Briefly tell us about yourself and what drew you to become a DJ?
Hi there, my name is Mahandana Jacky Masutha and I’m from Cape Town, South Africa. I discovered electronic music in my early teenage years. In High school during break time, we’d often listen to and share various types of music. Genres revolved mainly around drum and bass and dubstep (e.g. DJ Fresh - Gold Dust). Discovering how the music got played out fascinated me the most. The energy in the crowd would always be spearheaded by the craftsmanship of the DJ. Bear in mind this was all still new to me at the time. Inevitably out of curiosity and eagerness, I found myself using virtual DJ. I started there and I’m not ashamed of it. Over the years as I bettered myself and developed more interest and skill, I got my hands-on equipment and I guess the main reason why I became a DJ was to show what I could be capable of.
Do you have a formal musical background?
Oh, if only! I’m still vastly inexperienced. I have a vague memory in grade 3 when I asked my parents if could learn the guitar. Nothing seemed to materialize. I made it my mission to learn music theory and piano in 2017 after I matriculated from High school. Being given a grounding and fundamental understanding of music has to be proven pivotal in my growth and progress as a DJ.
From past to present, can you tell us who has influenced and inspired you the most?
A DJ duo that immediately comes to mind is Camo & Krooked. 4 hands, 4 CDJs and live mashups. Their mixes were flawless. Oh! And on top of that it was drum and bass! What appealed to me the most was that you could hear them DJing. Manipulating tracks. Layering tracks and playing VIP bootlegs and acapellas. It wasn’t just one transition to another. They were definitely my initial inspiration or “gateway “into DJing. Call it what you want! As the years passed by so did my taste in electronic music. I’ve always been interested in finding new music and discovering new DJ tricks and techniques. There are so many skillful DJs out there but because my taste has varied into techno and house and everything in between, a lot of the new things I’ve learnt have been influenced by the genre. E.g. DVS1, Ben Sims, Exos, Jeff Mills. The list can go on! These are mainly techno veterans though. In order to become a great, you have to study the greats! Through listening and watching them they taught me a new style of DJing. Using tool-based tracks to constantly strip in and out and layer in the mix, creating something almost new and unheard of. 3 or 4 tracks going on at once. The biggest inspiration is that they could all do it on vinyl. Vinyl is something I too still wish to master.
Do you remember your first experiences as a DJ?
Vaguely. I was probably extremely nervous. My prior experience to that was virtual DJ and traktor 2 software. I think I spent a couple of days learning how to use CDJs off YouTube tutorials so you could say my first few gigs were interesting. They were also all opening sets. I’d often prepare my sets track for track and because of this and as much as the music could carry the crowd, I didn’t really feel present during my sets.
Do you have any other pressing interests besides DJing?
I was an avid footballer growing up. There was a time where I dreamed of going pro. Of course, it was a farfetched idea plus my love for music had started to take over. I still coach and play soccer socially and if I’m not doing that, I’m busy with my studies.
How have you grown from the first time you pressed play to where you are now?
I’ve learnt and grown so much over the years but it still feels like I’m just getting started. I’m so excited to prove my worth. I hate to sound arrogant but I just have so much belief in myself and what I can do. For the last year or so I’ve gone incognito focusing on making music and studies and work etc. I’ve been neglecting DJing of late but because I work for The DJ company, more often than not I find myself still practicing when I have the chance. I’m also a hoarder of music. I guess what’s grown with in me the most is my flexibility. I don’t feel contained by any genre. Of course, DJing is important to me but I have bigger goals insight and in order to achieve them in the long run you haven’t to make the necessary sacrifices that won’t provide short term joy and comfort. It’s only now really, I’m starting to get out of my comfort zone.
Explain how your DJ sets for weddings and corporate events differ from your artistic alias sets.
The approach is completely different. Weddings, birthdays and events in their commercial setting often mean I’m playing well known music. I’m the “crowd pleaser DJ” so to say. I have one job and that’s to keep people on the dance floor and nothing else. Of course, you want to be doing that whenever you DJ but when I under my alias, Mahandana, there’s a more obscure, artistic and holistic approach. I’m not so concerned whether or not the music I play will be received as I’m testing my capabilities and taking risks in that process. You could say my alias is more for me than anybody but whenever I channel my artistic self, I feel like I give people an insight into who I am and perhaps the music I play helps them learn more about themselves and the environment around them. I like the contrast of introspective music in an open social environment.
