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Neto Shoots DJ Lag for DJ Mag: Sihamba ngolayini

Kuhamba ngolayini in all its variations, ulayini, qondile, kuhamba ngomugqa, is more than just a greeting, it is a hood affirmation that all is well. Man, even coke heads say sihamba ngalayini of late.

DJ Lag has thrust this affirmation into popular culture and taken ownership.

Until very recently, I did not even know what he looks like – I do not listen to much Gqom but I have unequivocal respect for the impact this genre has on popular culture.

Put some respect on Gqom and hail King Lag while at it.

Lwazi Asanda Gwala is tearing through carbide with ease, grace and style. Clermont is well represented here, if you do not know him yet ask Will.i.am.

The United Kingdom is toeing the line. He gets his first magazine cover and it is with British based electronic dance music publication DJ Mag. DJ Lag, DJ Mag the reason is all over the rhyme. Ga-Maja native Kgomotso Neto Tleane is tasked with the cover shoot. Who better? Game no doubt recognizes game.

Neto and I have a brief phone call while he heads out to Kwa Mai Mai for a bite and a cold one.

Umuy’ndoda k’fanele udle inyama, uphuze utshwala, ubheme, ubhe*#!; this, I believe is a coming of age song sung by young Zulu men, feel free to check me on that. I digress.

Neto tells me commissions of this nature usually come because they might have seen his work online or through mutual associations and in this case, the commission came through someone at Black Major (Lag’s label).

His approach was to first find out what story the magazine was trying to tell, being his (Lag’s) first cover, they wanted to tell his life story, his background.

Having seen a few of his music videos, Neto had an idea of the environment he is from and there began the brainstorming, conceptualizing.

Neto, a virtuoso of documenting everyday South African life, has a lot of work around taxis, taxi ranks and hostel aesthetics.

Durban has a very interesting taxi culture, they are colourful, loud and the taxis there are  often used to test jams before they hit the clubs.

“Most ideas come as we shoot.”

He asked Lag to organize a taxi for the shoot to which he brought a “basic Quantum” that he ended up using to have him stand on “like a superhero”.

KwaDabeka KK hostel became the star of the shoot. It holds a sentimental place in Lag’s heart, he practically grew up there although not from the hostel, which is across the street from his parents’ home, so they would cross over to play ball and other games while growing up.

Before moving on he remembers a question I asked him, so he mentions that everything he does is a team effort. He is not running a solo show. There is Paresh Shookan who is his business partner, an amazing stylist Didintle Ntshudisane, and for this shoot, Durban based Mel Mthembu came through with equally dope behind-the-scenes footage.

Back to the hostel. He shot Lag on the rooftop of the hostel with the aim of having the township as the backdrop. It came out perfect. Poetry.

The man needs to get to his meat, a cold one and his bosom Khotso Bantu Mahlangu. He is getting off his Uber and we rush through the rest. I ask him about his rates, his family, the pandemic.

“I will not lie to you, I am comfortable,” he tells me.

Although he is not driven by money, he is not naive, he knows he needs it to get by.

Photography pays his bills and he is aware of his fortunate position; being able to take care of self, home, his daughter and still do what he loves.

The Covid-19 pandemic has left a dent in his pocket, he was unable to take on a commission that would have seen him travel through seven countries, he is not complaining though, just sharing an unfortunate experience.

We say our goodbyes, we continue in the linear – samba ngolayini.

ALSO READ: A focus on Yandisa Zuluish: ‘Everything has a season’

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