MY JOURNEY BY DJ JAZZY D
The tale unfolds with a young boy emerging from a realm where dreams often remain elusive. A spirited youth traversing South Africa, navigating from one gig to another, reliant on public transport until a determined mission led him to acquire his own vehicle. This marked the beginning of a journey that would take him to destinations doubted by many.
Enter the narrative of The GrooveMaster.
DJ JAZZY D's life story mirrors the challenges of youth, grappling with the allure of the forbidden: drugs, alcohol, and the daily hustle for an extra rand. Yet, amidst these struggles, a steadfast gaze remained fixed on a singular goal – the pursuit of success. The value of formal education seemed questionable in relation to his aspirations as a DJ. Parents insisted on school attendance, a decision that, in hindsight, stands as the wisest choice. The enduring importance of education became apparent with the passage of time, a truth often realized later in life.
Transporting you to the genesis of my journey, my goal became the compass guiding my life's trajectory. The path, however, was marked by turbulence. Originating as a helper to my uncle at Club Bel Air, the notion of becoming a DJ was a distant fantasy. Observing him perform since the tender age of 7, I absorbed his techniques, nurturing the belief that, one day, I would apply these skills. That pivotal day materialized 21 years ago when I was granted the opportunity to DJ at the kids' matinee session at Bel Air. From that moment, there was no looking back.
The journey demanded continual self-improvement to remain relevant in the industry. Over the years, my skills sharpened, my confidence soared, and the amalgamation of positive and adverse experiences sculpted my artistic persona. Doors gradually swung open, beckoning me to DJ at diverse events - from house parties and weddings to clubs, street parties, and ultimately, festivals. Amidst these accomplishments, a persistent awareness gnawed at me; I had not yet scaled the summit of my aspirations.
Having honed the fundamental skills of DJ'ing, I embarked on a journey to comprehend the diverse music styles that resonated with distinct audiences—each demographic, from black to Indian, coloured to white, possessed unique musical preferences. This meticulous exploration led to my mastery of the South African dance floor. The natural progression in my DJ career beckoned me to delve into music creation.
Equipped with a humble keyboard and computer, I set out to craft music tailored to people's dance inclinations. The inception of this venture marked the genesis of my music production journey. However, my initial foray into this realm was fraught with challenges. Trusting too easily and being young and naive, I encountered a harsh reality with my first production—a collaboration with one of South Africa's prominent artists, "A#####," then a stalwart in the black market. This unsettling encounter served as a formidable introduction to the ruthless music industry. Despite the setback, I harbored an unwavering belief that success in music production awaited me in the future, vowing to approach it with newfound wisdom and resilience.
DJ JAZZY D (THE PRODUCER)
My breakthrough arrived when Coca-Cola hosted the "Coca-Cola Pop Stars" show. The executive producer of the winning group extended an opportunity for me to produce two songs for a budding ensemble that would later be known as Jamali. Fate smiled upon us as their album achieved platinum status in South Africa, signifying 50,000 units sold, making them the most successful pop stars in the nation. These talented ladies not only found success in music but also became cherished friends with whom I continue to collaborate consistently.
With the triumph of Jamali's album, my reputation as a capable producer soared. Esteemed artists such as Kabelo from TK Zee fame, Dr Victor, TK aka the Black Butterfly, and Glen Lewis of Metro FM entrusted me with their songs. Chris Ghelakis, the executive producer, and CEO of Electromode Music, recognizing my prowess, offered me a recording contract. This marked the inception of my self-titled CD, "DJ Jazzy D - Another Story," which swiftly gained nationwide acclaim.
The CD featured four songs that secured spots on playlists across top radio stations in the country. One track, "Lady Soul," etched its place in history as the biggest crossover song in South Africa, clinching the No. 1 spot on 30 radio stations. Moreover, it became the first local song to ascend to No. 1 on 94.7's Take 40 chart since the station's inception. I transcended into a household name, traversing the length and breadth of the nation. My success knew no bounds as I ventured into Swaziland, Botswana, Dubai, Namibia, and Zambia, gracing VIP venues. Every club in the country coveted a piece of DJ Jazzy D as I reveled in the fruits of my labor, waking up each weekend in a different city until tragedy struck.
