June 2, 2010


When you think of South Africa, what comes to mind? Apartheid, a third world country steeped in poverty, lawlessness perhaps? What about House music? South Africa may have its racial issues like any country, but Apartheid is in its past, it is a thriving country with thriving metropolitan cities, and no, it is not running rampant with crime. As for House music, we cannot blame you for not associating South Africa with the genre; one of its latest exports, DJ/producer Black Coffee is changing all that. Want a cup?

Black Coffee dropped his first album in 2005, and quickly established himself as a noteworthy producer; it was not until early 2010, however, that he burst onto the American scene with his album ‘Home Brewed’ featuring the lead single, ‘Superman’ featuring vocals by Bucie. Like the comic book hero, the single has taken off and with it taken Black Coffee on a whirlwind tour all over the globe. Not just a fly by hit, ‘Superman’ is the kind of track that screams classic, one that will remain on playlists for years. It is also a track that opens up the door to a completely new world, at least for us stateside, one we did not know or perhaps had forgotten, existed.

And where did he get that name anyway? Black Coffee is the name bestowed upon one young Nkosinathi “Nathi” Maphumulo from the province of Durban, Kwa Zulu Natal when he was a burgeoning DJ in South Africa’s music scene, by an ex girlfriend. The name stuck and the rest, along with the girl, is history.


The name itself, is but a small part of the story. A gifted and talented student of music at an early age, Black Coffee began his music studies in High School. He went on to college where he studied music theory, Jazz, and even jingle writing. He might not have finished college, because as he says “I was always more interested in the studio. I was more into production,” but his schooling did not go to waste. He excelled in his studies precisely because he knew it would serve him well as a producer, but he had hits to make.

Wasting no time, Black Coffee dropped his first album the self-titled Black Coffee, in 2005. Made using Pro Logic on an Apple computer and a mouse, he used no midi instruments, not even a keyboard. He played all the notes, one click at a time. He added live instruments played by local musicians in the later stages of the production, and even featured one Hugh Masekela, a world music legend, on the track ‘Stimela’, which was itself, a reinterpretation of a Masekela original. Of course, if it were not for his talent, this would have been nothing more than a young dreamers lackluster effort, but Black Coffee is not your average cup of Joe. The album spawned the hit tracks ‘Happiness’ and the simply titled ‘Music’. Both were international hits and received play in some of Europe’s biggest clubs by some of its biggest DJ’s, the later actually being released on the album, ‘Worlds Collide’ by the legendary, Keith Thompson (of ‘Break for Love’ fame).

In between that first album and his current work, Black Coffee has been busy establishing himself as one of the hottest producers in the game as well as South Africa as a new hotbed for House music. He has dropped numerous singles including gems like ‘Even Tough’ featuring Bantu Soul and remixes of tracks such as Durban’s Finest hit ‘Finest Train’ just to name a few. We might have been a little slow in getting our dose of Black Coffee in the States, but the same cannot be said of his own country, or the rest of the world for that matter. He was awarded the SAMA Award (South African Dance Music Award) for best dance album back in 2006 and he was also tapped to appear at the famed Red Bull academy in Barcelona, Spain in 2006 and 2007.


All these accolades don’t get to his head however, in fact, in person, Black Coffee is as humble and laid back, as he appears in the DJ booth, or the growing number of YouTube videos of him in said DJ booths. What is not so easy to discern is the underlining intensity, simmering just underneath the surface of this cool and collected young man. In fact, one might think he is too cool for his own good, spinning records and seemingly almost everything else he does, with his left hand always resting securely in his front pants pocket. This is not a sign of indifference or a natural posture resulting from his super coolness. Turns out, he was involved in a car accident as a young man in which he injured his left shoulder. The severity of the damage was not picked up right away, but soon after doctors discovered that he had suffered serious damage, and that his shoulder would only get worse over time. In order to keep it in check he simply keeps his arm fixed, immobile.

Thankfully, the same cannot be said about him and his career. Black Coffee is just getting started. The latest single from Home Brewed ‘Gardens of Eden’ is already moving dance floors. Producers, record labels, DJ’s and more are lining up to work with, remix, and spin alongside him, and rightfully so. In one fell swoop, Black Coffee manages to remind us that House music might have been born in New York and came to its own in Chicago, but its roots lie across the seas in a land far away, in the motherland that is Africa. By reclaiming, reinterpreting, and returning to us a new fresher House sound, he reminds us that House music can be sweet, can be tender, and still manage to be new and fresh, like, yep, you guessed it, like a cup of coffee. I think that’s something we’re all thirsty for.


Soulistic Records






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