Khetsiwe Morgan, better known as Doowap first broke onto the scene in 2012 as a DJ and quickly made a name for herself thanks to her fresh sound and high energy performances. The British-South African artist would go on to host shows on YFM, SABC1 and Berlin Community Radio and perform at events such as AFROPUNK Johannesburg, Cape Town Electronic Music Festival and Global Citizen Next 100. With a background in sound engineering, Doowap has always wanted to create her own music, something she has now realised with the release of her debut EP Mood Swings. The 7-track release sees her explore influences such as kwaito and 80s synth-pop to create her own Doowap sound. Here she shares the journey that led to producing the EP, overcoming her insecurities, the sound she was trying to capture and how one can expect to experience her music on stage.
Photograph by Art Villain
Themba: You studied sound engineering before you started DJing. What led you down the path towards DJing as opposed to going into music production back then?
Doowap: I started sound engineering in the UK and then in 2012 I moved to South Africa and finished the course. While I was studying I wanted to make money on the side and not live off my parents so I did a DJ course. That course is called DJ4Life with DJ Iancredible who is super dope, he’s traveled with Steve Aoki and others. He taught me, I had a friend who was a promoter for shows at Roxy’s in Melville and he asked me if I would like to play there.
I DJ’ed my first show and I thought it would be a practice run and the next day I get a call from someone at YFM and they were like, “we had a rep at your Roxy’s show and apparently you play really different music, your vibe is different, so we wanna know if you want to come in and have an interview and possibly have a show on YFM?” I was like ‘what!?!’. That’s how everything happened. It started on YFM and the next thing people were booking me for gigs and I got sponsored by brands.
I finished my sound engineering course and I definitely still want to do that and I guess this original music is going back to that course. It makes sense that this happened because now I have these contacts and network for when I drop my original music. So I get why I went on the journey. Original music was something I was always going to do because sound engineering is what I did. I think eventually I just want to make music for movies and series.
Photograph by Andrew T Berry
Themba: When did the passion for creating your own music start?
Doowap: I’ve been saying this for years! Every time I was being interviewed people would always ask me when I’m going to drop my own music because they knew I studied sound engineering. I kept getting asked that question and it put more and more pressure on me, I started getting anxiety about dropping music. Because I became a big DJ and what if I drop music and it’s crap and everyone hates it and I’m bad at everything. I had all these horrible thoughts going through my head and I thought I didn’t want to drop original music.
But when I went to Afropunk in New York to perform in July this year with Tarryn there was this whole other level of unlockedness that happened. I faced so many fears just being there and taking the stage and meeting the most incredible people. People I’ve looked up to for so many years and being in their space. It just made me realise that I was holding myself back for the stupidest reasons. Why am I holding back my gift because of what people might say? So New York was a massive unlock.
Another big contributing factor was when we got to New York we got this message from FKA Twigs’ management who were like, “we heard you’re going to be performing at Afropunk New York and we’d like to know if you’d like to come to FKA Twigs’ first listening session of her second album that she’s dropping.” FKA Twigs is someone that I’ve been looking up to for ages. So everything started aligning in the most beautiful way. So when I went to the listening session, hearing her be vulnerable and talk about her fears, just seeing it’s not easy for her, but she’s still pushing and dropping shit made me realise I don’t want to hold back either.
Photograph by Andrew T Berry
Themba: Your DJ sets filled with trap, hip hop, gqom and grime, while the sound of your EP is quite different. What made you choose a more pop-oriented sound?
Doowap: I don’t wanna be one genre. It needs to be like me, multi-dimensional. Because that is music. Whenever people ask me what the future of music is I say there is no genre, it’s just going to be a mixture. I feel like that’s my sound. A Doowap sound which is very inspired by 80s pop disco with some synths, I really enjoyed that part of the 80s and then the kwaito part of the 90s. So it’s a few influences of things that I enjoy. I think the pop side comes from those 3 months where I was working on the EP I was pretty obsessed with 80s Madonna during her “Vogue” times and Whitney Houston during her “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” vibe. Around that time.
Themba: Is there a concept tying the tracks together or is it a collection of tracks that share a sonic aesthetic?
Doowap: Visually there’s definitely a vibe to it because I teamed up with Chris who is a graphic designer from Amsterdam. I’ve been wanting to work with him for a long time but I just knew it had to be a project that would be timeless, that I could look back at the artwork and just think that it will last forever. So the EP cover art is a big picture of a festival with a diverse crowd of creative and colourful beings, there’s the LGBT community, it’s not about race, size, we’re all just together. Partying, loving each other and it zooms to the stories of each of the characters within that. The first single ‘4cus’ zooms into one corner of the EP artwork. So each character on the singles comes from the EP cover.
Photograph by Ben Moyo
Themba: What was your biggest challenge in putting out this project? Was it overcoming fear as you’ve mentioned?
Doowap: Definitely overcoming fear. I think I would’ve dropped a project long ago if it wasn’t for my gripping anxiety. I will write something and be confident as hell with it and then as soon as I get into studio to record it I’ll just be anxious, I’ll be thinking about what people are going to say, my voice starts breaking, my throat will tighten up, stuff like that. So I wasn’t moving forward and I was afraid to collaborate with people, the most incredible people in the industry keep coming, “oh I’ve heard this one beat of yours we wanna collaborate?”,And I’m just like, I don’t think I’m enough… I don’t know, I’m constantly like; am I a fraud or am I actually really good? So I’m always toying between that. I think that was the main thing holding me back. But now there’s nothing holding me back. Now I’m just going to start dropping and start taking over the world.
Themba: Are you dropping music videos to accompany this release?
Doowap: Yes, we don’t have dates for when they’re dropping but we’re already working on the treatments, we’ve got directors that are working with us. So that’s going to happen for sure. There are a lot of festivals happening in December so it’s hard to fit in shooting and all the gigs.
Themba: Did you create the EP for yourself or is there a listener that you’re trying to connect with?
Doowap: The EP is in three languages. It’s in Zulu, English and French. I feel like with every song, it doesn’t matter what language it is in you can pretty much feel the emotion in it. I think all of us make music for us to all connect. There’s definitely a purpose for people that make music. I think my purpose is to shine and just make sure that people understand that there’s no real language when it comes to love and music. It’s just a connection. I guess I did it for me, for me to understand that I don’t need to live in fear anymore and I can just shine and I did it for other people to just feel the connection and let their emotions go.
Mood Swings Cover Art