Words by Mercia Tucker
Photography by Anthony Bila
Cover Design by Dumaza Ndata
Lindokuhle Mabuda is quietly unassuming. It’s just after midday on the Sunday of our cover shoot at Braamfontein’s Dipstreet store and while the atmosphere of the group is one of animated chatter and excitement, Uncle Party Time, his DJing alias, is almost shrouded in reticence in contrast. He smiles and nods and adds in to the conversation intermittently but is bashful and reserved for the most part.
Junior, as he’s affectionately known, “is a kid tryna make some money and tryna get around and tryna leave a legacy behind.” The demure demeanour dissipates as we begin talking and his curious glances turn cheerful. He’s a DJ who took Braamfontein by storm with Onyx’s Rage parties, gigs at Kitchener’s and Great Dane, and has seen his brand move into events at more upmarket clubs.
In a white fitted cap, blue trousers with the hems rolled up and a striped golf shirt buttoned all the way to the top it’s not hard to see why his friends began calling him ‘Uncle’ because of his fashion sense. His stage name “got to Party Time because I’m an Okmalumkoolkat fan and he used to use that word all the time. I was slang for, like, a good time. So apparently everywhere I went, wherever I played, it was always a good time.”
As a DJ, the genres he focuses on are hip hop and gqom-wave. “Smiso is actually the one that put me on but it’s so difficult for me to play at other places because cats from Durban wanna own that shit and they feel disrespected for a young kid like me that plays that stuff so well that I’m getting more bookings than them now.”
Breaking into the industry and appealing to a wider audience wasn’t quite as easy-going as he’d have liked it to be with idols turning to rivals. “There was an incident at Kong. There’s this new event – Gqom Thursdays – that I was doing and I don’t know what the beef is but Tira didn’t want me to play at all. I was shocked because I used to look up to this guy and I thought ‘Tonight is my time to shine and impress this guy.’ This guy didn’t want me to play at all.”
“I’m a street cat. These guys need to understand that we’re not gonna suck dick to get to the top. We’re gonna work hard and do it by ourselves. If they don’t wanna help us, it’s ok, we’re gonna do it at the end of the day. And we’re doing it right now, I mean they know who we are and they see what we’re doing. If they wanna close doors, they can try. We have our kids, these kids have been supporting us and we haven’t even made it yet. My pain is I don’t understand why they won’t let us in, why not groom us or some shit? They wanna block us off and treat us like little dogs. It’s very weird. Right now we’re just gonna put in work. If they like it, they like it. If they don’t, it’s fine.”
Hailing from Dobsonville, Soweto, he moved to a suburb in the South and “was that kid in the hood doing nothing. I used to see Gondo [from the Onyx group] walking up and down with a bag every day. One day I asked him what he does and he was like he’s like he’s going to Braam, he’s a photographer. I was like ‘oh shit, take me with you!’ He took me, I met William [of Champagne69] and them, and from there the rest is ‘we outchea!’”
The early days were difficult. “I taught myself [how to DJ]. I had my scrappy computer and I learned in action” he says. “I had this half-screen laptop – the one side of the screen wasn’t working – but I had to make it work because I needed money. At times I would do a gig in Braam, get 500 bucks, then sleep on the Father Coffee bench and take a taxi home in the morning so that I still have money. But there was a time I met Cedric [Nzaka], the photographer, and he took me in. I’d play gigs and he had a friend here and I’d sleep there and go home in the morning.”
Having a space to exercise freedoms came with a bit of backlash for the Braam kids from people in the area who didn’t quite understand their movements and creative expressions. “People used to call us crazy. At one time we were devil-worshippers, we were doing cocaine… For real! What you see in Braam today on a Saturday, we used to be those kids chilling and drinking our Gordons, our Black Label ngudus with pretty girls around and apparently we started a cult.”
William annotates with “It was a space for us to connect with other kids that we felt were the same as us. We exchanged ideas a lot, we sat there and spoke about crazy stuff like what we need to turn what we’re doing right now into something more.”
Having the space to grow in the music industry is not a given. Uncle PartyTime has a determination like no other, his focus is resolute and his struggle to make it is the fuel that feeds his passion. One last word, I ask of him. “Give the kids a chance, that’s all I have to say, that’s all I ask.”