DJ Mekonko’s long road to star­dom

Sunday Express - - XPRESS PEOPLE -

DJ Mekonko has come a long way from his hum­ble be­gin­nings as a tout at a cloth­ing store, and he cred­its his me­te­oric rise not to luck but sheer hard work and per­se­ver­ance.

In an in­ter­view with XpressPeo­ple this past week, the bud­ding en­tre­pre­neur said his ca­reer path was far from straight­for­ward but char­ac­terised by me­an­ders and set­backs.

Born Khoaele Kom­tata in the ru­ral en­clave of Liphako­eng, Mapoteng in Berea district, DJ Mekonko was raised in Ha Mole­mane in Tey­ateya­neng (TY).

He said the en­ter­tainer bug bit when he got a job as a tout for an ap­parel out­let.

“My first job, which I started in 2002, was as a tout for a cloth­ing out­let. I would stand out­side and per­suade peo­ple to en­ter the store us­ing a loud speaker and a ra­dio with which I would play pop­u­lar songs,” said DJ Mekonko.

“I also had to use cre­ative mar­ket­ing lan­guage to en­tice them to en­ter the store and that sparked the dream of be­com­ing a ra­dio pre­sen­ter.

“When I was free, I helped jazz mu­si­cian Fatere carry his equip­ment to var­i­ous events he was per­form­ing, and that fu­elled my pas­sion for mu­sic.”

In 2004, DJ Mekonko re­lo­cated to Maseru to work in a fruit and veg store in Ha Matala. Un­be­known to him at the time, the tran­si­tion would ul­ti­mately nudge him in the di­rec­tion of his dream. The store owner had DJ equip­ment and al­lowed him to use it.

“My em­ployer had decks which he al­lowed me to prac­tice on. He also had friends like DJ Alex and Daverts from whom I learned the tricks of the trade,” said DJ Mekonko.

“It is within that pe­riod that I tried to es­tab­lish my­self as a DJ but I was of­ten told I would not make it and should just give up. I was mostly mocked be­cause I was not from around town, and of­ten re­ferred to as ‘moshanyana oa literekeng’ (the boy from the village).”

His break came through a child­hood friend who opened a restau­rant in TY called Mi­rage where he be­came a reg­u­lar DJ. With the prac­tice and ex­po­sure the reg­u­lar per­for­mances af­forded him, DJ Mekonko grad­u­ally im­proved.

Af­ter in­vites to per­form at other clubs started pour­ing in, he de­cided to quit his job and pur­sue disc spin­ning as a full­time oc­cu­pa­tion.

“In 2010, I ap­proached the man­age­ment of Times Café with a pro­posal to be a reg­u­lar act. We agreed that I would play on Thurs­day and Satur­day evenings but I only started get­ting paid three months af­ter start­ing the job.

“It was a very busy club and pa­trons ap­pre­ci­ated the mu­sic I played, which is soul­ful House mu­sic.”

DJ Mekonko said he only be­came a house­hold name in 2011 af­ter shar­ing the stage with pop­u­lar South African DJ Tira in Roma.

“I then started host­ing an­nual fes­ti­vals fea­tur­ing dif­fer­ent South African acts in cel­e­bra­tion of my birth­day and that ce­mented my brand in the en­ter­tain­ment scene.”

Over the years, DJ Mekonko’s pop­u­lar­ity has grown, with book­ings for var­i­ous cor­po­rate events and ma­jor fes­ti­vals. He left Times Café in 2014 for the Khu­bet­soana-based Club 4Fordy where he hosts Soul­ful House Sun­day Ses­sions ev­ery week.

Un­sat­is­fied with merely be­ing a disc spin­ner, DJ Mekonko has also for­ayed into en­trepreneur­ship.

“I ap­proached the owner of Times Café a few months ago and propo­si­tioned buy­ing the club. He set a hefty price for which I could not af­ford, so I brought two other friends on board and we were able to make the ac­qui­si­tion,” he said.

“That does not mean the end of my disc spin­ning ca­reer be­cause I in­tend to use the club which is now called Cuban Linx as a plat­form for Soul­ful House DJs.

“This is be­cause it is only in very rare cases that they get booked for fes­ti­vals. So I will also con­tinue be­ing a DJ for as long as I live.”

Cuban Linx serves food as well as soft and al­co­holic bev­er­ages. It also hosts dif­fer­ent events on a weekly ba­sis such as com­edy shows on Wed­nes­days, red car­pet-themed shows on Thurs­days, Soul­ful House ses­sions on Fri­days and Hip Hop on Satur­days.

“I hope my story can be an in­spi­ra­tion to oth­ers, es­pe­cially peo­ple from out­side Maseru. They need to know that they can still make it even if they are from the districts,” he said.

“Peo­ple al­ways have neg­a­tive things to say but if you set your mind on any goal, all is achiev­able.”

DJ Mekonko.

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