Front Row with LIKKYLIKS
Likhona, popularly known as 'LIKKYLIKS', is a classic example of what happens when you merge musical eclecticism with performance art. She's a prominent deejay domiciled in Johannesburg–yet her unique talent for music & fashion is derived from deep eMdantsane, East London.
The inherent creative duplicity within LIKKYLIKS's character makes her somewhat infatuating–and impossible to avoid.
What I enjoy most about LIKKYLIKS is their refusal to attach themselves to any prevalent status-quo; she's an original one-of-one creative and this fresh duplicity is expressed throughout her exquisite artistic palette. Musically, she is arguably one of the best Gqom deejays in the country right now and if you've witnessed one of her sets, I'm sure you're inclined to agree. Coming from the Eastern Cape myself, merely a stone's throw away from where LIKKYLIKS was raised, I also grew up with an understanding of just how important (and prevalent) the genre of Gqom music is. So I appreciate how she continues to stick to her initial mission: "To revive Gqom back within the city again".
Weekend after weekend, I notice her name emblazoned on so many virtual posters fluttering about social media. From topical nightlife events in JHB such as VNJ Ball, Prime, Night Embassy; to international events like Boiler Room, as well as previous stints on radio–LIKKYLIKS is without a doubt the DJ name on everyone's lips. In our conversation, she adds:
"This space is not for bodies like mine but I always have to remind myself that my existence and visibility in these spaces is beyond just myself; and rather about contributing to more spaces being platformed for queer bodies".
So enjoy this inspirational interview with Likhona as we discuss all things DJ-related & fashion-concerned. We delve into their introduction to the landscape of Gqom music, grabbing their fashion inspiration from her mother growing up, the leap from learning how to deejay in 2019 to now, plus some invaluable advice to emerging DJs, and more!
Would you mind introducing yourself and including a short description of what you do?
LIKKYLIKS: Hey, my name is Likhona–popularly known as 'LIKKYLIKS'. I was born and raised and in East London.
Before anything else, I’m an artist. I’m well-known for my deejaying performance sets but I also do express myself in other creative mediums–such as modeling, styling and digital creation.
The self-professed Gqom Princess! I've seen your sets live a bunch of times and you are undoubtedly one of the best Gqom DJ's in the country. But I've always wondered... Why Gqom specifically? What is the significance of the genre which appeals to you?
LIKKYLIKS: Thank you so much! That’s a huge acclaim. You know what’s funny? At the beginning of my career I was never really fond of Amapiano–so they were definitely out of the picture when I was navigating my sound. Gqom came so authentically to me though because I was exposed to the genre at it’s early stages as it was really popular in East London. I experienced nightlife events in my early teens and they played a lot of Gqom. The taxi I caught to school–we called it ‘uGqum Gqum’ because of it’s loud sound system; would play a lot of Gqom early in the morning on our way to school.
I moved to Joburg at the decline of the genre and the rise of Amapiano. So I made it my mission, subconsciously, for myself, to revive Gqom back within the city again–and now we are here.
So when and how did you actually start deejaying & why?
LIKKYLIKS: I started deejaying in 2019, through Pxssy Party who trained me and skilled me through all the ins-and-outs of deejaying.
Growing up I was called “Dj Lidz” by my older sister–only for her to manifest it into my reality. I started deejaying because I wanted to play songs that they don’t play at party spots for me & my friends. I asked Lelowhatsgood to teach me; shoutout Lelo and they directed me to Pxssy Party. I only realized the seriousness of my career in 2021.
I think you're such a wonderfully eclectic character. Your fashion taste also really stands out! So what is your personal relationship with clothes?
LIKKYLIKS: Clothes and fashion have always been a way of expression for me. I always thought I’d end up working in fashion full-time and that the deejaying thing would be part-time. I’ve always had a profound love for clothes because of my mom and how she always used her personal style as a way to express herself.
Nowadays we see you playing all of the topical nightlife events in JHB; such as VNJ Ball, Prime, Night Embassy & more. But I've always wondered, how did you eventually get to this position? I assume it must have been quite the challenging journey working to reach this point? Could you tell us a bit more about these challenges that you've needed to overcome?
LIKKYLIKS: She’s booked and busy baby! I’m Black, I’m transgender and I’m feminine. Trying to establish yourself and make it in this industry as a woman is hard as it is–you can imagine how challenging it can be for me. This space is not for bodies like mine but I always have to remind myself that my existence and visibility in these spaces is beyond just myself; and rather about contributing to more spaces being platformed for queer bodies.
I'd like to know more about your experience of playing on radio. I think you used to have a show slot on YFM? How was that entire experience?
LIKKYLIKS: I was a guest DJ for them. I think out of all the goals I had set for myself, I never thought I’d land a radio gig. I was invited a few times and the experience just feels like peak professional artist–from their studios, to being interviewed on live national radio. More than anything it’s affirming that this queer doll is doing something right, because not everyone can say they’ve played for YFM a couple of times right?
I am also a massive fan of Boiler Room!! Which I know you've been invited to play before here in Johannesburg? How does it feel getting to play a gig for an international brand like that?
LIKKYLIKS: It’s so surreal! The previous year I was invited by my friend DORMANTYOUTH as a guest DJ for their Boiler Room set; so to do Boiler Room again as a headliner a year later was full-circle for me. It’s one of those events I’ve always wanted to do since the beginning of my career.
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?
LIKKYLIKS: Stay true to yourself. People are going to say the industry is over saturated–of which it is but staying true to yourself is what’s going to make you stand out.
Be your own biggest fan even before you establish an audience. You need to go hard for yourself and believe in your craft–fake it till you believe if it means that.
People will always invest in you when you believe in your own craft and you ride for yourself.
What are you looking forward to most in the remaining second half of 2023?
LIKKYLIKS: I have a few exciting creative projects in the works for the next coming weeks that I can’t mention yet. Some of the projects are out of my comfort zone–but the challenge is thrilling.