“Every road is a catwalk”
Embracing the power of this quote has made Khetsiwe Morgan aka DJ Doowap one of the most recognizable babes in the South African music space. I had a conversation with the live mix DJ and queen of bass about where it all began.
After high school Doowap went over to the UK as a South African springboard diver, but soon found herself falling in love with the sonic energies and freedom that came from the underground club scene. She used to dance all night at gay rave parties with her friends, which had a great influence on the direction she chose to go with her own music. “They [the parties] were the best because everyone would just let loose…You were completely free. You could dress however you want. No one judges you coz everyone is just dressing crazy and skimpy.”. With the vibrations of dancehall, jungle, garage and bass music moving through her body, she found an escape from the tough life that London presented to her. During this time she started studying sound engineering, but was feeling lost. So she came to back to South Africa in 2012.
“I think the culture and the energy in South Africa got me back on my feet and got me seeing colour again, because I think I had just forgotten what colour looked like,” Doowap expressed. She continued her studies at the Academy of Sound Engineering in Auckland Park. Telling me about the times she would hang out with childhood friend Da L.E.S, she recalls saying to him “I think I want to do DJing, because I need some money right now and there is nothing else I like doing”. It was not long before she was introduced the DJ and producer Ian Credible at DJ for Life. During her lessons with him Doowap was able to bring together the sonic energies she had absorbed while in London and develop a sound that amalgamates hip hop, gqom and bass. Before she knew it she had her first gig at Roxy’s in Melville.
“I remember it perfectly!” Doowap exclaimed. She recalls the only person dancing during her set was the friend she had invited. “I wasn’t nervous because I already knew no one would know what I am doing…I felt a bit shit obviously because you want people to be dancing. But at the same time I know I got to teach everyone in the crowd something”. The next day she received a call from Yfm. Excited by the new sounds she was playing, they wanted her on their team. “It was a blessing in disguise having a whole different genre.”.
While she was at Yfm she wanted to discover music from home. Young bass producers were sending her their music, and she became a catalyst for many of them to get played on radio. At the time bass music was a relatively new genre in South Africa and was not getting that much air time on radio stations. Her show became the centre for introducing this new sound to the airwaves. “It was an amazing time to discover fresh talent when they did not have a platform to put out their music. They had all this bass sound and they didn’t even know where they were getting it from. It was just coming from their soul,” Doowap explained, “And I liked the freedom that Yfm gave me. It was great that I could choose anyone I wanted and put their songs on.”.
Taking a moment to reflect on how her music has evolved since 2012, Doowap feels as though the main element which has changed is that her music has more soul. “I think in the beginning I was just playing songs I liked back to back… Before I was playing bass but it was really hard electronic bass. It didn’t feel soulful. And now I really make sure that every song I play has a positive message in it, and it hits you deep inside, you know, with the vibrations.”. When armed with good bass speakers, she has seen how this soulful element in her music has allowed her to captivate a crowd and guide them to what she described as a “trance of bass”.
Doowap’s love for the genre deepened when she started reading about how bass music is powerful for women and the womb. “Bass is all for you bottom chakras, and that is really good for women. It soothes your womb.”.
Thinking about how bass music has grown in South Africa, Doowap pointed out that people do not realize how much the genre has infiltrated their lives. “Everyone wonders why they are all raging and losing their minds but it is because of the bass. That bass that makes your legs shake and makes you want to lose your mind. It is there the whole time and it’s very rare that you will get songs without it”. Having been on the scene in South Africa since its infancy, Doowap has enjoyed watching people dive into it and experiment with that they can do with the sound.
A highlight for Doowap at the moment is being the presenter for a new hip hop rap battle show dropping on SABC 1 next week called One Mic. She will also be going to Berlin on the 19th of May to play at a club called SchwuZ. Having found the love for bass at gay raves in London, and to now being booked to play a 3 hour set at one of the biggest gay clubs in Europe, Doowap has come full circle.