Ballantine’s and Boiler Room threw a massive party in Johannesburg

To celebrate 10 years of Ballantine’s True Music project, cutting-edge DJs from across the world congregated in Joburg. Asambe!

Never seen a pretty girl from Joburg? You clearly weren’t at the Ballantine’s x Boiler Room party in South Africa’s biggest city last week, where the dancefloors were packed with stylish crowds celebrating forward-thinking club music.

Ballantine’s True Music supports cutting-edge local music scenes, and for the 10th anniversary of the project, the Scotch whiskey brand has been busy hosting 10 events across the world. The Johannesburg True Music with Boiler Room celebrated the freshest sounds in contemporary club music, with a focus on amapiano in the place of its birth.

Across three stages, the line-up featured piano big hitters such as The Scorpion Kings and DBN Gogo going B2B with Tyler ICU, as well as UK representative Shannen SP. Bringing their sound to South Africa for the first time were Spanish DJ Toccororo and Canadian rap producer WondaGurl, who surprised us with a drum’n’bass-leaning set.

But whatever their origins, and whatever their favoured genres, every artist was there for the same reasons: to be at one with the music and have a great time. We pinned down some of our favourite acts on the line-up to report on their rave adventures in South Africa.

Kampire (Uganda)

Describe your vibe in three words…

Big dance energy.

Besides music, what brings you closer to people?

Food is always the great connector.

What’s the choice of cuisine?

In Kampala, Uganda, there’s really great Ethiopian and Sudanese food. I find wherever I go, people love Ethiopian food – their food bangs!

What’s the best way to party in South Africa?

Find a DJ that you love, follow them on Instagram and go to all their parties.

Is there a DJ you want to go b2b with?

I’ve been hanging out with a friend, DormantYouth, an amazing DJ from around here. Earlier in the week I saw them playing and I was like, I would love to go b2b with you,” so maybe tonight we’ll have a surprise at the afterparty!

Talking with THE FACE in 2021, you said that to some people in the West, Africa is still an idea and a DJ set may be their only interaction with a real African. Do you think that’s changed since then?

It’s changed for the people who want to know [about African music], those who are interested, those who are curious. With TikTok and Instagram the world is [more] open if you’re interested and curious. But if you’re scared of anything that’s different from you, then you can just live in your bubble and never meet your neighbours.

Any upcoming projects?

I’ve been working on a compilation of older African music, and it’s finally coming out this summer after four years. It’s been a struggle to get all the masters and [to] get everything ready, but it’s finally happening. It’s a tribute to a lot of the older African music that I grew up hearing and that still inspires the vibe of what I play now.

Tyler ICU (South Africa)

Describe your vibe in 3 words…

Emotional, intense and vibrational.

Which stop on your world tour has made the most lasting impression on you?

I’ve seen a lot. Paris was crazy, Australia was insane, Zimbabwe was epic. I’m still waiting to see more.

Your latest single Government takes a stand against the government’s lack of funding for the arts. When there are artists like Tyla representing South African music globally, how do you wish the government would respond to local artists?

We wish they could really appreciate us as artists. I feel like they only come for the shine instead of helping [upcoming artists]. We definitely need help, with visas for instance. But that’s how Government came about. As long as we have the passion of the music and the talent to push it, we’re just gonna do that.

What do you hope people will get out of listening to your music?

I hope it can change their life. I’m spreading positivity in most of my songs and I hope people can feel that.

What’s next?

I have a new song that’s going crazy on the streets and it’s coming out soon!

WondaGurl (Canada)

Describe your vibe in 3 words…

Introverted, creative and interesting.

What makes it interesting?

I feel like a lot of people don’t understand my vibe. Everyone expects me to be hype, and then I’m just this really quiet, mellow person.

How did you expect the Joburg crowd to react to your music?

I was scared because I thought everybody was gonna say: We wanna hear Travis [Scott – WondaGurl was a co-producer on his 2023 Utopia album]!” But honestly, everybody was so welcoming to whatever I was playing and it made me feel so good. I love house, I love drum n’ bass, I love electronic music in general. The energy was just dope. I really enjoyed myself.

It’s your first time in Joburg – is there anything you want to do while you’re here?

I care about food, so every city I go to I have to have the best meal I could possibly get.

What’s next for you in 2024?

I’m about to start dropping things. I got the opportunity to play some of them today and I could see how everybody thought of them. A few of them are probably gonna come out as singles.

Last question: Drake or Kendrick?

Nahhh! You can’t ask me that!

Toccororo (Spain)

Describe your vibe in 3 words…

Dark, sexy and funny.

How did you expect the Joburg crowd to react to your music?

I knew I came into a really big country and amapiano is a culture here. Everyone [has been] asking me if I was gonna play some too, [but] I can’t do that. I have so much respect for the culture. but I only know the hits. I’m representing my sound and people appreciated it, because many of them weren’t familiar with [my music].

What do you hope people get out of listening to your music?

I hope people will dance but also that they’re curious. There is an open world of possibilities in electronic music and I’m like a mix for everything, from Latin music to techno music. I feel like a representative of both sides.

I heard you’re into astrology…

You want my big three? You’re gonna gag… I’m a Libra sun, Virgo moon – I’m a perfectionist. You can see all the craziness [on stage] but I really do care about my work. And then I’m a Gemini rising [with my] Mars and Venus in Scorpio. I’m very passionate.

Shannen SP (England)

Describe your vibe in 3 words…

Introspective, headsy and bass‑y.

What’s the best way to party in South Africa?

With friends and family. Also, you should party with people that know the city well – they can show you all the hidden gems. In Europe, sometimes other things are centred over the actual music but I feel people here are very much here to listen.

You co-curated the NTS Amapiano Now compilation – how did that come about?

I was in Johannesburg at the end of 2018 and my cousins were bumping amapiano and were showing me all these amazing artists like Vigro Deep. I got this very deep, introspective, jazzy musical introduction to the sound and I just fell in love with it. I was like: this will work in the club. But it will also work in the European clubs, for rap and hip-hop audiences and different communities. That was so exciting to me. I just felt like [we had to] spotlight this immediately because it’s important. It has had such an important effect on UK club music – when have you seen that many Black people in the club? There are so many interactions with the diaspora, all different kinds of Black diasporas. [Amapiano] offers this space that I don’t feel has existed since garage.

What upcoming projects can we expect from you this year?

I’m working on a project right now with Jay Music who I just went B2B with. What we’re trying to do is expand both of our perspectives. He’s coming from an amapiano background whereas I’m coming from a UK club background. We’re working on this hybrid of genres with a lot of grime elements and amapiano elements.

Who do you want to see in the front row during your set?

My brother. He’s an icon, he’s always in the front row. He’s not easy to please, so when I see him dancing and going off to a song, it makes me settle and feel good.

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