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Black Coffee

The African artist making a global impression on house music

  • Words: Paul Sullivan | Photography: Uli Weber
  • 19 August 2015
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A short while after, SHANA became the first band from the school to land a record deal (with Melt 2000 in the UK) and were a regular highlight on the local gig circuit. "That band was my real university," says Nathi. "We made so many mistakes musically and in our approach, and we were so loyal to our sound that it actually kept us in one place. When I went solo the first thing I did was to remix one of our songs in a direction I had always wanted to take it but couldn't."

Nathi's fascination with electronic and dance music continued to grow, and by the late 90s he was DJing independently of the group, spinning mostly slow, soulful dance music like Soul 2 Soul, Mariah Carey, Black Box's 'Fantasy', Banderas 'This Is Your Life' as well as home-grown takes on house music like Kwaito and Midtempo. The record that finally pushed Nathi towards house was the one that changed the game across the whole of South Africa: 'Fresh House Flava Vol 1'.

This 1998 compilation, released by Jo'burg label House Afrika, featured a host of soulful house belters like Crustation 'Flame' (Mood II Swing vocal mix), Presence 'Better Day' (Bookworm dub mix), Abstract Truth 'We Had A Thing' (Matty's Body & Soul mix) and Shena's 'Let The Beat Hit 'Em', almost all of which became huge hits and are still regarded as classics throughout SA today.

The DJ behind the compilation, DJ Fresh (originally from Botswana) was, alongside Oskido and Glen Lewis, a big inspiration for Nathi. "These were the guys I looked up to and wanted to be like," he says. "But at the same time I wanted to create my own songs, too." In 2001 Nathi moved to Pretoria where he worked on making connections and picking up DJ gigs. In 2003 he made a successful application for the Red Bull Music Academy, where he says his "international ear was carved... I met people from all over the world who exposed me to different music styles, things like broken beat, and I started to do remixes and bootlegs."

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