to unify and allow ourselves to express ourselves within certain parameters. Which is cool, because it really challenges you. Like the pyjama party, I've been completely amazed by what people wear, and I suppose the themed events give people direction, but what you do is completely up to you. For instance. look at us here, we're all in black, but you can see everyone's personality come through in how they put together an all-black outfit."
During the chat with Shangase, he touches on something that speaks to the reason behind much of Until Until's success, that black people are always boxed into something. Until Until has gamed the system in a sense by creating spaces for a range of black expressions of culture, whether it be EDM, rock, hip-hop, jazz or even camping. While they dislike being labelled as disruptors, it's hard not to see a quiet change taking place, which is in part due to what Until Until has done in breaking the mould of what is expected of young black people living and creating culture within South Africa.