It is almost impossible to think about deep house fans and dance floor loyalists in Johannesburg without the face of a crazy, heavily bearded, topless guy named Dadaman immediately coming to mind. Soweto native Mavhuthu “Dadaman” Dzege is undoubtedly among the leading commanders of dance floors all over Johannesburg’s deep house underground scene. Not only has he become a prominent face on the dancefloor, with his crazy antics and chants, he has channelled his love for music and long distance running towards giving to the less fortunate in his community. We had a chat with him to get to know more about him and what fuels his love for underground music, running and his various charity initiatives.
Firstly, we would like to know about you as a person and where you are from. Who is Mavhuthu Dzege?
Mavhuthu is a creative, runner, crazy guy and an all-round fanatic who sticks to the things that make him happy. He hails from Meadowlands, Soweto, and loves his music and the way it makes him lose his mind.
You are known by many as the “crazy” guy with the beard that is in every deep house party with his “skippa” (T-Shirt) off. Tell us about your love for deep house music and when it began?
I can’t really say when it started but it is ages ago. I grew up with dance music and it has been part of my life. I love deep house, its various elements and sounds that hit the right spots and see me lose my mind. I had the privilege of working at Carfax (a nightclub in Newtown Johannesburg) back in the early 2000s where I got to hear various styles of house, different genres and be in a space of “freedom” – this was when clubbing was all about the party and not fancy drinks or dress codes.
What does Mavhuthu do for a living besides being a deep house super fan?
I am a copywriter and I also do a little bit of charity work.
You have become the face of deep house fans and an influential person in underground music culture, particularly in building support for major deep house events, the most notable being Deep Town Jozi. Please share with us why you chose to support these events so consistently and tirelessly?
To be honest, I love the vibe and the people and more importantly the musical variation. Plus, finding an event to support is what is needed in order to share the vibe with new people. A major reason is the fact that deep house is frowned upon by many club, pub or venue managers in Soweto – so travelling out of ikasi (the township) to find new gigs that cater for my musical taste was key. It’s always important to support something that resonates with you as opposed to “conforming and following the norm”. Plus, many people tend to frequent the same events with the same line up and the same people and that gets tiring. I am a creature of inspiration and energy, so once something becomes a habit – I get bored and that is what is happening in my hood – same line ups, same – same!
Please explain about the significance of the culture of lifting props on the dancefloor; from the “caution sign” to the chairs and tables, as well as the infamous “kettle” seen in parties such as “We House Sundays”?
I think it’s when the music grabs you by the kahunas and you lose your mind or yourself in the music and “normal” no longer resonates with the brain. The music creates chaos within your system and chaos has to be expressed. It’s also the little deep house demon in me screaming to be freed even more – maybe one day I will drop my pants and shout “Yooooooh”!
In 2018 we saw a controversial battle occurring between deep house and amapiano fans, after yourself and other deep house revellers were criticized for chanting “F*** Piano” whilst dancing to deep house music. Please speak on the culture of chanting in South African dancefloors and in what spirit this particular chant was meant?
Chanting has always been a part of the dance scene, it’s revellers expressing themselves through “song” or a “phrase” that they relate to. From the 90s chanting has been a big part of SA music culture – if you remember ‘a re robale rona’, ‘Mama yoh’, you will know what I am talking about. Once a new chant is shared, everyone joins in. The f*** piano chant was all banter. It was all meant in the good spirit of dance floor banter and did not seek to foster any malice. In my personal opinion, amapiano all sounded monotonous, so I was like, why would people listen to such when the “dzwurrrr, the “Dzwang”, or the bo-boop” elements of deep house drive you insane? People unfortunately took it very personally and I had to apologise and stop the chant.
Beyond being a serious reveller, you are also known for your love for running. How did this become a passion of yours and why?
I have always been an athletic lad. I used to jog, did 5, 10 km here and there and then – boom – the running addiction got me. I moved from running 10 km to 42 km races because the race I wanted to run had no more 21km entries left, so the hlanya (crazy person) in me said, what was 4 x 10kms in one? [laughs]. Another thing that motivated my running was when I tore my right knee meniscus for the second time, and the doctor said I need to avoid contact sports and strengthen supporting muscles around the knee, so that got me into running more.
Is there a connection between these two passions of yours, deep house and running?
A massive connection! Basically when you run, you move to a beat – you do not need to be listening to music when that happens. The beat is created via your strides, shuffles and breaths you take. So the rhythm grabs you and takes you on a journey that sees you cross the finish line – it’s like a well curated deep house or musical set!
You have taken your love for deep house beyond the dance floor, where you have used the music to do many charity-based initiatives such as “The Dadaman Charity Run” and other charity-based events. What drove you to start such initiatives?
I just hated seeing dire situations where people are let down by their communities, churches and those around them. So I said to myself, let’s do something that’ll positively impact the masses without getting people to leave their ‘comfort zones’.
There are people who walk up to you, give a sad story about why they need cash, you sympathise with them and share the love. Then the next week or later on, the same person gives you the same story again – that’s when you realise you’ve been swindled. So you say no, but deep down you feel bad or a tad bit uncomfortable because the heart strings were pulled!
But there are genuine cases that are a cry for help. So I thought, why don’t we give while we continue doing what we do best which is partying. I mean, we pay an entrance fee nonetheless, so why don’t we continue with that but this time, the proceeds go towards the course that needs attention at that moment. This takes away the uncomfortable situation – I then share the outcome with the masses, so they know they’ve made a difference.
On a much lighter note, will you ever cut off your signature beard that you have now become known for by deep house fans all over?
I would cut it! But it would have to be for a very good course! Plus, unlike most lads out there, I do not struggle to grow a beard – it comes back fast like tequila [laughs]. But on the real, I would but there’ll have to be a legit reason!
What would you say to other fans of deep house music about the importance of constantly supporting DJs and events in building the underground music scene in the country?
People must be different, find their own vibe and passion. They need to continue to support the underground because the people who form it, or the Disc Jockeys (DJs) didn’t conform or give in to what is “trending”. This simply means that they will not jump ship when things are tough, nor will they seek to fit in. One day the people of the underground will come to your aid, when you least expect it! The Faders will leave you hanging when things are bad. The underground always has something different to offer and you may find your inspiration there when you are down and you will fly after that!
Would you ever consider formalizing the important role you play in the scene by becoming an events promoter or artist/music manager one day?
Yeah! I think that is something I will have to venture in on a full-time basis. It is a legitimate job that requires your full attention. Plus, as a creative, I feel that there is a lot that people are missing out on and they have to experience it.
What can we expect from Dadaman in the near future? Any projects or ventures you want to share?
I am currently doing a lot – such as a charity event for a mate who was shot and his wife killed in a house invasion. I am going to run the Cape Town Marathon for the kids at Thabong Creche in Cape Town, and party, run and cycle to collate food parcel for families so they can have a super festive season. I also have a school uniform drive running at the moment as well. Overall, expect more fun times that will see us make a difference in the lives of many. And yes, my skippa (T-Shirt) will be off!! [laughs].
Follow Dadaman on social media and catch him at a deep house jol or marathon near you.