On the fateful night of January 6, 2006, I participated in a fundraising event in Lenasia. Following the successful gig, my best friend Solly Bennett and I were involved in a catastrophic car accident. Solly was the person who constantly urged me not to undersell my worth, always offering guidance to ensure the best for my future. We were inseparable like the left and right hand complementing each other perfectly.
I vividly recall that day. Both of my cars were giving me trouble—one had no lights, and the other had no wipers. Solly, always eager to help, visited me and volunteered to drive me to my gigs that evening. After an eventful night with Rebel Power and Dr. Victor, we were en route to my second gig. Solly was behind the wheel, a role he often assumed when we were together. Suddenly, a pedestrian darted across the road, prompting Solly to swerve to avoid him. Although we managed to avoid hitting the pedestrian, the evasive maneuver placed us in the path of an oncoming Audi TT, resulting in a devastating collision.
I regained consciousness about 45 minutes later, disoriented and surrounded by concerned faces. There were about seven people peering down at me. It slowly dawned on me that we had been in an accident. Confused and lost, I called out Solly's name repeatedly— "Solly, Solly, Solly." There was no response. This continued for about 15 minutes until I passed out again.
When I awoke, the cacophony of emergency vehicles and the wails of sirens filled the air. I could hear the clatter of the fire brigade's machinery as they worked diligently to extricate me from the wreckage. As they pulled me out on a stretcher, I urgently reminded them not to forget about Solly. In desperation, I shouted his name— "Solly, say something!" The emergency workers, with faces that betrayed the gravity of the situation, carried me away. It was as if they had seen a ghost. The absence of pain was overshadowed by the haunting uncertainty of Solly's fate, etching the faces of those who witnessed the scene into my memory forever.
LATER, I HEARD THE HEART-WRENCHING ACCOUNT OF HOW MY FAMILY RECEIVED NEWS OF THE ACCIDENT. The call informed them that two individuals were involved in a car crash, and regrettably, one did not survive. Silence gripped the car as they embarked on the one-hour journey from Pretoria to Lenasia, shrouded in uncertainty. Fear loomed large, with my six-year-old son, Cazzleigh, displaying remarkable bravery amid the collective anguish. Despite the tears, he reassured them, "My daddy is not dead." His words, now etched in my memory, evoke tears even as I recount them.
The scene at the accident site intensified their apprehension, especially as the front passenger seat bore the brunt of the impact. To confirm my fate, they hastened to Lenasia Hospital. The news of my survival unleashed a flood of relief and tears. Later transferred to Unitas Hospital in Centurion, the grim reality surfaced—Solly Bennett had not survived the crash. He suffered a broken neck and met his tragic end in the car. The weight of grief and frustration bore heavily on me; Solly, a loving husband and father, had shared his dreams of rebuilding his family. Losing him, a source of inspiration and confidence, left an indelible void.
The day of Solly's funeral coincided with my incapacitation in the hospital. Tethered to a ventilator, I implored the person beside me to relay my request for his loved ones to hold my hand and offer a prayer. Tearful prayers resonated as I grappled with the realization that I was the last person with him, not his family. Unable to attend due to my condition, my heart poured out in prayer for forgiveness and strength for his grieving family.
Amidst the chaos, my hospital room became a nexus of support. The overwhelming influx of fans, friends, and well-wishers garnered media attention, propelling my music to newfound heights. Radios nationwide amplified my songs, and the outpouring of love was a testament to the blessing of compassionate hearts. Yet, my physical wounds were profound—a broken femur bone, three cracked ribs, a fractured right hand, a broken collarbone, and internal injuries affecting the crystals in my ears. Doctors cast doubts on my ability to walk again, and the prospects for my DJ career seemed bleak, with my hand immobilized in a folded position.
