Music

When Black Coffee says he's 'staying in and doing nothing', he doesn’t really mean it

The world-famous DJ hasn't missed a beat in lockdown. He chats to Sanet Oberholzer about his new single, the world after Covid-19, and more

10 May 2020 - 00:02 By Sanet Oberholzer
Black Coffee recently released a new single, 'SBCNCSLY', on which he collaborated with singer-songwriter Sabrina Claudio.
Black Coffee recently released a new single, 'SBCNCSLY', on which he collaborated with singer-songwriter Sabrina Claudio.
Image: Siphu Gqwetha

Black Coffee is one person who isn't minding the lockdown very much. In fact, if you'd been touring for the past four to five years you probably wouldn't mind being holed up at home either.

"It's been amazing just to stay in and do nothing," the world-famous South African DJ tells me over the phone. He says it's providing him with the opportunity to eat lamb chops and mash with his son — their favourite lockdown meal.

Then again, when Black Coffee — real name Nkosinathi Maphumulo — says "stay in and do nothing" he doesn't really mean it. He formed part of the line-up for the Global Citizen One World: Together at Home relief concert that took place last month.

Held in support of the World Health Organisation's Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund and the healthcare workers fighting the pandemic across and the globe, the concert was hosted by Lady Gaga and featured international stars like Elton John, John Legend and Chris Martin and, a little closer to home, Cassper Nyovest, Sho Madjozi and Nomzamo Mbatha.

"The world needs all the help it can get and as artists we're doing our best to see how we can assist," he says.

Black Coffee is a man who puts his money where his mouth is. This hasn't been the only occasion he's used his DJ skills to raise funds during this difficult time. He's also launched a weekly Home Brewed live stream to raise funds for relief charities.

So far he's worked with organisations such as KFC's Add Hope programme and the Red Cross. He's planning on doing two more sets and says it's been amazing to see people enjoying the music and supporting relief efforts at the same time.

The pandemic has put his worldwide tour dates on hold, including a performance at Coachella, the annual music and arts festival held in California. But in between all of this, he, like many people, holds regular Zoom meetings. With the music side of his career on hold, he says his company, Flightmode Digital, is his main focus.

As an investment company, its aim is to seek out and invest in African startups. They've funded a few local startups so far, including Yoko, a tech company that assists small businesses in getting paid.

There are numerous questions around how Covid-19 will change the way the world works: how people will travel, work and interact with the world around them once things "return to normal". But while the global music industry is being impacted in a huge way, he says he doesn't see it changing in the long run.

"I don't think it's going to change; it's going to go back to normal. I just think it's going to take time to go back to what it was. The entire industry — the dance music, the club scene — is created in a certain way and, yes, people are on lockdown all around the world but they can't wait to get out and go back to it. But we all have to wait until it's safe to do so."

Unfortunately, he says, it's one of the industries that will suffer the most because it will be one of the last to reopen.

Sabrina Claudio is amazing — I've been a fan for a while
DJ Black Coffee on collaborating with the singer-songwriter on his latest single

Maphumulo says now is a good time to release new music — with people at home, eager for new online content and music to listen to. Not missing a beat, he's just released his latest single, SBCNCSLY, on which he collaborated with singer-songwriter Sabrina Claudio, someone he says is great to work with.

"She's amazing — I've been a fan for a while. It's been a great experience. To have the song available, from just talking about it to walking into the studio with nothing but ideas and now having it out there. I'm happy with it."

This single will form part of Black Coffee's latest album, which he says is coming out in August. The album will include a number of collaborations, among the many names he mentions are Pharrell and Kelly Rowland.

LISTEN | 'SBCNCSLY' - Black Coffee's new single featuring Sabrina Claudio.

It's not every day you can have a chat with an international star like Black Coffee, so I have to ask: where did his stage name come from?

"During my varsity days I had a girlfriend from Zambia who called me Black Coffee. It was a pet name and when I was looking for a DJ name I thought, 'Why not use Black Coffee?' It has nothing to do with music."

As I sip my own cup of coffee I wonder if he knew that roughly 25 years on, for many people his nickname would have become synonymous with music.

Then again, back when I first saw him live in 2010 I didn't think we'd be discussing his favourite lockdown meal in 2020 while I'm lounging on my bed doing an interview as part of a "normal work day".