Music heals. Just ask this DJ


Music blares out the shebeen and into the street. The upbeat rhythm combined with pop synth reverberates through passing taxis and fills people’s homes. isiZulu and isiXhosa lyrics create a distinct sound synonymous with Knysna producer, Mzakes Simka. Known to locals as DJ Mzakes, his craft has become an integral part of his community. Even in the face of health struggles, he inspires others with his unending commitment. “If it wasn’t for music I don’t think I’d be alive,” Simka says.

Born with muscular atrophy, a disease that causes muscles to degenerate over time, Simka became fully reliant on a wheelchair by the age of 11. While his health restricted his movement, it didn’t hold him back from pursuing his love of music. “When I realised I wanted to take DJing to another level, I approached the Reach for a Dream Foundation to help me create an audio workstation,” Simka says. With donated equipment, Simka turned his bedroom into a mini studio. Though he didn’t know how to play any instruments, he experimented with mixing tracks until the beats came naturally.

Simka released his debut album, eKnysna, together with Peace of Eden, a private recording studio for independent musicians to share their work. “Everywhere you go you will hear my music,” Simka says. “It makes me feel on top of the world.” Though his equipment isn’t as advanced as other producers, he continues to mix sounds that bring joy and connect people. With this DJ, it’s not about the status or the swag; all that matters is the music. “Nothing can knock you down when you’ve made up your mind about the importance of your dream,” Simka says. And by following the song in your heart, everything else falls into place.