THE DAY OF MY DISCHARGE, wrestling with the challenge of entering the car marked the beginning of a formidable journey. The initial hurdle was acknowledging the stark reality of my situation and summoning the strength to embark on the path of rehabilitation. Armed with a wheelchair, my immobile right hand found purpose as it snugly fit into the wheelchair glove, initiating a regimen of exercises that gradually restored its functionality. The wheelchair became my chariot, traversing the confines of home, and the yard, and eventually extending to circumnavigating the block. Each block conquered fueled my determination, drawing motivation from the curious gazes of onlookers who unwittingly became my cheering squad.
From this seemingly insurmountable starting point, I progressed to crutches, navigating short distances before gradually extending my conquest to longer stretches. Frustration loomed large during the initial weeks of physiotherapy as the doctors elucidated that my body needed to relearn the art of walking, akin to an infant's journey. The prospect of forgetting how to walk was disheartening, yet the ensuing challenge only fortified my resolve. The pivotal moment arrived when, after weeks of painstaking efforts, I took my first unassisted steps—a feat that brought tears to my eyes and jubilation to my family. It was then that the realization dawned: God had bestowed upon me the strength to mend and rejuvenate my fractured bones.
However, this triumph was juxtaposed with a profound loss. On the very day I reclaimed my mobility, news of TK's untimely demise in a Johannesburg hotel cast a shadow of grief and despair. TK had been an integral part of my career, and our shared dreams for the future were abruptly shattered. Drowning in misery, my girlfriend Shiela became a guiding light. Encouraging me to resume DJ'ing, she liaised with a former employer who graciously provided an opportunity for me to rebuild my confidence. As we entered the club, Shiela cradled me in her arms, bearing my CDs, and escorted me to the DJ booth, where curious eyes followed our every move. While Shiela returned to the car to catch some much-needed sleep, I took control of the DJ booth for a two-hour set. Ascending the stairs, skepticism lingered in the glances of those witnessing a seemingly incapacitated figure making his way to the DJ booth. Music became my ally in this arduous rehabilitation journey, serving as a source of encouragement and a catalyst for rebuilding my confidence. With each gig, my skills improved, and the rhythm of my music mirrored the cadence of my healing. Shiela, steadfast and unwavering, played a pivotal role in guiding me back to the forefront of my career.
REKINDLING THE CREATIVE FLAME
Following a four-month hiatus from the public eye and devoid of any new productions, fate intervened in the form of three young talents from Soweto, collectively known as Denim. Collaborating on five tracks for their album, our collective effort, particularly the standout hit "Can't Take My Eyes Off You," emphatically asserted that my previous successes were no mere flukes. The song soared to the summit of the charts on ten radio stations, resonating even today on playlists across major South African radio channels. Denim's triumphs in Dubai and Brazil, fueled by the album's success, provided a much-needed boost to my confidence and reaffirmed my capacity to craft yet another chart-topping hit.
TURNING THE PAGE: DECEMBER 2007
My relationship with the record label, while tumultuous, undeniably played a pivotal role in my journey to success. In an effort to mend fences and focus on the future, a meeting was convened. Proposing a budget for my next album, the label hesitated to commit. They, instead, presented an offer of contract termination, a seemingly liberating gesture that, upon closer inspection, demanded a hefty price—I would relinquish any claim to royalties from my debut album. Wrestling with the decision, my agent advised against signing this one-sided agreement. Despite reservations, I ultimately succumbed to the allure of independence and made the regrettable decision to sever ties with the label. The consequence was stark: I was unshackled but faced the daunting prospect of starting anew, grappling with the intricacies of a journey I hadn't anticipated—doing everything myself in an industry where my expertise lay in making music.
Reflecting on this pivotal moment, I am acutely aware of the enormity of the task ahead. God's intervention served as a wake-up call, urging me to acquire the skills necessary for self-sufficiency. While the decision to part ways with Electromode Music is now acknowledged as a misstep, influenced by misguided counsel, I remain grateful for the lessons learned and the enduring friendship with Chris Ghelakis, irrespective of our divergent professional paths.
