Written By - Hemal Lalabhai
That last item of conversation that you’ll be thinking of when you hear about the country Zimbabwe is probably about the nightlife and music scene that thrives in her major cities like Bulawayo, and Harare.
The dance scene and nightlife in Zimbabwe looks similar to that of her surrounding countries, Namibia, Zambia, and South Africa. Hard working locals of the major cities are peppered with foreign workers either with government embassies or NGO’s, and they all spend multiple nights at clubs, or restaurants that turn into nightclubs, dancing to the latest music that crystallizes a romance in what was once the “breadbasket of Africa”. All though if you know her story, and her history you must also be aware of her growing change and instability.
Music is a love that all ears are ready to devote themselves to and is a form of stability for Zimbabweans. So you must be wondering about the type of music that is played and who influences the current dancehall scene in Zim? A great night in Zim is a mix of all genres, blends from Hip-Hop, Dancehall, EDM, House, Afro-beats, Reggae, and R&B. If you ever find yourself in Zimbabwe, you’ll most likely boogie your way to a venue where Rax the DJ is making the magic happen on Zimbabwean dance floors. His mixes curate a vibe in collaborations between throwback and new age music, giving a little of everything for mature and youthful dancers.
Having experienced his gigs for myself, I can tell you that the music he spins moves feet, gets booties shaking, and has now over years created a fan base that look forward to his Thursday night or weekend sets. I had the chance to see Rax the DJ opened for Akon at the Lion Lager Beer Festival in 2012, and he was also the official DJ for Sean Paul's tour to Zimbabwe. Rax the DJ has also shared the stage with Brick & Lace and Liquideep, among many other performers and musicians that make their way through Sub-Saharan Africa.If you ever find yourself in Zimbabwe, be sure to make it a point to see Rax the DJ.
I had the chance to interview Rax The DJ, a resident DJ at many venues who resides in Harare, the Capital of Zimbabwe. He spins his mixes in many lively Zimbabwean and neighboring countries establishments and is one of the most sought after DJ's in Zim for big arists when passing through on tours. He also happens to be my uncle.
Q1. When did you start DJing in Zim? - What were you playing in the beginning and who were you playing for?
A1. I started DJing in Harare, Zimbabwe in 2001. I always used to be a lover of music, al types & genres & I had a massive CD collection & my friends always used to tell me I should become a DJ. I got in touch with a friend of mine who was a DJ who used to do a lot of private functions to learn how to use equipment & he used to give me a set at the functions he used to get hired for. From there I approached a local club owner who at the time owned a night club called Synergy, At first he used to give me the early hour sets where there was hardly anyone in the club, like 9pm-11pm but it was ok with me, I was getting to play & getting used to DJ equipment. So I was content getting a nice loud sound system to bang out my tunes. My preference of music to play was Dancehall but because I was playing so early I had to get familiar with more chilled out music like 90's RnB because Dancehall was saved for peak hours of the night & for the buffer DJ's at the time.
Q2. How Long have you been Djing in Zim and what are you currently playing? who is big out in Harare that gets your crowd moving? ( 1-3 artists that you spin often and that the crowd wants to hear)
A2. I've been playing for 15 years now. Music is endless but if you throw in some Vybz Kartel that will always get a crowd excited. Other artists like Chris Brown, Mavado, Sean Paul, DJ Mustard etc never fail either... Locally Winky D, Dobbadon & Soul Jah Luv always have club anthems.
Q3. Have you switched your tastes or style through the years DJing in Zim?
A3. I wouldn't say I've changed my style or taste but my range od music is much wider because I can do up to 4 to 6 hour sets in a night so i have to make sure I have all sorts of music because my crowds in different places I play are always different so I have to make sure my collection has everything, new & old too.
Q4. What type of venues do you spin at? Do you spin in other Countries other than Zim?
A4. I play absolutely everywhere. You could find me spinning in clubs, concerts, festivals or even in the ghetto for the underprivileged. But currently I have residencies at a few up market & classy bars that I play at weekly. I've played in South Africa & Zambia but my schedule in Harare is demanding a very full so my traveling is very limited.
Q5. What festivals do you spin at ? and what is your favorite one to spin at?
A5. Zimbabwe hosts an annual Harare International Festival of Arts which I was a regular DJ at. This festival would pull in thousands of people internationally & locally. It was 6 days of just partying & great fun. Amazing & responsive crowd every time i played.
Q6. Has your crowd changed through the years of you spinning? not just in age but in demographic or their style as an audience.
A6. If anything my crowd has grown & I have reached out to a bigger crowd. At each venue I play at I see different people of different race & music preferences & I love. Keeps me on my toes for what I need to play.
Q7. If you could spin with any current artist, who would that be?
A7. To be honest any international major star would be a blessing. I've shared the stage & played along some massive stars & hosted their pre-parties & after-parties, Sean Paul, Akon, Brick & Lace, D'Banj, P-Square, Sean Kingston just to name a few... But who wouldn't love to work with Drake, Chris Brown, Rihanna or any A-List Artist.
Q8. Finally, what do you love about the most being a DJ in Zimbabwe?
A8. What I love about DJing is that feeling of making people dance & for that moment allow them to forget about everything else in the world & just let loose.
- Hemal Lalabhai