The DJ industry has in the past been largely dominated by senior veterans who have been DJing for decades and have become regular features in clubs and festivals all over the country. However, the new digital age of social media and the internet has brought in a new wave of teenage youngster DJs that are drawing a lot of attention in the music game. Judy Jay, a 17 year old deep house DJ, is one of these rising teenage sensations leading the pack of a growing breed of young DJs taking the underground scene by storm. We had a sit down with her to find out about who she is, how she got into the DJ space at such a young age and how her life as a DJ has been so far.
Let’s start off by getting to know about Judy Jay, who you are and where you are from?
My name is Judy Mahlatji. I am originally from Sekhukhune, in a small village called Tjetane in Jane Furse, Limpopo. That is where I grew up and where I live with my grandmother and my aunt. However, right now I am based in Pretoria where I am pursuing my studies.
What do you normally get up to on a day to day basis?
I normally wake up and pray, do my basic home chores and study. That’s basically my daily routine from Monday to Friday. On weekends is where I do music, where I sometimes attend events or just stay indoors and listen to music.
What other things do you like besides DJing and music?
There actually isn’t anything else that I like (laughs). I don’t watch TV or any of those things. I do listen to radio though and my favourite show is the Urban Beat on Metro FM. What I really like is music and that’s it (laughs).
You are probably amongst the youngest DJs in the SA underground music scene right now. Tell us how you got into DJing?
It was back in high school in 2017 (I was in Grade 11) when my class mate who goes by the name “Deep Coste” noticed that I was always on my phone, so he came to me one day and asked why I am always on my phone. I told him it was because I am always listening to music. He said he noticed how I do this every day and I said yes because it is the only thing that I love. He then said to me “why don’t you just share the music that you love with the world?” I asked him if he meant by me being a DJ and he said yes. I then went home, thought about it and decided that it is what I want to do. That was when I first thought about the idea of being a DJ
That’s very interesting. How did your parents/family feel about you being a DJ, especially as a young girl child?
After I had decided I want to be a DJ, I went to my mom to tell her what I want to do and she ignored me at first. It took almost 5 to 6 months of me trying to convince her to let me do it until she finally gave me permission in August 2017. She was worried that as a DJ I would have to go to Pubs and Clubs where there is alcohol and drugs so I think she was afraid that I would do those things. Besides that I was still in school so she thought music would distract me.
How did you then eventually convince your mom to agree to letting you become a DJ?
I kept on asking her and she eventually said I can go, but she said that I mustn’t drink alcohol or do anything stupid (laughs). I also went with Deep Coste to the show and she trusted him so it made her feel that I would be safe. When I came back she wanted to see the videos of me playing and when I showed her she was amazed.
Not a lot of people your age like or listen to the kind of music you play. What influenced your love for underground deep house music when most of your peers like popular mainstream music?
To be honest, I did try other genres of music such as hip hop and afro-house but I just couldn’t connect with them. I didn’t feel them and they didn’t make sense to me. I heard deep house playing in the background one day from a car, but I didn’t know which genre it was at the time. So I started asking around about what this genre was and I eventually found out about deep house. I first got introduced to more mainstream deep house such as “The God Fathers of Deep House” but I then moved away from that to more underground deep house music.
Tell us about your first time behind the decks? When was it and how did you feel during that time?
My first gig was on the 2nd of September 2017 at Moss Brown Pub and Grill. I had been practicing how to DJ there for a couple of weeks, being taught by my friend Deep Coste and Pheto Manyaka. I then moved from there to Burgersfort where I was then taught by DJ Danny Boy how to mix at Lekolokoto Lodge. I would go there during the weekend and practice how to play.
When I played at my first event I was scared and excited at the same time. It was a really great experience and the response the crowd gave me was great. It was a big venue and it was very full by the time I played because they put me on between 12 midnight and 1 AM, instead of an early set. I was also scared because the guy that played before me played Gqom so I was afraid how people will react to me playing deep house and also about my mixing. I had only practiced 3 times before that weekend I got my first gig. Even though I was scared I knew that I was going to be able to do it and I did.
How have you been able to learn about the different styles of house music and choose what you want to play at such a young age? Were you told what to play by anyone?
No one told me what to play. I just learnt about the different genres of house through searching them on the internet. I would go with my own music to the guys that taught me and just asked them to teach me how to mix but they never told me what music to play.
You seem very emotionally connected to music, where you even cry during some of your DJ sets. Tell us what makes you feel that way when you play music?
Firstly, I am a very sensitive person and I am also shy (laughs), so every time I press play I start feeling the elements, the beats, the instruments and everything. That’s why I then start feeling really emotional and I end up crying. The crowd at events and the love I get from them also make me very emotional.
You have a passion for supporting other youngsters in the DJ scene. Tell us about that and why supporting other youngsters like you is important?
Yes, there are a few young DJs like me such as Black Villain, Rick Koen and Nkosie who I’ve met through the booking agency we are all under called We Are Rhythm (W.A.R.). I’ve also played back to back sets with both Nkosie and Black Villain. I like supporting other youngsters because I believe that we are the most rejected ones in the industry and we are hardly taken seriously. However, I like the fact that we don’t give up and we just keep on pushing forward no matter what.
Which DJs or artists do you look up to at the moment and why?
Right now I look up to SGVO, because he is a youngster like me and I really like his production. I also really look up to DJ Buhle because she is a go getter, she is focused and she is strong. What I truly admire about her is that she has been in the game for a very long time and she is still grinding till today. I also look up to Kat La Kat and !Sooks.
You’ve played at some of the most prominent events and radio stations such as Metro FM, Dark Disco and Best Beats TV. How have those experiences been for you?
It has been great. When I went to play on Metro FM’s Urban Beat I was super scared and I couldn’t even talk during the interview (laughs). It was amazing though and it has had a huge impact in my career and my brand. I started getting recognized by many people and I started getting bookings. Best Beats TV was also great and I was very excited to play there as I had to wait a long time before they asked me to come on. My best gig so far though was at Gae Lapeng Concepts “Chillas by the River” festival in my home town Sekhukhune. I loved the fact that I was playing between Ralf Gum and Masta Deep and Ralf Gum played after me, which was amazing.
Finally, what dreams do you have for yourself in the music industry in the near or distant future?
I want to continue with my DJ career and my main goal is to one day own a record label. I want to one day play worldwide and I believe that if I own a record label it will help me travel and play around the world in places such as DJOON in Paris. I am also learning production as I don’t want to only be a DJ. I also want to learn how to play on vinyl, so as soon as possible I am going to start collecting and playing on vinyl.