DJ Vetkuk vs Mahoota speak to Helen Herimbi about what it took to get to this version of their newest album, Local Everywhere
Mahoota’s cellphone rests atop a physical copy of Spikiri’s new album, King Don Father. Both Mahoota and Spikiri are part of revered kwaito group Trompies, and I point at the CD and mention how good the music is.
“It’s sold out now in stores,” Mahoota smiles proudly. “So it is very good.”
This exchange is significant to me because it, in a moment, lays to rest the rumours that Mahoota no longer wants to be a part of Trompies since he is rarely seen with the rest of the group for interviews and appearances.
It also shows there is room for everyone to be their full selves in the music industry as, right now, Mahoota, his music compadre of 17 years, DJ Vetkuk, and I are enjoying tea in the fleeting sunshine of a chilly Joburg day and talking about their new album.
The pair began their DJ Vetkuk vs Mahoota compilation series in 2001 and have since released five original albums. Their latest, Local Everywhere, was released this month. It’s a double-disc of gqom, house and trap with features that range from Busiswa to Nokwazi to Black Motion, Heavy K, Sjava, Lady Zamar and, of course, Kwesta, who features on three songs including current single, Ziwa Murtu.
That song was the last one that the K1 Gawd recorded and Mahoota is so impressed by his ability to think on the spot that he shows me a video on his phone of Kwesta’s creative process. Both Vetkuk and Mahoota watch the video and smile as though it’s the first time they are seeing it.
In the five years since the release of their last album, Dinaledi, DJ Vetkuk vs Mahoota has recorded over 500 songs. And even the 22 tracks that did make it on to Local Everywhere underwent multiple changes before they became the versions we hear today. Take, for instance, Zimnandi featuring Heavy K, Sjava and Fire.
“We went through so many things to have that song,” Mahoota explains. “Last year, we met with Heavy K and asked him to contribute to the album and he said ‘sure, grootman, I’ll gladly do so.’ And then the late Robbie Malinga gave me a call and he said he had this concept for Vetkuk vs Mahoota, so can we go to the studio? The concept was about what’s happening lately where, when you’re married, you end up falling in love with more than one woman and why do married women do the same?”
The Heavy K-produced song became a collaboration between Robbie, Musa and Nokwazi, but “for some funny reason,” Mahoota tells me, “the song disappeared”.
With Malinga gone, they had to make a new song altogether. That became Zimnandi – which is complete with bird sounds and Sjava attempting isichatamiya.
Another song that is close to the Putuko musos’ hearts is Hero, featuring Lady Zamar – which opens the first disc. Both Vetkuk and Mahoota are frustrated by the idea that most fans believe this is a love song where a romantic interest acts as a saviour. Instead, the song was penned about addiction – to a variety of vices – and how one may need to be saved from it.
I ask the pair what they believe their own hero has been in their music journeys.
“Music itself,” Vetkuk says without hesitation. “Music is deeper than just playing it. It caters to all your emotions. It can pick you up, make you relax, make you turn up, make you happy. Music saves me and makes me love music even more.”
Mahoota’s response is more tangible.
“I’d say what saved me was my dad,” he says. “As a youngster, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I went to music school and didn’t know until 1989, when I learnt about my father and that he had been in the group Harari, with Sipho Hotstix Mabuse, that was when I realised I was meant to be doing music.”
Mahoota’s father, Monty Saitana Ndimande, died in 1985 before they could reconcile and Mahoota says: “I’m the only one out of his five children who is a musician, and knowing that is what saved me.”
On the Dinaledi album, this pair released a song that would turn Dr Malinga into a household name. Via Orlando is still a big hit. I ask them if they were paying homage to it by including the Soweto Towers (which are in Orlando) on the Local Everywhere album cover.
“It’s Soweto as a whole, and Johannesburg and Cape Town,” Vetkuk explains. “It’s South Africa as a whole.”
Then Mahoota adds: “The concept is also showing day and night, meaning you’ll find us in the clubs at night and during the day. We are in places like this where we are having tea while someone somewhere is dancing to our music.”
Vetkuk says: “Our first release was a mixture of international and local house and the DJ Vetkuk vs Mahoota brand was a mixture of the two. After that, we went 100% local.”
Again, Mahoota adds: “We didn’t like the concept of importing music because I believe in creating our own sound and taking that to the world. Local Everywhere also means we feel at home wherever we go,” Mahoota continues. “Whether we are in Paris or Venda, we are locals.”