Black Coffee on his childhood, how music healed him, and the life-changing accident

One of Mzansi’s most celebrated DJs, Grammy award-winning DJ Nkosinathi “Black Coffee” Maphumulo recently opened up to Steven Bartlett on The Diary Of A CEO about his childhood, family, his marriage, friendships, and the dreadful accident that changed his life.

He shared how he lived with his grandmother and learned discipline.

“I hardly had a childhood. I was always working. That was my environment. I knew whatever you need, you have to work. If there was a problem with the cows, I knew what was wrong,” he says.

His father lived in Durban and had remarried, while he was raised by his mom in the Eastern Cape.

“He was a nice guy, but he wasn’t present. On holidays, we would go see him, but he had nothing to say,” he says.

“My grandmother was a man and a woman [at home] and I used to hate it growing up. I wanted to be a child and play with other kids. I grew up with that kind of life and I hated it. But it taught me so much about having a work ethic,” he adds.

His childhood influenced the person he is today.

“I was never a social guy. I always kept to myself. As a kid, I always had to do all the work alone. I was a loner growing up and I kind of got comfortable with trusting my thoughts and my decisions and being confident in myself without needing people. That has affected a lot of personal relationships with people,” he says.

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“It’s something I want to start working on, I am quick to create a comfortable space. But I am much quicker to move as well. It’s something I feel that it’s not real but it’s doable because I am always on the move.”

Black Coffee says he never learned how to express his emotions from a young age.

“My grandmother was quite tough, there was no one. I look at how I am with my kids, you can see when you have pushed a little bit hard and you’re able to bring them back and explain” he says.

“The older generation will whip you and you get over it. As a child, you have unconditional love for your parent. But I didn’t have a good role model in anything. I used to avoid doing interviews because there was just societal pressure that If I’m good at making music, am I good at public speaking? If I play songs nicely, am I a role model to your children? But I’m just a DJ, who is living his life. In the beginning, all I wanted to do was play music.”

He says music was always his escape. “Music helped me to dream of these moments. If I listen to Michael Jackson, I will dream of where he lives and maybe one day I will go there. It took me to all these places and became my friend,” he adds.

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“Music brought me peace. It’s my way of healing people, the same way it healed me.”

10 February 1990 was one of the hardest days in Black Coffee’s life and he says he struggled to open up about it.

“But I’m in a better space now, I am able to talk about it. So, strict grandmother, we are at home, around eight at night. She was strict and no one could come out of the house, we were sitting in the house, I think after dinner. We heard people singing outside and we all come out. We see a group of people passing out the house, and we run to the crowd, we were not allowed to but it was nice, and it wasn’t a big thing even for her,” he says.

“My cousins went back in the house, I didn’t. Why? Music. So, I followed the crowd. The reason this was happening was because on the 11th of February Nelson Mandela was officially coming out after 27 years [in jail] and there were jubilations around the entire country.”

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The crowd was going to a stadium close to his house.

“That is where the camping and singing until the morning was going to happen. They were gathering crowds and we were now close to the stadium. Just out of nowhere we just heard this sound, and it was a car, that came out of nowhere, with lights off, and just ran to the crowd. I was not in the front but maybe 20 percent in. I just blacked out and people were screaming. When I woke up, there was fire, and people were angry,” she says.

“So, basically this driver, switched off the lights to literally kill people with his car. So, they burned the car and the guy too. He stayed there for hours without anyone coming for him. This happened around 4 in the morning, cars took us to the hospital, and I came back around 7- 8 and he was still there.”