You’ve broken it down to her killer sets at the country’s hottest festivals, and double-tapped her fierce looks on the gram. now it’s time to get to know the creative behind it all. DJ Doowap lets us in on her life, the inspo behind her work, and her latest campaign with Flying Fish.
Tell us a little bit more about your upbringing…
I was born in Eswatini (Swaziland) and grew up in Jozi. My parents sent me to a French school based in Sandton called Jules Verne, so I can speak French fluently. I grew up very athletic and was on the South African national team for springboard diving. This allowed me to travel the world doing international competitions and learning to be disciplined. In high school I moved to Montreal, Canada to study at a sports school and take springboard diving even more seriously. I studied sound engineering in London for my tertiary education and finished my studies at the Academy of Sound Engineering in South Africa in 2014.
What are some of your fondest memories from growing up? how do you think your unique childhood shaped who you are today and the creative work you produce as a DJ, multi-dimensional artist and hair artist?
My fondest memory growing up is driving to Eswatini on school holidays to get my hair braided at my gogo’s hair salon. I definitely think this influenced my love for different hairstyles and braids. I also have flashbacks to my parents owning two night clubs in Jozi, and them having an insane collection of vinyls and music equipment. My parents had the clubs when Kwaito was really flourishing – it’s still my favourite genre of music and biggest lifestyle influence today. All these special memories and encouragement from my parents influenced me becoming the creative I am today.
Let’s talk about your career thus far. where did it all begin and what have been some of the highlights?
The journey has been a wild and exciting ride. It honestly keeps getting better every year!
It all began with my show on YFM back in 2013. I did the show for three years before going into DJ performances and touring full time. The events that stand out are mostly big music festivals – most notably performing at Afropunk Brooklyn in New York with my dancer and friend Tarryn TNT; DJing for Daily Paper at Silencio nightclub during Paris Fashion Week; and opening for one of my favourite artists, MIA, when she came to SA. Also, all of the incredible SA festivals like Rocking The Daisies, Oppikoppi, Smoking Dragons, Bushfire… It really has been an incredible blessing doing what I love and performing on some of the biggest stages. I’ve also had the pleasure to diversify and host a few TV shows on SABC1, such as OneMic.
You shot your first music video earlier this year. What was the experience like for you and what did you learn from it?
As an independent artist, doing anything like that is a massive challenge, but I learnt a lot in the process. I was grateful to work with a young, strong, diverse team who was hungry to break barriers and put out meaningful work. Didi Exelby directed ‘Time Traveller’ and it was the first music video she had ever directed. I think she did a phenomenal job! She set the bar pretty high, and I can’t wait to create more.
You’ve worked with some big names in the industry. Can you share any lessons you’ve learned from them?
If you focus on mastering your craft every day, you’ll get the respect you want from the those you look up to. Also, realising that we are all humans will help you remain grounded and make it easier to converse with anyone in the industry. None of us really has all the answers, but together we can move forward and gain some clarity.
They say We create our own realities. What did you do to build yours?
There are so many ups and downs when pursuing your dreams; sometimes it feels like an impossible mission but I keep writing my ideas down and manifesting them through hard work. You also have to believe in your vision more than anyone else – occasionally doubt creeps in or people around you try to deter you from the goal, but you have to remain focused.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I love the travelling aspect of it. Meeting new people and learning about new cultures is so inspiring and also helps you to better understand yourself and the world you live in. I love connecting with a new crowd and exchanging positive energy through music and the feeling of freedom I get when creating, dancing or performing.
How would you describe your personality and how does it contribute to your unique brand?
I am super competitive and always want to be the best in anything I do, so I give 100% to everything I’m working on. I’m also more of a night owl, so this career is perfect for my lifestyle. Lastly, I never let myself get too comfortable and will always challenge myself, which I think contributes to me being a pioneer and trendsetter.
Your Insta bio reads ‘My own muse’ – this is so powerful . What advice do you have for creatives who have yet to embrace this philosophy?
The main thought behind that philosophy is to constantly learn from the previous versions of yourself. We are all constantly evolving and I think the ultimate source of knowledge and inspiration to guide you comes from within.
How do you prioritise your mental health and well-being?
I start every morning with a meditation, then a form of activity (gym, hiking, running), eating healthy, drinking water and getting enough sleep. Sometimes I’m a bit ‘selfish’ and will take days off from the outside world to reset and re-energise. I don’t feel bad about it, I can’t shine and share light if my levels are low.
You recently joined the Flying Fish ‘Eat Before You Drink’ campaign. Why did you decide to be a part of this initiative?
Alcohol is a big part of our culture, so if we are going to continue to drink we need to learn how to do it responsibly. I am happy to be part of a campaign that encourages people to change their mindset and eat before they drink. I love that Flying Fish is reinventing the way we should consume alcohol and representing a safe and responsible way of doing it.
You play massive parties and events. what is your pre-game routine to ensure you’re ready for the night?
I exert a lot of energy with my dancers when performing at shows, so I have to make sure I have a meal a couple of hours before to sustain me throughout the set. I try to keep the meal light, like a chicken wrap or some chicken wings, just to line my stomach before drinking at the event.
You’ve shared the stage with a number of dope Djs. what have been some of your favourite collabs and why?
I appreciate events that empower womxn and the two that come to mind where I performed are: Shekhinah’s Rosefest and Thandiswa Mazwai’s all-womxn event. Both were so special and really uplifted the beautiful strong womxn on each line-up. Collaborating with dancer Tarryn TNT is also a massive highlight. We’ve conquered some incredible stages and dropped an Amapiano single, ‘Thunda Thighs’, together that did incredibly well.
What are some of the challenges faced by young creatives in SA?
We have the most incredible and talented creatives but there are not enough mentors and managers to guide them in the right direction. I think that is the biggest challenge in our country.
Where do you see yourself and your brand in 2022 and the future?
Doing world tours with my own original music, playing on the biggest stages and festivals. Creating insane music videos and collaborating with awesome like-minded international brands. I see myself making money off my music and hearing it playing in movies, series and shops. I also see myself married to the love of my life and starting a family.
Words: Bianca Hartel | Photography: GoReal studios, Taff Photography