LOSING PAPA - February 2008
February 2008 stands etched in my memory as an agonizing chapter. It marked the profound loss of my father, casting a heavy shadow over my world. The somber atmosphere enveloped us as we gathered outside the hospital, sharing laughter and conversation. In an abrupt twist, the doctor summoned us with heart-wrenching news—my father had a mere five minutes left, and we needed to bid our final farewells.
Rushing into the hospital, emotions swirled, a turbulent mix of disbelief and sorrow. Losing someone in our immediate family was an unfamiliar, heart-wrenching experience. Denial clung to me; I fervently prayed for a miracle, convincing myself that the doctor's prognosis was flawed. At his bedside, my father lay calm, with minimal movement. Tears flowed freely as we encircled him, lost in our collective grief. My mother's repeated calls to his name, affirming our love and presence, echoed through the room. I stood mute, helpless, grappling with the realization that there was nothing I could do to ease his fear of departing.
The relentless, rhythmic hum of the heartbeat monitor served as a haunting reminder of his fading vitality. Flashbacks flooded my mind—moments of deception, stolen hearts, shared joys, and deep sorrows. Five minutes to encapsulate a lifetime, and the heartbeat persisted. Emotions peaked; I pleaded with a higher power, "No, God, please don't take him." He was our source, our anchor, our strength—the man of our house. As my mother and sister Anthula wept, my brother Sudesh, silent yet burdened, hinted at the realization that he must assume the role our father was leaving behind.
In those seemingly interminable five minutes, the inevitable toll of the machine tolled its lament—a sound that shattered my world. The deafening silence that followed echoed the indescribable pain of losing a parent. Reality recoiled; acceptance seemed impossible. This felt like a cruel movie scene—my father couldn't be gone; it simply couldn't be. The anguish surged not just for my loss but for my mother, married to Dad since 1969—a friendship spanning 39 years. How do you tell someone they must navigate life without a friend of a lifetime?
Dad's funeral unfolded, marked by Jamali's rendition of "You Raised Me Up." A young man raising a family, my father consistently knew my needs without spoken words. His presence lingered in the church, and with a heavy heart, I bid him a final goodbye. In the weeks leading to his passing, he sang Josh Groban's "To Where You Are." Only on the day of his funeral did I grasp the profound message within those lyrics—a poignant reminder that continues to evoke tears every time I hear the song.
2008 swiftly unfolded, its passing marked by the fragility of my heart.
THE BREAK-IN - August 2008
In August 2008, my world shattered in an unexpected break-in. Leaving home to visit my agent for discussions about releasing my second album, I returned three hours later to an emptied house. The thieves had ransacked my sanctuary, taking everything associated with the DJ Jazzy D brand—my DJ equipment, home-based studio, high-tech furniture, computer, laptops, and my cherished DJ collection comprising 18 years of vinyl and CDs, including my headphones.
The violation occurred in broad daylight, within a security estate adorned with 16 CCTV cameras, yet no witnesses emerged. The loss cut deep, and I struggled to comprehend how everything I had tirelessly built over the years could be snatched away so mercilessly. With a heavy heart, I questioned whether there was any point in returning to the industry. The stolen loot included my new album, a project into which I poured over R200,000. It seemed like a "forget me now" album as the robbers likely had no idea of its value.
Despondent and feeling like my life had been taken away, I confided in family members, expressing doubt about my ability to make a living. Tears flowed as I mourned the loss, reflecting on the hardships I had overcome in life, only to end up with nothing. In the midst of my despair, I found solace in the realization that the skills bestowed upon me by God were irreplaceable. No thief could pilfer the talents embedded within me; they were my ticket to resilience and prosperity.
Declaring that tomorrow would be a brand new day, I resolved to turn the page and start anew from scratch. What was stolen from me would be replaced, not just adequately, but tenfold. My production skills soared to new heights, and my gig profile reached significant levels in the corporate world. The setback became a setup for greater things. The loss of my belongings opened doors to collaborations with massive stars for my next hits in 2010. A major sports brand store, STUDIO 88, offered a sponsorship worth R100,000 for the production of my album.
Through adversity, my heart transformed into a golden pond, illuminated by the understanding of love. I learned that assets are fleeting; they do not define us. If I were to lose everything today, I would simply start again tomorrow. There was too much to live for, and my dreams were too numerous to be extinguished by the hands of thieves.
