“Why does Black Coffee DJ with only one hand?” is a question that many people have asked but have received few answers to. In the South African entertainment industry, this is probably the second most popular question after, “Ngubani uMzekezeke? (Who is Mzekezeke?)” After all, Black Coffee is not just any DJ but one of the finest to ever come out of Africa. So, it’s not out of the ordinary that you may be curious about what happened to his hand.
Born Nkosinathi Innocent Maphumulo in 1976, Black Coffee was born in KwaZulu-Natal and later moved to Umtata, the hometown of Nelson Mandela. His career began in 1994. However, it was only ten years later that it gained traction after he participated in the Red Bull Music Academy, held in Cape Town. In September 2015, he won the Breakthrough DJ of the Year award at the DJ Awards in Ibiza.
Black Coffee’s hand is paralysed
It was a big day for Umtata, the country and the world at large when Black Coffee’s world came crumbling. The date was 11 February 1990 and Nelson Mandela was due to be released from prison after serving 27 years on Robben Island. The streets in Umtata were abuzz with celebration when a vehicle ploughed into people, leaving Black Coffee down and two other people dead.
“There were people singing outside my home so my granny and I decided to join them, at around 3 or 4 am. Out of nowhere, I just heard a sound, it didn’t sound like a car bumping people, it sounded like someone was shooting,” Black Coffee said to Anele Mdoda in an interview with Real Talk in 2017. He continued, “The sound persisted and everything went blank and then when I woke up, there was fire, there were people being rushed to the hospital and I was one of them.”
The accident left Black Coffee with a brachial plexus injury on his left arm. The brachial plexus is a group of nerves that control the muscles of the shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand, as well as providing feeling in the arm. The accident didn’t only leave his arm paralysed but he says it also shattered his dreams of being involved in music.
Black Coffee had a choice to either drop the mic or keep fighting for his spot in the music scene and he chose the latter. He went on to major in Jazz Studies at the then Technikon Natal (now Durban University of Technology) before working as a backup singer for Madala Kunene.
Now fast-forward to the 21st century, Black Coffee has proven that disability doesn’t mean inability. It was in 2005 that he released his first self-titled studio album collaborating with the likes of Hugh Masekela, Busi Mhlongo, Thandiswa Mazwai among a few. He recorded this album in his bedroom!
But it was his fourth album, Africa Rise, that sold like a cup of coffee in winter, going double platinum in a space of a month. People would soon want a dose of the DJ’s music first thing in the morning.
Black Coffee sets a world record
The year was 2010 and Black Coffee’s brand was getting stronger but he hadn’t yet hit his pinnacle. The next task on hand was to become the first DJ to play for 60 hours with only hand.
The beat went on; he put on the show for free in Soweto and had a 20-minute break every four hours. He didn’t only smash the record but also raised awareness about The Black Coffee Foundation, which helps disabled people. This record positioned him as one of the rising stars of this generation.
Black Coffee goes international
Black Coffee is one of the most renowned and most decorated DJs in the entire world. In 2016, he became the first South African to win the prestigious Black Entertainment Television (BET) Award in the Best International Act category in Los Angeles, in the US. This is an addition to the numerous awards he’s won locally.
Although Black Coffee has done some gigs locally, and mostly for charity work, you’ll be excused if you’ve never really attended a show he’s performed. The DJ is hardly in the motherland as he’s often performing overseas where he sells out shows as if he were a local. In fact, Black Coffee even has a second home in Los Angeles and has rented a private jet to help him attend gigs worldwide.
Recently, he was featured on Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show in New York. Black Coffee has always been passionate about challenging the perceptions that people have about Africa. He started the ‘Africa is not a Jungle’ platform where, according to him, “African producers and DJs dismantle the industry as it is; so we own everything and are in control of our own destiny.”
One of the lessons that speaks volumes about Black Coffee’s journey is that if you want it, you’ll make a plan and if you don’t you’ll make an excuse! His desire to make it outweighed his reasons to give up. Black Coffee was willing to do what others weren’t and now he’s achieved what others haven’t.
Did you know Jay-Z is Hip-Hop’s first billionaire? Read more about that here.
Tell us: What lesson did you take from Black Coffee’s journey?