“What’s in a name?”
Well, everything where Banele and Bandile of Major League Djz are concerned. The popular dj twins have not only sewn a name for themselves into the fabric of the South African music industry but have gone far and beyond with their event entrepreneurial skills to truly form a league of their own.
Words: Aluwani Ratshuingo | Visual Director: Ricardo Marcus Knipe | Styling: Siyabonga Beyile | Director of Videography: Nic Rawhani | Make-Up: Ayanda Shabangu
It’s a Friday afternoon at Glow Studios somewhere in the leafy Parkview suburb and outside, the rain is pouring relentlessly. We are waiting for Bandile and Banele Mbere a.k.a. Major League DJz to arrive so that we can start shooting. Everything is setup. Everyone is ready. Everyone is here but them. When they finally arrive they are considerably late thanks to an impromptu shopping spree – something we obviously excuse because we know what it takes to be threaded.
Their style is high end streetwear with Balenciaga and Yeezy sneakers in their collection. They insist that two colors are more than enough for an outfit and you’d be hard-pressed to find them wearing anything besides black, blue, white or red. In the spotlight, they’ve made dressing identically part of their brand; off it, they each do their own thing with Bandile preferring light colors and Banele dark ones.
Watching them during the shoot, it’s not hard to pick up the differences in their personalities – but that’s if you focus hard enough to set them apart physically. Banele apparently keeps to himself even though he is the talkative one and answers most of my questions during the interview while the reserved Bandile only chips in now and then.
The twin duo made a name for themselves through playing interesting Hip Hop/Kwaito sets and their highly successful event, Major League Gardens has played a huge role in keeping them relevant over the years. Through collaborations with some of the top Hip Hop artists in South Africa, including Riky Rick and Cassper Nyovest, they have created hits such as The Bizness and Slyza Tsotsi, the SAMA nominated banger which had social media buzzing with viral videos of celebrities and ordinary South Africans taking part in the slyza dance challenge at the request of the artists – a purely genius marketing move.
The 25-year-olds were born in Massachusetts, USA after their Xhosa father and Zulu mother met and fell in love while in exile. When Apartheid ended in 1994, it was the beginning of a new era which afforded people new beginnings. For many exiled South Africans, it meant that they were finally free to come back home. In 1995 the African National Congress stalwarts decided to uproot their family and move to Johannesburg. Considering the twins were only 4 years old when they moved to South Africa, it wasn’t particularly hard for them to cope with the transition; in fact they embraced the move. “We were still very young so it wasn’t that hard,” says Bandile. “I think we were happy because we now had more family. I’m a family person. Most of my friends are my cousins,” adds Banele.
Anyone who’s in the music industry will tell you that getting into the industry is no child’s play and that’s exactly what their mother was worried about when they dropped out of varsity to pursue a career in music. “I think everybody faces the challenge of getting their music out there and finding yourself as a person in the industry cause you gotta find yourself and place yourself in the industry,” says Banele. “But we used to throw events before we did anything else so it was a little easy.”
They started entertaining crowds as teenagers hosting parties that not only sparked their interest DJ’ing but also helped them build relationships with key industry players. Years later, they’ve managed to turn what some probably considered a pastime or fad into an ever-growing business. Last year, Major League Gardens had over 20 000 people in attendance and I think it’s safe to say that it’s only going to get bigger.
In addition to DJing and being responsible for one of the biggest hip hop events in Mzansi, they’re also serial entrepreneurs. The duo dabbles in construction, production, advising and also outsource their services as event coordinators. How do they deal with the complexities of entrepreneurship? They “always aspire to do better and love taking risks” and reckon they were born entrepreneurs.
“We’ve achieved so much but there’s still so much to achieve inside and outside South Africa. We want international recognition, to travel the world and become one of the hottest DJs in the world representing South Africa and Africa as a whole, actually.” This definitely is no tall order for the sibling dj duo who have come to create their own league.
Bandile wears: Tuxedo Suit – TM Lewin, Shirt – His Own, Bow Tie – TM Lewin, Belt – His Own, Accessories: His Own, Shoes – His Own.
Banele wears: Tuxedo Jacket – TM Lewin, Shirt, Pants, Shoes and Accessories – His Own
Bandile and Banele wear: Sweat Top – PUMA Select JHB, Sweat Pants – PUMA Select JHB, Accesories and Shoes – Their Own
Bandile and Banele Wear: Denim Shirt – Levis, Denim Jacket – Levis, Pants, Accessories and Shoes – Their Own.