Custodians of modernist cultures that spawned at the dawn of the 20th century are still around. We may be living in postmodern times, but some of the lessons, practices and ideals of modernity are at their heights. Instant gratification, algorithms taking over the world, increased consumption of culture items, fast-paced urban life and increased human connectivity seem to be the order of the day. Now with that being said, judging by how life is set up these days, taking people back to conventions that once were the yardstick for the performance of culture may seem to be quite a ludicrous feat.
Throwbacks, be it vintage clothing or vinyl, may serve as a remedy to some of the ills that come about in the fast-paced life that we are stuck in. “How so?” you may ask. Let’s zone in on crate digging culture and vinyl DJing, one needs an impeccable amount of patience to choose the analogue way of doing things – and patience is not a prominent virtue in the times we live in. In the digital age, maintaining tradition may be seen as a necessary evil to teach and express culture in way in which many would say is organic. An alternative perspective would be to say that it may not be necessarily an intentional act of preserving tradition but rather an inherent part of a person which was sparked by their upbringing.
The quote “culture is malleable and changes with respect to time but tradition doesn’t” perfectly sums up the core of this piece. In light of the conversation of preserving culture, we should rather focus on conversations of preserving tradition. While analysts, bloggers and writers may write about the preservation of tradition, some actually live it. Living a life of preserving tradition requires a certain level of bravery – to go against the grain and the current standards of doing things. One individual in a group of many, is a direct personification of that bravery and that individual is none other than Pretoria-based DJ Hamma The Dude. A unsung hero and champion of DJ tradition.
We had the opportunity of speaking to Hamma The Dude to find out more about him. Peep the conversation we had with him below.
As part of our culture at Nusoulhub Radio, we always extend our appreciation to the artists/creatives that we get into contact with. We appreciate your time. Your name holds weight in the Gauteng DJ scene and this is because you’ve been doing what you’re doing for a long time. We could go on and on about your track record and the influence that you have, but we want to hear from you. As a DJ, how do you normally introduce yourself to people?
HammaTheDude: How do I introduce myself to the people. Well at events, I believe that the first track that you start with, like the first track, always tells a story. It tells the people who are you are, it tells the people what you are about to dish out. You know, so I always start with a beautiful mellow track to define my sound as Hamma The Dude and to introduce myself to the people – to say this is who I am and this is what I am about to give to you.
Labelling and categorising things makes things easy for the human mind to comprehend. In many cases, the consistent urge to box things can be a problem especially anything to do with creativity. A lot of people may know you as a vinyl Hip Hop DJ, is that how you would generally box yourself as a DJ?
HammaTheDude: Uhm, I am a DJ. You know, who happens to play to Hip Hop a lot. I am not only a vinyl Hip Hop DJ. I do play other sounds as well like broken beat, house or whatever I feel like on a particular day. But I am not a vinyl Hip Hop DJ, I am just a DJ who happens to play Hip Hop a lot on vinyl.
The reason why we asked the previous question is because we’ve once heard a Tshwane FM mix that you did and what was played in that mix was far from what most new people that come to know you now as.
HammaTheDude: Yes, that Tshwane FM mix should confirm that I am not just a Hip Hop DJ. It should confirm that I do play other sounds and I intend on bringing more sounds into my sets. And by the way that mix was done quite a number of years ago.
Pretoria has an interesting history with the capital city being tied to South Africa’s ugly Apartheid history and the way the city is set up is still shows the history. This obviously gave rise to music that acted as a resistance to systematic policies of the time. The music came in genres such as jazz and more recently Hip Hop. How connected are you to the city’s musical history and is the history important to you? Does it somehow influence your musical taste?
HammaTheDude: My musical taste is influenced by my surroundings, the people I hang out with, the people I talk to, the people I look up to. My family, my dad played a big part in the music that I listen to. So history does influence, you know, my musical taste directly and indirectly. Because to some extent I believe that it also influences the people that I am in touch with, that I connect with on a musical level. So it does influence my musical taste.
When talking about influence, we know that you’re associated with DJ Bubbles, who is a landmark in his own right. What are your thoughts the music scene in Pretoria? A lot of people think Pretoria is quite small.
HammaTheDude: Look me and Bubbles go way back. We grew up togther. We’re from a place called Khala’mbazo so that’s where our association started. We hung out a lot, you know, listening to a lot music while we were hanging out. Mostly Hip Hop and House. And I am so happy that we’re still hanging out even now. That’s one dope thing that started back then and we’re still musically connected. In terms of the music scene in Pretoria, the music scene has changed a lot. I mean back in the days, Pretoria was predominantly House, like Deep House. Now it depends on where you are in Pretoria, like the eastern side which is like Mamelodi and stuff is dominated by what you call or what other DJs call amapiano. But that is liek locally produced music, forget the amapiano thing, but a lot of locally produced music with local content. Since I am from that place, I would be regarded as underground and the underground scene is very small. It’s there but in terms of parties and events, it’s entirely small. Then you go other places like Ga-Rankuwa, Deep House is still there. And also they embrace other sounds, what I would call the underground scene there is bigger than that of Mamelodi. It’s growing there but look someone else can differ in opinion in connection to what I am saying but that’s my view. But I belong in what you’d call the underground which is quite small.