THE SPONSORSHIP 2010
In 2010, the devil intervened once again. A prominent clothing store brand, initially a sponsor for my new album, sought to terminate our contract due to alleged delays in album delivery. However, upon reviewing the contract, it became evident that no specific date had been set for the album's release. Confident in this oversight, I embarked on a legal battle, only to discover that challenging these giants was an expensive endeavor. Eventually, I reluctantly succumbed, choosing to pay them off for something I knew was not my fault—a decision that would haunt me.
This setback was one of the biggest mistakes I ever made. It felt like conceding defeat despite knowing I was in the right. The agreed-upon payments proved unsustainable, leading to mounting debts. I reached out to the sponsor's legal team, proposing a temporary reduction in payments until I could recover financially. Their response was a resounding no. Struggling to survive, I turned to friends for help, grateful for those who extended a lifeline when no one else would.
The situation reached its nadir when the sheriff, armed with a large truck and a trailer, arrived at my door. Advised by the sponsors, they targeted my studio—the very place that fueled my livelihood. They seized everything, from equipment to my children's Christmas presents. In the aftermath, I felt cheated, abandoned by the justice system, and betrayed by the sponsors. Alone and desolate, I knelt before my house, surrendering to God's plan, and embracing the uncertainty that lay ahead.
That night, I gathered my family and confessed that adversity was a precursor to reaching the promised land. Despite an empty wallet, I declared that I would never be broke again. A newfound determination surged within me, and I cast away the shackles of despair, proclaiming that nothing and no one—neither sponsors, sheriffs, nor empty studios—could break me.
Inspired by a transformative book, I ventured into online music production services for international clients. Working diligently for modest pay, I regained financial stability and started rebuilding. This marked a reset in my life, fostering a mindset rooted in love and guided by God's grace. I embraced the challenges as opportunities, and my resilience paid off.
As months passed, I secured a weekend spot on Jacaranda FM, reigniting the flame of entertainment and joy in my heart. The station played a pivotal role in my rebirth, building a new fan base and expanding my reach across Africa. My music resonated globally, culminating in an opportunity to perform in the UK's Notting Hill.
Remaining at Jacaranda FM for nine years, I hungered for broader success. To pursue my dream of sharing my music with the world, I made the challenging decision to part ways with Jacaranda FM, embarking on a new chapter in my journey.
In 2022, I ventured into the realm of TikTok with a commitment to giving it my all. A year later, my journey has borne fruit, with a global audience exceeding 250,000 followers. Finally, my music is reaching ears around the world, and I find myself on the brink of realizing my dream of performing in various countries. As a new year looms, the vision bestowed upon me by God reveals a future adorned with shows across the globe. With unwavering faith in my passion, I prioritize it above financial rewards.
Now in 2023, at the age of 50, I reflect on a remarkable journey spanning 36 years, starting when I was just 14. Despite the lows, tears shed alone at night, and countless times being knocked down, one truth prevails—no one could break me. I mastered the art of rising, learning that resilience defines true strength. Sharing my struggles is not a display of weakness but a testament to overcoming. I stood firm through the storms, always driven by an unshakeable belief in my worth and destiny. With God by my side, success is the only path I see.
I want to emphasize that financial support wasn't a prerequisite for my dreams. My parents, factory workers with modest incomes, provided our family a chance at life. This underscores the point that success isn't contingent on wealth. You don't need riches or assets to believe in yourself. Trusting in God and navigating through life's tribulations have been my guiding principles. If I, without significant financial backing, can carve my path to success, so can you. You are the master of your destiny—plant positive seeds in the fertile soil of your aspirations, and let them flourish into a bountiful harvest. Never doubt your potential; greatness is within your grasp.
If you've reached this point and my story has touched you, I encourage you to share it with someone. My dream is an ongoing journey, and I'll continue to update this story as I progress. Thank you for being a part of this narrative, and may my experiences inspire and resonate with those who encounter them.
The Groovemaster Dj Jazzy D