How a small-time DJ from Khayelitsha produced the song of the year

| Zethu Gqola
DJ Mizz. Photo by Lethabo Mobo (for Black Mango Music).

A few months ago no one could have predicted that a small-time DJ from Khayelitsha would produce what would be one of the hits of 2014: ‘Koze Kuse’.

The collaborative house music effort of DJ Mizz, Merlon and Mondli Ngcobo, has enlivened the South African music scene. The song, which was arranged by Black Coffee, received a 2015 Metro FM Music Award nomination for Best Hit Single last week.

Signed by Black Mango Music, DJ Mizz, real name Sanele Wili, has also made the hit single Count Your Blessings. This and Koze Kuse are soulful deep house tracks that were successful during the festive season. Count Your Blessings was released under the acclaimed label Soul Candi Records and Koze Kuse under M Word Productions, in October last year.

DJ Mizz became popular after Koze Kuse, climbed every major chart in the country, eventually being dubbed song of the year for 2014 on SA’s biggest local music chart on Yfm.

“I composed the beat and instrumentals of Koze Kuse and somehow DJ Merlon and Mondli came across it and developed an interest in it,” Mizz says.

“At the time they’d been freestyling on live sets and did the same on my instrumental. Koze Kuse came about from one of their freestyles on the beat that I’d made. They were so interested in releasing the final product as a track that they decided to search for the original creator of the instrumentals – me. In October I got a call from DJ Terrance telling me that there were these guys from Durban [Merlon and Mondli] who’d been trying to get hold of me with regards to my beat and releasing it as a collaborative track. The day after that phone call we all spoke, negotiated and started working on the release,” says Mizz.

January kicked off with Mizz making his TV debut on The Expresso Show where he played ‘Emotic Drums’, a track off of his Love & Dedication album, which showcases a stellar lineup of fresh and soulful deep house tracks that have a unique sound and feature plenty of instrumentals. Things got even better for the 23-year-old DJ when last week’s 14th Metro FM Music Awards Nominations list came out, with Koze Kuse earning a nod in the Best Hit Single category.

“The nomination was exciting! But to be honest I was kind of expecting it because whenever I spoke to Merlon he’d tell me that this song was going to build my future,” he says. Excited about the ceremony which takes place in Durban next month, Mizz will be travelling to KZN with his management team and co-producers as they hope to take home the trophy. “This nomination means everything to me. Just collaborating with people like Merlon, Mondli and Black Coffee has already opened a lot of doors and created ample opportunities for me as a young artist. I’ve also learned a lot about the industry and the quality and standard of music I should be making,” he says.

Mizz has been creating music since 2007 but only decided to pursue it as a career in 2011. “I’ve always made music to express the joy and happiness in me,” he says. “A lot of that joy and happiness I have tried to put through in the songs on my latest EP Love & Dedication. People don’t know who Mizz is so I have tried to put that across in my music,” he says.

When asked about what the inspiration behind his music is, Mizz says that ‘It just happens,’ and that there is no planned method of creating a song – the ideas just come to him. On YouTube plays Koze Kuse already has over 400,000 views.

Another one of his releases, Count Your Blessings is doing well, with nearly 200,000 YouTube views. The track is a collaborative effort with Rabs Vhafuwi and features Peter Ndlala on sax and trumpets, and David Mayekane on guitar.

“Working with Black Mango has been great,” Mizz says. “They see a lot of potential in me and they really help me get my music and that of other township artists out there, booking us the interviews we need to further our careers. I do what I can and they give what they can. It’s a very positive and working partnership.”

With a few singles dropping in the very near future, you’ll want to keep your eye on this budding producer. Listen to his Love & Dedication EP on Traxsource. Follow him on @DeejayMizzSA. You can vote for Mizz to win Best Hit Single on Metro FM by visiting and following the instructions.

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TOPICS:  Arts and culture

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