Tanzanians have an appreciation for talent within our continent. From South Africa, there is no shortage of talent. The pool down south is as wide as it is deep, and Uncle Waffles is no exception to that rule.
The Swaziland-born sensation has made a name for herself with her energetic vibe, dance and sound that has resonated with folks seeking to hype up their night.
Gracing us with her presence for a second time courtesy of Elements, the South African DJ who grew up inspired by musical icons such as Lebo Mathosa put up a show for the locals last weekend at Masaki’s hotspot Elements amidst a jam-packed world tour that sees her traversing the globe with little rest.
The Beat was fortunate enough to be afforded fifteen minutes, despite the heavy workload and busy schedule, to sit down with the young S.A celebrity and discuss her career as she views it. In anticipation for the show, we were informed about the nonstop movement and action from Uncle Waffles, touring the world, as any hot prospect would dream of doing. That said, hopping from country-to-country, day-after-day, can take its toll on anybody. She was previously in Kenya and that very next day, Uganda was the next destination – with Portugal following straight after that. Exciting times indeed.
With that in mind, we sat down with Uncle Waffles herself, a couple of hours before her electrifying performance at Elements, to engage with her on how she views her success so far. The energy we received was positive and optimistic. These are the signs of ambition, mixed with raw talent and just the right mix of flair.
Welcome back to Dar es Salaam. Do you feed off the energy you receive when you perform at spots like Elements?
I love it. The energy here is very similar to South Africa. The people are just here to have a good time, you know? Sometimes, people who don’t understand the lyrics tend to not want to interact with the music, but here, no matter what…they’re always interacting.
You’ve been on the road. You played at the Ministry of Sound in London and you were recently in Zambia. How surreal is the moment you are living in right now?
It doesn’t feel like it’s happening to me. It feels like I’m watching it happen to someone and I’m just happy for them. But even when I get to places like this, and there’s a giant poster of my face, it’s still surreal. I don’t know when it’s gonna feel like reality, but for now, it feels like I’m floating.
But you’re an artiste, though. Once you’re on stage, is it that you are representing yourself?
At what point do you feel like being satisfied yourself? Or is this whole process itself a satisfaction?
The ‘everyday’ is very satisfying, you know. The ability to go to a place and sell it out. It’s just like, ‘wow all the people gathered are saying “Let’s come see her?”’ I’m grateful, completely grateful for the journey.
Is it hard to pick a favourite destination right now, or are you still tallying up? Where do you want to go that you haven’t been to?
I would love to go to Ibiza for obvious reasons. It’s the home of music. My favourite place has to be London just because that was the only place we had time to fully experience it. My favourite part was just walking around at 1am. People are still walking around, things are still open. I was just like, ‘I love this!’
Let’s talk about your music. Amapiano has exploded in popularity, not just in S.A, but throughout Africa and the world at large, how does it feel to be one of the standard-bearers for a thriving genre?
I wouldn’t consider myself as being at the forefront. But, I feel like, as the people who are maybe going to do this first, going to venues and being the first Amapiano acts they have there, you kind of have to set the tone for everyone else who’s gonna come. So, you have to create the way for everyone else to come.
The DJ elaborated on how she has noted that some venues are receptive to audience interactions following her setting the standards for Amapiano sets. This, in turn, leads to more artistes within the genre being afforded performances due to the success of previous acts.
Do you have people in your team, you know, keeping you in line?
My team definitely contributes to what I play and things like that. They are involved in the decisions and we definitely have conversations all the time.
The energy was buzzing in anticipation of your performance here at Elements tonight, what’s your furthest ambition? Surely, this is all still just the beginning in your mind. Do you have plans for world domination?
Yes, 100 percent there’s a lot that’s in the works. We’re trying to make sure that the brand is going to be a big brand – forever. Something that will stay consistently amazing. You have the likes of Black Coffee, who has won Grammys and has albums with Drake…We’re trying to ensure that the brand gets to a place where, no matter what, the value is there.
What’s the brand, as you define it?
When you’re a DJ, you can’t just be a DJ. Your brand has to make sense. It’s completely a lifestyle brand. People interact well with your brand the more they see it – the more they are seeing what you’re doing. That’s the need for constant content.
So, is that your trick right now? Just give the people exactly what they want and need?
Everything that has gone viral has all been by accident. We’re always like, ‘okay, we’ll put it out there and hope it gets received well, and when people receive it, we’re just like…‘hmm thank you.’
Let’s talk about the leading single ‘Tanzania’ on your EP, Red Dragon; we read some internet chatter that the song was not necessarily dedicated to our land, but rather to a venue you’ve been to. Could you settle those rumours for us?
The venue is about the country. People know that Tanzania is what people consider a very good vibe when it comes to grooving or whatever the case may be. During the Covid lockdowns, someone created a venue called Tanzania. So, it’s basically your escape to Tanzania – to have a good time. The song came about through that.
Lastly, are you finding that the pieces are slowly falling into place?
Yes. As much as I still feel like it’s surreal, I am slowly being able to control it. Sometimes it feels like something is happening to you, not for you. So, now I’m in a place where it’s happening for me and I’m kind of creating order in my life.
And with that, we left it there. There was an element of focus and seriousness oozing from Uncle Waffles and her team. It was very apparent that they took their jobs and responsibilities very seriously. We left the car (where we conducted the interview) and went back inside to mingle.
Having arrived early, we witnessed the set up operation and the attention to detail – with cues being finalised and the stage itself being prepared. As the people began trickling in, there was an obvious buzz in the air, with smiles and happy faces all round. As the main performance was nearing, the energy levels ticked up. The DJ was received to a lot of fanfare and warmth. Known for vibrancy within her sets, setting the level high in liveliness, Uncle Waffles came to represent and did so flawlessly.
All-in-all, it was a Saturday well-spent at Elements.
Speaking of Elements, The Beat had a side chat with the creative and marketing manager, Maribeth Vuhahulla to get a bit of insight on what goes behind booking such acts.
If you don’t mind, could you explain your involvement in acquiring acts like Uncle Waffles to perform at Elements?
Acquiring acts like Uncle Waffles was very important to us as we were the first Club to give her a gig outside South Africa.
She came to Elements in 2021 and after that she has continuously grown at exponential rate.
When she came out with her first single dedicated to Tanzania, there was absolutely no question that she had to return and perform.