On a music note again, why do you think it is important to diversify your music as a DJ? We can even take it beyond just being a DJ, do you think that it is important to expand your musical taste?
HammaTheDude: In my opinion, the importance of diversifying your music is mostly reach. It will help you reach different crowds and different people instead of playing one sound which will keep you in a specific crowd. Playing different music or diversifying your music will help you reach different crowds and different people and that is growth to me. It will also help you grow musically as well, you won’t stay in one place. You will go through different sounds and you will evolve as well. It’s all growth and reach.
We know that you used to have an event called Plastic sessions, we’ve heard some of the mixes from one of the events. What inspired the whole idea of the event? What was the main goal of making it happen?
HammaTheDude: What inspired the plastic session was the fall of vinyl culture. You know, the goal or the reason behind it was to bring back the vinyl culture. That was the goal and that’s why it happened – just to bring back the vinyl culture.
You play vinyl, which is quite interesting as vinyl has started making a return. You see big artists release their music on vinyl. At this moment, it is hard to judge whether or not vinyl coming back is a passing trend or not. Besides that, why do you choose to play your music through the medium of vinyl? Does it have a particular significance to you?
HammaTheDude: Look, I started DJing on vinyl and I fell in love with vinyl from that moment on. The reason why I still play on it is because I am comfortable on it and play better on vinyl than any other medium.
Photo credit: HammaTheDude via Facebook
Can you recall one defining moment that put a lot into perspective for you to be a DJ that plays the type of music that you play? As a DJ, you are often tasked with connecting people.
HammaTheDude: I started my DJ career playing House music and I did it for so many years. I got nice reviews now and again but it never really made the impact that I wanted. But I can tell you now, the first day I started playing Hip Hop at an event, the reviews and the reaction I got from people were far better than those I got playing House. From then on I was advised that I should play Hip Hop. That’s how it all started. I mean the reviews I’ve been getting since then have been way beyond my expectation, it’s been great. The love I have been getting has been very dope and that’s how the shift from House to Hip Hop started. It’s been good, man. It’s been good.
Hip Hop has grown as a genre in South Africa, and not many people are aware of the role Pretoria has played in getting South African Hip Hop where it is today. People like Flex Boogie, groups like Ba4za and The Anvils. Knowing that, do you like direction the genre is going? You were probably there when all the cats mentioned came up.
HammaTheDude: I think currently Hip Hop has two worlds – the mainstream and the underground. The current mainstream Hip Hop sound doesn’t appeal to me because it lacks the elements that actually made up Hip Hop, that drove Hip Hop, that gave birth to Hip Hop. Which is MCing and by MCing I mean like proper lyrical content, DJing, B-boying and beatboxing. It lacks that and it lacks, in my opinion, whereas the underground still infuses those elements, still drives those elements. So that is what appeals to me, I think mainstream Hip Hop currently has lost the real foundation of Hip Hop. And the direction it’s taking doesn’t appeal to me either because I see it further losing the elements that I am talking about. But then again that is my opinion.
When you travel for gigs, are you often confronted with an energy that is positive and constructive for the growth of the creative and music scenes in South Africa?
HammaTheDude: My performances are inspired by the energy of the crowd. So if the crowd’s energy is good, it will inspire my performance to be good as well. I have done a lot of performances and I have been getting a lot of good reviews regarding my performances. Which means the energy from the crowds have been good. So the energy is very constructive and it’s inspiring, man, and it has inspired me to go on. So the energy underground is crazy and the people underground want to hear new sounds, they want to hear creativity from the artists. That is good for the music scene and that is good for the industry.
Where do you stand in the new school versus the old school debate?
HammaTheDude: It’s all music, man. You just gotta take what appeals to you and leave the rest to those that have the energy to debate on it but to me it’s just music.
You release a series of mixes and distribute them in the CD format. The last one of on our radar was the Ashmed hour 65- the J Dilla edition. Can we expect more of those types of release in 2017?
HammaTheDude: The release of my mixes on CD is basically to promote my sound and myself as Hamma The Dude beyond the people that I am connected to on social media. It’s just to grow the Hamma The Dude brand and the sound behind Hamma The Dude. So that’s the reason behind that. I mean I don’t have a million followers on Facebook and Twitter so until then I will be pushing my mixes on CD.
In closing, what do you want to see more of in the South African DJ scene and where can people follow you online for your latest work?
HammaTheDude: What I would like to see more in South African DJ scene is people respecting the culture of DJing. By the culture, I mean what makes a DJ, like guys not cutting corners. That’s what I’d like to see. Not taking it for granted and not DJing because you can put two vinyls on turntables or CDs on a CDJ and pushing a fader up. Learn how to DJ properly, you know. Respect the culture and do it as it’s supposed to be done.