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Front Row with Char

Front Row with Char

Johannesburg is seemingly deep within the thicket of art fair week and the city's air feels filled with optimism & dense with opportunity. And my next interviewee for FRM seems well-acquainted with this aforementioned scene–a somewhat elusive-yet-omnipresent figure within the city's burgeoning nightlife, which tends to ensue all of Jozi's most topical art scene events.

Char is a Pretoria-born & bred Hip-Hop DJ & Producer–primarily based in the heart of Johannesburg. I first experienced a Char deejay set sometime last year, intrigued by the sheer cadence & ingenious sonic selections of her curated sets, generally spearheaded by her unique hip-hop taste.

She doesn't just press play on current trending "club bangers"–she also introduces you to new unheard ones too; I guess which is an avid representation of the diverse genre-pool of music back at home, as well as the dichotomy which exists within PTA-domiciled music culture.

Within our current going out "ecosystem" in Johannesburg, you're almost guaranteed to come across Char's name on an event flyer or afterparty lineup each and every weekend. And what may go unnoticed is her creative duplicity–doubling up as a hip-hop producer when the cameras are off behind the scenes. I am enthused by her self-motivation and moved by her determination regardless of. In an industry riddled with inequalities & somewhat characterised by its toxic male domination; Char refuses to be marginalised–by anybody. In our virtual to-and-fro, she adds:

"My delulu will never allow me to sit down and make me feel like just because I was assigned female at birth–that some things may come different to me versus the opposite gender."

So enjoy this following interview with Char as we delve into all things DJ-related & music-concerned; from their introduction to the landscape of deejaying & producing, her creative endeavor 'Xscapefriday', their take on the single-genre DJs vs. genre-fluid DJs debate, some advice to emerging DJs and producers, and much more.

Would you mind introducing yourself and including a short description of what you do?

Char: I go by Char. I’m a Pretoria-born & bred baby. I’m a Hip-Hop DJ/Producer.

Firstly—I'm a fan of your deejay sets! I really enjoy your music palate, specifically when it comes to hip-hop. So I guess I'm wondering to myself... When and how did you actually start deejaying?

Char: Thank you so much! That really melts my heart because this is why I chose to do this! Coming from where I’m from–people listen to a lot of what is popular right now, or most artists like Focalistic, DBN Gogo, etc. Being from Pretoria, I felt like hip-hop wasn’t played as much–and therefore some of us were no longer included in groove & nightlife culture. So when I started playing nightclubs in 2017, I knew it was going to be the most beautiful challenge.

I've read up on some previous interviews you've done and you clearly categorise yourself as a hip-hop DJ & producer. Could you tell us why hip-hop specifically? And what is your stance on the single-genre DJs vs. genre-fluid DJs debate?

Char: I grew up listening to what was being played around me–and not me specifically pressing the play button. I’ve been put onto the most insane music almost my whole life. But the genre I vividly remember was Bacardi music. I unconsciously looked up to my late brother and he influenced me a lot musically; so when he played something different–that I usually don’t hear when I walk out my mom’s yard–I was intrigued! I really don’t have an opinion on single-genre DJs vs genre-fluid DJs part; if you are happy in being one of the two, who are we to say some?

What have been some of the challenges you've had to overcome as a woman DJ & producer within such a toxically male-dominated field?

Char: I always try to avoid this question because baby! My delulu will never allow me to sit down and make me feel like just because I was assigned female at birth–that some things may come different to me versus the opposite gender.

I'd like to know more about your experience of deejaying live gigs between different cities in South Africa. What have been some of the best spots/events/festivals you have played at thus far?

Char: For me, I love strictly hip-hop shows. Most of my gigs are clubs but I love playing strictly hip-hop shows because I can fully be myself.

Could you tell us more about Xscape? I understand that it is your own curated event?

Char: I started Xscapefriday because I just felt like Char didn’t have a home to go to–and being overlooked, I felt like most of my DJ friends could relate. I just wanted to open my doors to deejays like me, or who had the same frustrations–and Xscapefriday being a strictly Hip-Hop event I feel like allowed me to tap into a market that has been somewhat forgotten.

Is there any advice which you've picked up within your short career which you could impart to any emerging DJs and producers attempting to make a name for themselves within the industry?

Char: None much! But be undeniably good! As much as popular beats the best products & services–make sure you really know how to deejay before stepping out. First impressions count. And you don’t want people talking about you in their WhatsApp groups child.

What are you looking forward to most in the remaining second half of 2023?

Char: I can’t really reveal too much on this. But more gigs! And just finishing off what I started.


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