R&B star Ne-Yo might have been the headlining act at the Essence Festival in Durban, South Africa, last Saturday, but many local attendees were more excited about a local boy taking the stage: Durban’s own Nkosinathi Innocent Maphumulo, better known to global house music fans as DJ and producer Black Coffee.
“I know the festival, and it’s big thing for it to be coming here to the country, and most importantly, here in Durban,” he said. “Exciting times when you get the call to be a part of it.”
Black Coffee has amassed a following far beyond South African shores, with A-list fans like P. Diddy and Swizz Beatz and performances at Coachella and Ultra. Being a globe-trotting DJ means he’s constantly racking up the frequent-flier miles — we caught up with him backstage before he headed out to do his set to ask him about his life on the road.
Travel + Leisure: Since you’re always going somewhere, are there any crazy travel rituals you do, anything to prepare mentally?
Black Coffee: Not really. I’ve learned to pack very small. Which doesn’t really work, but I try. And I have a new thing now where, because I hardly get time to sleep, every little time I get, even if it’s 30 minutes, I take a nap. It doesn’t matter where. If I look at my watch and I feel like, OK, I have 30 minutes, I have an hour—
T+L: Even if it’s loud?
BC: It doesn’t matter where it is! With the time difference, I struggle with sleeping at night, so I don’t have to wait for the night to sleep now. I sleep anytime I can.
T+L What’s your favorite destination, internationally or in South Africa?
BC: That is the toughest question. In South Africa it has to be my city, Durban.
T+L: What makes it so special to you?
BC: There’s so many different things here. The cultures, I mean, we have the biggest community of Indians outside India. Culture, street markets, food markets — the food!
T+L: What’s you’re favorite meal you’ve had in Durban?
BC: There’s a restaurant I like, it’s called Mo-Zam-bik. In fact, I’m coming from there now. That’s one spot I make sure I go to. I love the chicken. The boneless one, they call it Chicken for Girls.
T+L: What’s your favorite meal you’ve had overseas?
BC: Honestly, I’m not so crazy or fancy about food. I’ll tell you about a burger that I like in LA. It’s Shake Shack. I can’t leave America without having one, whether at the airport in New York or in LA. It’s the best.
T+L: What’s the last place you were in?
BC: Last week I went to Tel Aviv, Dubai, and London. Then I flew to Joburg, now I’m here.
T+L: Where are you off to next?
BC: Next weekend I’m going to Cape Town, Swaziland, Angola.
T+L: Favorite hotel?
BC: It was a long time ago, but the W in Bali.
T+L: What’s the worst travel experience you’ve had?
BC: The way I travel sometimes I even get confused where I’ve been to. It’s always for work, it’s not for vacation, so I don’t get to stay and take in the places. Like I said, on Thursday last week I literally played in Israel, Friday in Dubai, Saturday in London. If you ask me what did I do in Dubai, nothing. I got in, slept, went to the gig, and that was it.
T+L: You’ve worked with some amazing artists — your first-ever song was a Hugh Masekela remix, you’ve done stuff with Alicia Keys and people all over the world. Any exciting collaborations coming up?
BC: I just met Ne-Yo for the first time, we exchanged numbers. I hear he’s got a new single, we’re talking about me listening to it. I’ve been talking to John Legend as well about remixing his new single. I’m just taking it as it comes. But what I’d love to do more is more collaborations than the remixes. I love them, that’s how I started, I have an ear for remixing, but I’d like to do some collaborations now. It would be nice to do a song with Pharrel.