Introducing Rafeeqah: Cape Town’s Deep House Super Fan Gracing Dance floors With Flair & Passion
South Africa continues to be the capital of house music globally; the passion and love for deep house does not simply exist with DJs and producers but lives and breeds within its fans on the dance floors. Cape Town based Rafeeqah Ely is an epitome of this passion as she continuously graces deep house dance floors in the Mother City and Johannesburg with her crew of friends (The “Jol Patrol”), who are equally as passionate about house music as she is.
We had a sit down with her to tell us more about herself, how she fell in love with deep house music and how she became such a consistent figure in Cape Town’s dance floors and beyond.
Before we talk about your life as deep house super fan, we’d like to first get to know Rafeeqah a bit more. Besides being a serious groover, what else does Rafeeqah do?
Well, when I’m not at the “groove”, I’m busy making money so that I can go to the groove and compensate for my groove time [laughs]. Currently my job description is that I work at Amazon where I do quality assurance, but I’m also still studying as well. I graduated with a BA degree in 2017 and now I’m trying to pursue my Honours degree in Psychology. I majored in different things but then I chose Psychology because that’s where my heart is.
Do you see a connection between these two passions of yours, Psychology and being a deep house groover?
Yeah, I think there is. Getting to know all these people at the groove is very fascinating to me because you meet so many different people there, it’s insane! I consider it therapy honestly. Just to let loose and exchange energies with different types of people. I feel like I find my solace there.
When did you get into deep house music and how did you fall in love with it?
I am madly, deeply and unconditionally in love with deep house [laughs]. 2lani the Warrior was asking me about this at the We House Festival some time back and I told him that I’ve only been in the scene for 2 years and I’ve been unequivocally invested in house music. I then actually thought about this question after and I realized I gave him the wrong answer because unconsciously I’ve always been drawn to this kind of music.
Before WHS I listened to house, but I just didn’t categorise it as I listened to music generally. I was someone that was always open to music, so I didn’t pay close attention to the specific genres, it was just music. Now though it has become more than that. Commercial music has become alien to me now since I’ve been sucked into this deep house craze [laughs].
It is quite amazing how consistent you have been in supporting deep house music, particularly events such as “We House Sundays”. Why did you choose to support this event so consistently and tirelessly?
I had this friend at school who is the one who introduced me to We House Sundays. He told me that he wants to take me to this place because he thought I would enjoy it and then after my first experience I said to him “I think we should do this every month” so that we can hangout and experience this more. Then the more I went, the more I was amazed, and I understood why people enjoyed it. It’s deeper than just being music. That was about 2 and half years ago and ever since then I’ve been going.
It felt like the actual space was like family, like a community. When I’m there I always look at when people enter, they are literally dancing already before they even reach the dance floor, and you are already smiling at the people who are coming in. It’s crazy because you kind of know who is going to be there and we all connect on the dance floor. Something that started off as us just wanting to hang out with my friend at least once a month has become something that I’m more invested in now. We have become very invested in this thing, particularly in following the WHS crew and even going to Johannesburg for events such as ‘Deep Town Jozi’. If you told me 2 years ago that I would catch a flight to another city for a groove I would have laughed at you. It wasn’t even a consideration for me to leave the city for no reason but now I want to keep going because we’ve met so many people because of it.
It seems in your years as a deep house fanatic you have formed a crew of friends who love the music just like you, particularly at WHS. Tell us more about these friendships you’ve formed on the dance floor.
You know what’s crazy is that whenever we go to groove, the last thing we speak about is our personal lives so talking about that is kind of crazy for me [laughs]. We kind of want to leave that at the door because we are at the groove to come and let loose. But considering how close we have become we have been trying to get to know each other at a more personal level, because we realise that its more than just us being at the groove, we actually enjoy spending time with each other.
Even though we have one thing in common (the love of house music), we are all there for different reasons and though we try to escape our daily lives we can’t really escape them completely because they shape who we are as individuals and as a crew. What’s also crazy is that most of the people that stay in my area I met at WHS, I never met them where I live when going to the store or anything.
In a scene that is quite heavily male dominated, even with the supporters of Deep house music, how has your experience been as a woman who attends so many events?
I feel like being often the only female in the crew allows me to play a very specific role. I feel like I am more like the mother of the group because these guys need a lot of support. We come from different walks of life and because of the way we support each other we have become a very close unit. I’m a really shy person, believe it or not, and I feel so comfortable with these guys that I’m literally motivated to be myself with them and I don’t have to be that person that’s chilling and watching everyone dance. It’s because of them giving me the platform to be myself and comfortable, so I just go crazy.
With me being the only female in our crew people always say to me “why are you the only female with all these guys, don’t you have issues with them hitting on you all the time”, and I always say no, that’s not what it’s about. We’ve dubbed ourselves as being family because that’s the last thing on our minds; it’s so much more than that. The guys and I just feed off of each other’s energy.
Have you in the last 2 years of being a super fan become more into getting to know the artists/DJs and following their music outside of the events you attend?
Yes, I have. I think that once I have experienced an artist I then go on and follow them. We experience a lot of music on the dance floor and for some reason I want to dig deeper and try experience what other kinds of house music are out there. I’m quite an avid fan of Avi Subban and I’ve always enjoyed his productions. Also !Sooks, who’s music I’ve always enjoyed even before I experienced him play; as well as Pierre Johnson, who I know through a few mutual friends. So yes, in the past 2 years my knowledge of deep house music has really grown. If you look at my playlists now, its just deep house [laughs].
Have you seen yourself being more recognised now by people as a deep house super fan, even outside of the dance floor?
Definitely. The ‘Front Rowers‘ that’s what they call us [laughs]. Even at work I get people come up to me and say “you are that girl that I always see on the photos” and I always say “hey lets not speak about this here, I am not this person” [laughs]. But yes, when people see me and the crew they now recognise that we are the people that bring the vibe and our faces are now attached to the brand that is deep house. And the fact that people are appreciating our presence makes me want to invest in it even more.
Do you believe that the fans of deep house music like yourself are important and play a big role in the deep house scene?
I think that we are very important as dancers. A friend of mine even said to me that I enjoy the music so much that everyone thinks I will get to a point where I say I would also like to DJ [laughs]. But for me, I would like to remain a dancer because one of these days if everyone is going to be on the line up and who’s going to dance and bring the vibe? I feel like we contribute quite a lot especially in terms of welcoming everyone there and making sure that people feel welcome. So yes, I believe we are as important as the artists because we show appreciation by showing up, being present and actually enjoying the vibe.
Finally, would you ever consider formalising the important role you play in the scene and what ventures would you go into?
[Laughs] I don’t know how I would. It would be nice to do this as a job because it’s quite an expensive thing [laughs] but unfortunately, I can’t. I don’t think I would want to consider it as a job because I’m scared it would lose its substance and currently, we are doing it for the love. We want to support these events as much as we can so that they can keep pushing the movement. It would be nice to get paid for it because of how expensive it gets, but ultimately, we know what we are there for. It’s not about the money or anything but about what we take home from the groove. The whole experience, and you can’t buy experience. So, for now I’m just doing it strictly for the love.