Okmalumkoolkat's Mission Is To Instil Confidence In Kids

7 January 2016 | 3:31 pm | Rip Nicholson

"Sometimes if DJ Zharp Zharp is struggling I will have Okmalumkoolkat come help him."

Born in the Zulu township of Umlazi, south-west Durban, South Africa, Zwane began writing and performing as a kid over dubbed beats off TDK cassettes before his chance encounter in Johannesburg led him to Dokta SpiZee to form the electronic/rap duo of Dirty Paraffin (known for their feature on Boomslang with London-based outfit LV). Further alter-egos of DJ Zharp Zharp then emerged as he matured his onstage career, all of whom present a less refined extension to the more processed form of Okmalumkoolkat.

"All the stuff I've been doing since I was like, ten and 12 is a combination of what I am doing now. So there is no break, it's like everything is connected," Zwane explains. "Sometimes if DJ Zharp Zharp is struggling I will have Okmalumkoolkat come help him," he laughs. "My whole thing is like, Okmalumkoolkat is way professional and very dope but when I am doing DJ Zharp Zharp shows and he gets to a place and is struggling I will call Okmalumkoolkat, which is the same guy, to help just a little bit. Okmalumkoolkat loves it but DJ Zharp Zharp is shy."

"That's my main mission, to bring these kids to my shows to break away from racism or classism."

The enthusiasm behind the Okmalumkoolkat persona stems from a childhood upbringing on local KwaZulu-Natal radio station. Where umalume means uncle in Zulu, Koolkat is derived from radio station host, best illustrating where Zwane draws his point and purpose in performance.

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"Koolkat was my favourite DJ who had this crazy show on Ukhozi FM where toddlers would call in to sing their favourite songs, give shout-outs to their friends. So when I started making music my whole thing was, 'Yo man, I'm talking to the youth, I'm not really talking to people my age. I'm talking to young kids and really trying to instil confidence in them, you know?' And I felt like he was doing the same thing so, the Okmalumkoolkat is like a salute to that."

Zwane's greater cause lies in lending peace to a volatile patch on Earth from which he represents wholly. When asked if it is on the agenda to provide a haven of peace in his shows, Zwane replies, "I think I do. That's my main mission, to bring these kids to my shows to break away from racism or classism. When people come to my show and hear me play they're not gonna care about where they come from or see the next guy, how he looks, how he acts, or where he comes from. That's my whole thing, man, I just want to create a united South Africa."

Before he drops his Holy Oxygen 2 EP off the Vienna-based Affine Records in February, the DJ/MC/dancer and underground culturalist is set for his first Australian tour. But what Zwane's looking forward to the most, apart from spreading his Zulu knowledge across the nation, will be, to say the least, a rather tall order.

"I want to see Aboriginal people and I want to see the outback as is. I want to experience the whole thing, not just the city. But, the craziest thing I really want to do, and I know it's impossible, I want to get into a pouch of a kangaroo and take a selfie."