DJ Mekonko has come a long way from his humble beginnings as a tout at a clothing store, and he credits his meteoric rise not to luck but sheer hard work and perseverance.
In an interview with XpressPeople this past week, the budding entrepreneur said his career path was far from straightforward but characterised by meanders and setbacks.
Born Khoaele Komtata in the rural enclave of Liphakoeng, Mapoteng in Berea district, DJ Mekonko was raised in Ha Molemane in Teyateyaneng (TY).
He said the entertainer bug bit when he got a job as a tout for an apparel outlet.
“My first job, which I started in 2002, was as a tout for a clothing outlet. I would stand outside and persuade people to enter the store using a loud speaker and a radio with which I would play popular songs,” said DJ Mekonko.
“I also had to use creative marketing language to entice them to enter the store and that sparked the dream of becoming a radio presenter.
“When I was free, I helped jazz musician Fatere carry his equipment to various events he was performing, and that fuelled my passion for music.”
In 2004, DJ Mekonko relocated to Maseru to work in a fruit and veg store in Ha Matala. Unbeknown to him at the time, the transition would ultimately nudge him in the direction of his dream. The store owner had DJ equipment and allowed him to use it.
“My employer had decks which he allowed me to practice on. He also had friends like DJ Alex and Daverts from whom I learned the tricks of the trade,” said DJ Mekonko.
“It is within that period that I tried to establish myself as a DJ but I was often told I would not make it and should just give up. I was mostly mocked because I was not from around town, and often referred to as ‘moshanyana oa literekeng’ (the boy from the village).”
His break came through a childhood friend who opened a restaurant in TY called Mirage where he became a regular DJ. With the practice and exposure the regular performances afforded him, DJ Mekonko gradually improved.
After invites to perform at other clubs started pouring in, he decided to quit his job and pursue disc spinning as a fulltime occupation.
“In 2010, I approached the management of Times Café with a proposal to be a regular act. We agreed that I would play on Thursday and Saturday evenings but I only started getting paid three months after starting the job.
“It was a very busy club and patrons appreciated the music I played, which is soulful House music.”
DJ Mekonko said he only became a household name in 2011 after sharing the stage with popular South African DJ Tira in Roma.
“I then started hosting annual festivals featuring different South African acts in celebration of my birthday and that cemented my brand in the entertainment scene.”
Over the years, DJ Mekonko’s popularity has grown, with bookings for various corporate events and major festivals. He left Times Café in 2014 for the Khubetsoana-based Club 4Fordy where he hosts Soulful House Sunday Sessions every week.
Unsatisfied with merely being a disc spinner, DJ Mekonko has also forayed into entrepreneurship.
“I approached the owner of Times Café a few months ago and propositioned buying the club. He set a hefty price for which I could not afford, so I brought two other friends on board and we were able to make the acquisition,” he said.
“That does not mean the end of my disc spinning career because I intend to use the club which is now called Cuban Linx as a platform for Soulful House DJs. This is because it is only in very rare cases that they get booked for festivals. So I will also continue being a DJ for as long as I live.”
Cuban Linx serves food as well as soft and alcoholic beverages. It also hosts different events on a weekly basis such as comedy shows on Wednesdays, red carpet-themed shows on Thursdays, Soulful House sessions on Fridays and Hip Hop on Saturdays.
“I hope my story can be an inspiration to others, especially people from outside Maseru. They need to know that they can still make it even if they are from the districts,” he said.
“People always have negative things to say but if you set your mind on any goal, all is achievable.”