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'I just love how peaceful it is in Cape Town.’
Gems in this
It all started with a 27-second video on Twitter: Uncle Waffles standing behind her DJ decks, simultaneously dancing, live-mixing and holding the packed crowd in the palm of her hand, conducting them like her own personal orchestra.
The video went viral. A star was born. Now, Waffles — real name Lungelihle Zwane — is one of South Africa’s most in-demand DJs. She specialises in amapiano: South Africa’s unique interpolation of jazz, lounge and deep house music. It’s a fun, vibey and deeply danceable genre, and Waffles has proven herself to be one of its most notable new masters. We caught up with Uncle Waffles in Cape Town to talk about dealing with sudden success, South Africa’s unique creativity, why amapiano is the next big music genre, and her Travel Playbook for the coastal city.
On becoming a DJ and (almost) overnight success
I started learning about it in 2020, during lockdown. I wasn’t able to do what I planned to do for the year and then a DJ came along and said, ‘Do you want to learn?’ So I decided to learn. Then six months go by in an instant and I’m sitting alone for eight hours a day trying to mix sounds. And I found a love for something I didn’t know I could love. When I told my parents this, they were like, ‘Yeah, okay, you want to be a DJ.’ But they believed in me and allowed me to take my passion into the real world. They supported me, they would take me to gigs — they wouldn’t stay for the gigs, but they would pick me up after. It was just something that I was practising and learning to love, and that led to me being here today, almost overnight, because I believed in what I was doing. I believed that my passion mattered, you know?
On the surreality of sudden fame
It feels very surreal to be one of the people who are taking amapiano out to these places. It doesn’t feel like it’s happening to me. Getting to a space where people can’t even speak your language or know who you are — it’s like, they’ll come and speak to you in all types of languages and they’re like, ‘Yeah, amapiano! With you guys dancing!’ It’s so crazy how it’s such a universal language. You don’t need to understand it for you to love it. And seeing so many artists who have been in the game for so long finally be given the recognition they deserve is very beautiful. Amazing! Yay Waffles! Domination! It doesn’t feel like it’s happening to me. It feels like I’m watching someone else do it, still.
On ubuntu and a culture of acceptance
I came into an industry and was accepted. That is ubuntu. Having people accept someone who is a ‘blow up’ star with an audience that really takes them seriously. That is ubuntu. They were like, ‘Yo, you’re actually really good at what you’re doing.’ Don’t let people discredit you for blowing up. They made me forget that, they said, ‘Come, we’ll put you on songs, we’ll give you gigs.’ That was ubuntu for me.
On teaching audiences to love amapiano through performance
Whenever I travel I’m essentially bringing a completely new sound with me that most people have never heard. I go to places where you’re the first act from your genre to play there. So you learn that people want to understand the sound, but you have to show them how to understand it. That’s the dancing. That’s the movement. So, with amapiano, I’ve learned that the performance is just as important as the music, especially for crowds that don’t know it yet.
‘I just love how peaceful it is in Cape Town. It feels like it’s a vacation.’
On South Africa’s unique creativity
South Africa and its culture inspires me because the youth is accepted for exactly who they are. They're allowed to be creative and they're allowed to succeed in their creativity. It’s a culture that’s really pushed by the youth. We have dances that are able to go over the world simply by people doing something they love. We have musicians, we have producers, it’s like it’s the one place where you come and artists truly appreciate it. Whatever it is, whatever you can do, it’s embraced. So that is very encouraging, to come to a space to know that you’re always going to be welcomed. It’s just beautiful.
On escaping to Cape Town
For people like me, Johannesburg is always the hub. But I love Cape Town. I just love how peaceful it is in Cape Town. I come here and I feel like I’m in a different place. It feels like it’s a vacation place — that’s genuinely how it feels. I absolutely love it here.
On seeing Cape Town from sea level and sky level
Clifton Beach is the best place to take great Instagram pictures of Cape Town. You can chill in the sun all day. I love it. And Seapoint Promenade, nearby, is my absolute favourite place to go chill with friends. It’s really easy to walk around. Then there’s Signal Hill — I go there to connect with nature. It has the best sunsets, and who doesn’t like to watch a beautiful sunset? I’m afraid of heights, so the first time I went there I was terrified. But being on the edge and being so close to the sun, it feels like everything’s going to be okay. And you see so many romantic things there, like people proposing to each other. So I absolutely love it.
On where to wind down nearby
I love Leuu Spa, which they have in Franschhoek. It’s so beautiful. Number one: the scenery, and also the service you get there. You can get your toes done, and your hands; get massages. And as someone who travels a lot and never gets a chance to relax, that’s always my favourite thing to do.
On where to eat and shop
There’s a lot of small boutiques selling clothing by young brands. I think that’s the best thing to do when shopping. With small brands you can get authentic South African clothing. I’m a really big fan of baggy jeans, so Rare Gallery is one of my favourites because they have very 2000s-style jeans. And then, for food, go to Bukhara. It’s my favourite place to have Indian cuisine. It’s so beautiful. Everywhere you go, it tastes amazing. It's one of the only places where everything tastes good, no matter which one you’ve been to. My favourite is a butter chicken with rice or some naan; oh, you've made my day.
On where to party and catch some amapiano
Go to The One. Every time I’ve been here they’ve treated me so well. The crowds are always amazing. And when you come just to party yourself, they always treat you amazingly.
On one song that sums up Cape Town
I think this song by Allen Stone — I love Allen Stone — called ‘Unaware’ just has the vibe of Cape Town. It’s the kind of song you’d listen to while driving along the beach.
‘I suggest going to Limpopo. If you’re looking for a bush vacation, which is my favourite thing, that’s the perfect place to go.’
On whether you prefer the aisle or the window seat
Window. I tend to sleep on flights.
On other places in South Africa worth checking out
I think it’s worth coming to Johannesburg and going to the shisa nyamas [casual restaurants]. Those are places where you meet the youth, and meet them in their favourite spots. I’d also suggest going to Limpopo. Limpopo has these beautiful resorts and game reserves. If you’re looking for a bush vacation, which is my favourite thing, that’s the perfect place to go. So, if you’re looking, there's a secluded place in the forest called Unembeza Boutique Lodge. You can get a private pool and a game drive. I’m a bit scared because there are lions and such, but it’s definitely a great place to check out.
On Cape Town in one word
Serene. It’s just a beautiful place. It’s very peaceful; a place you can genuinely come and just walk around and feel like you’ve had the best day ever.