Acclaimed DJ and producer Black Coffee is using music to help South Africa.
On Thursday, May 10, Black Coffee released a special mix to celebrate the 25 year anniversary of Sónar Barcelona festival—a festival he has had a long relationship with. His mix features music made by producers in South Africa, and he hopes to highlight them through this release.
“There’s so much talent [in South Africa],” he says. “They’re making music but there’s no structure—there’s no platform to release the music.”
“Literally, their music has made me who I am today,” he adds.
Black Coffee is also currently working to build a music, art and fashion school in a deserted part of his hometown, Johannesburg, in hopes of turning the neighborhood around. He says he was inspired to start the school after looking back on his own music education experience: he couldn’t afford to complete his degree, but he also felt there wasn’t anything more to learn. He decided to create a school that would teach students more, and he found support from a former professor. The concept grew to include art and fashion after he told his friends artist Nelson Makamo and clothing designer Laduma Ngxokolo about the project, and they showed interest.
Once the school is built, Black Coffee plans to establish an entire neighborhood that will be designed with the help of Virgil Abloh, Louis Vuitton’s men’s wear artist director, and offer cultural experiences, stores and restaurants. With the help of SAOTA Architecture and Design, Abloh will design a building that will be home to opportunities and spaces that may include a bookstore, a restaurant and a learning center for creating apps.
“The narrative of my country is we have this new democracy. We had a terrible history where we never thought we were good enough to the world. All the people, all the kids, would look outside for inspiration,” Black Coffee says. “We wanted to change the narrative. Start creating stories from Africa that will inspire Africa. Let the kids sort of know you don’t have to go far—everything you want is on the continent.”
He adds that he hopes to incorporate a space for growing organic plants in the neighborhood, along with retail spaces. Black Coffee was particularly interested in making a learning for creating apps because he is currently making one of his own called Gongbox.
“In simple terms, we’re trying to create our own African iTunes where the world can access African music,” he says. “This is why, for me, it’s important to have that space in the building where we can think about the future of our continent and not only think South African kings need to learn how to be plumbers and farmers. We have brilliant minds as well that we need to create a space for.”
In addition to Black Coffee’s inspirational work in South Africa, he can be found touring the globe. His next show will be in New York City at Terminal 5 on May 18. More information and tickets can be found here.