What is your favourite part about being a DJ?
That’s a tough question. It would have to be between creating something new on the spot using various mixing and layering techniques or just the sheer reception of energy on the dancefloor. What I mean by that is playing the right track at the right time. At the end of the day it’s about sharing your journey. Your message. I try strive to create something new all the time and because of this I guess my favorite part of DJing is having to reinvent myself all the time. Although in a commercial setting DJing does have its limitless.
How do you organize your music and what steps do you take when preparing for a gig?
My music prior to iTunes, rekordbox and traktor is placed in one big folder. The main folder is called MUSIC. The sub-folders that fall within that are organized by the year I purchased the music and the genre. This helps me keep tabs on when I discovered certain artists etc.
When prepping for gigs the last thing I want to do is give myself surprises that results in my mixing being inconsistent. There are certain precautions I take. I sort my playlist out by genre, energy and mood. I also have different cue points stored. With that the rest follows as an improvisation on the dance floor as one should always be prepared to take a few detours along the way unless you have a short and very limited set time.
What’s the ideal setup for a performance?
I use the pioneer ddj-sx controller when I’m doing DJ sets for The DJ Company and for my alias, 3 pioneer CDJs 2000nexus2 and DJM900nexus. It’s just what I’m used to. Ideally in the future I’ll have a live hybrid setup with DJ equipment still at hand.
Do you think you have a certain style mixing?
I tend to lean more towards the subtle cohesive side of mixing. I’d like to say I’ve learnt multiple styles of mixing and learning when to apply the different techniques. I can openly and honestly say I’m not expert at scratching and vinyl turntablism. These are 2 skill sets that I still want to unlock as it will allow me to be even more versatile.
What are the goals you have in mind when performing sets?
Originally, I bargained on the idea of making the crowd achieve a heightened state of euphoria however I guess the true goal for me would be that the music makes them a better person. I want the music to cause healing and not destruction. After the party ends and one has come back down to earth, I want listeners to reflect on themselves in a positive manner. It’s also quite a farfetched idea as it illustrates a utopia of satisfying every listener and constant happiness which honestly is never the case.
We all have a bucket list of parties and venues we’d like to play. Where do you dream of playing?
That’s another tough question. I recently read a RA interview the other day on an artist called Objekt and he stated that he doesn’t really mind where he plays as long as the music, collective of promoters/event brands and attendees all aligning with each other. This couldn’t have resonated with me more! Playing to an open-minded receptive crowd in a space that reflects it is better than playing to 100000 zombies all glued to the screen on their phone.
How do you feel social media has impacted the music industry?
It’s good and its bad. Its good because all art forms can be shared and discovered. However, we are often blindsided by our ego and often forget our real intentions. This in a nutshell is how social media has poisoned the music industry and all its artists.
While we are on that subject, what’s your take on the current global affairs between club and festival culture?
I understand the argument for party goers, “why go to a nightclub and see 1 artist you like when you could go to a festival and see all the artists you like, all at once”. Club culture is dying because of the rise in popularity in festival culture. Mass productions are all about increasing profit margins rather than pushing the boundaries of music. Club culture is the residency and home for brewing artists that wish to grow beyond borders. We have to keep clubs a safe space but at the same time the club scene needs to be supported.
What do you have planned for the future?
I love DJing too much just to leave it all behind. I’m currently working on building my home studio. I’m also currently in the process of conceptualizing and developing a live set. It’s been a difficult process on planning on when to step out of my shell and re-join the electronic music scene. However, when I do, the terms will be different as I’ll be more focused on my alias and the emphasis will be on playing/performing my own music.
Among all this Liam (Head of DJ Company) and I will be relaunching The DJ Company. We’ll be including a whole roster of different DJ’s that you can have at your wedding and events. If things go well, the growth of income will allow me to invest in myself further.
Lastly, do you have any words of wisdom and or advice for those looking to start and learn about DJing?
Just start. Regardless of opinion. Do what makes you happy. At the end of the day your skill set will be enhanced by your track selection and ability of various styles of mixing. Equip yourself as much as possible. Master your craft but more importantly have fun, take risks and don’t pay too much attention to mistakes as at the end of the day we are all human.