Interview by Andrea Steyn
Victor Bravo isn’t just any DJ from a small town called Bulawayo in Zimbabwe, he will teach you all about dance music. He says that music is the essence of life. He chooses to supply music that creates “the goosebump experience”. He says that “music has got its substance; it’s got to have something in it. The elements are important”.
I saw Victor Bravo for the first time at a roof-top event two weeks ago. The vibe in the club was energetic, the DJ booth above a swimming pool, the night sky in Zimbabwe was alive. Dropping the funky house tune “Love is all I got” totally zoned me into the sound of Victor Bravo.
He describes his sound with hesitation “I try not to pigeon hole myself as there is so much good music out there across all the genres. I would say, primarily deep house with minimal vocals, catchy hook and so many twists and turns that leave you with goose bumps. Then I also play progressive house and trance, but depending on the venue. He is not into hard house because music has to have some real substance that does something for you, the type of stuff that tells you not to sit down, but get up and dance. I think him and I are on the same page.
I had the chance to interview Victor Bravo at his office, where his company is. He says after two decades of being a DJ life goes on, family all that. So, for him being a DJ is a hobby more than anything else, and once in a while he comes out of the woodwork. In his own words he says
“I am Bulawayo’s best kept secret”
Herewith the questions and answers from a favourite DJ of mine.
- Being in the music world and living in Bulawayo, and making it happen. I want to know more about that please. How did you first get into DJ’ing?
I have an older brother that was DJ’ing, and he happened to take me to one of the big events he was playing at. For a fourteen year old it was an amazing and overwhelming experience and if I’m to be honest I think being at that event and constantly being surrounded by the music is how I got into it. It started with playing 2 or 3 tracks while my brother took a break, progressed to dinner dances, weddings, friend’s house parties and finished with the club circuit.
- With your career starting at an early age, you’ve come a long way to date. Are there any people who have joined you on the journey?
Yes it did start early and yes I have been around for a long time. There are so many people that have been along with me, in particular the faithful party people that turned up weekend after weekend to listen and dance to what I was doing from the 80’s. But I think if you are asking me about who has influenced me and made me the DJ that I am, there are a handful of people, both, people I know very well and one in particular that I do not know at all.
The first has to be my older brother whose ear for the funk/disco sound had so much to do with the way I grew up listening to the music, the second person is an old school friend of mine that partnered up with me and we would play absolutely any chance we got. The third person and probably the one that has had the most to do with where I am as a DJ, especially on the technical side is Kimble Rogers (ZiFM). I had been dabbling in DJ’ing and was tired of playing at weddings, leavers dances, etc. until I met him. A mutual friend took me to a Saturday afternoon session, where Kimble was playing, and when I walked into the place I could not believe my ears. The music that was being played and the way it was being played completely took me by surprise. I had only heard that type of music and the skill that it was being seamlessly mixed together, in clubs out of the country. We were introduced, he basically taught me the basics of mixing and the rest is history. The fourth person that has had a lot to do with my career, is DJ and friend Jackie Pikoulis. We were both resident at a Bulawayo club and after a while formed the duo Dance Department. We played in all the clubs around the country and were the first to play and help organise the first warehouse party in Bulawayo. Finally to the person I don’t know, every DJ has at least one international superstar DJ that he tries to emulate, and for me that DJ is Pete Tong. He is absolutely brilliant, has been in the game for years but is still as cutting edge and relevant as the best of them.
- I’d love to know if you are involved in any productions currently or have done.
Given the opportunity, I would love to get involved in production work, I think it’s a natural progression for any DJ to want to drive a crowd mental with his own productions. The only thing I do is re-work or re-edit current tunes so that they sound a little different from the versions that are being played out.
- How would you describe your sound?
My sound? I try not to pigeon hole myself as there is so much good music out there across all the genres. I would say, primarily deep house, with minimal vocals, catchy hooks and so many twists and turns that leave you with goose bumps, then progressive house and trance. My sound does depend on where I play.
- What music avenues are you involved in at the moment? Do you have any residencies?
Me and Otis Fraser has started a cooking house music movement “Global Groove” which is basically a Friday night radio mix with Otis Fraser on Star FM in Harare. My professional commitments do not allow me much time to be involved in the club circuit on a full time basis. Whereas before I would play nearly every night of the week, things have changed and I only really get involved in the big events at the end of the year, such as the DJ Zinhle, Fresh, and coming up with Black Coffee at Horizons, also the Ultra Music Festival this weekend, and the Kalawa party at the end of the year.
- How has technology development in the DJ world affected the way that you play?
Being from an era of turntables it was very hard for me to accept that CD and all the rest that is out there now was the way forward, but with vinyl becoming harder and harder to find and the easy availability of downloads it was only a matter of time before I moved across. Now with kit like Serato that allows you to play digital files on your analogue turntables, and media players that give you the feel of working with turntables, the transition was easy and inevitable.
- Favourite vinyl that you would never give away? (Mine is Schmoove Playground)
Although my vinyl collection is very special to me, the one tune that does it for me has to be Energy 52, Café del Mar. It’s one of those tunes that has everything in it and been around for years in many different versions and am sure will be around for many more.
- In your life there is always one band or one track, that when you first heard this sound your life has never been the same. What is the name of that band, or song that changed your life for all time?
Being a house and dance DJ, you will probably not believe that the song or band that had and has an effect on me, is an old light rock song titled ‘Carry on our Wayward Son’ by Kansas.
- So excited to hear you’re playing at Ultra in Bulawayo this month, what a fantastic festival. What to date stands out as your most favourite outdoor venue that you’ve played at?
I think the best event that Bulawayo has seen has to be the Beach Party a few years back. The organiser brought in tons of river sand, palm trees. It was such an amazing setup and an even more amazing turn out. It was huge.
- If you go to a friends’ house for a braai, do you take back-up music in your pocket just in case?
I won’t take any music unless I’m asked, even if the music is not to my taste, I respect their space and it is also nice to let someone else worry about the sound track sometimes.
- What is playing in your car at the moment, and what would you listen to on a Sunday?
Playing in my car at the moment is ‘absolutely nothing’. I enjoy the quiet time I get driving to work and back. Sunday is my day to kick back, do nothing and nine times out of ten I end up watching movies all day.
- Who would you like to collaborate with internationally on a production?
On an international collaboration I would have to say Pete Tong.
- And finally, what is the dream event that you would like to play at in the world? Ultra Johannesburg and Cape Town? Mysteryland? Tommorowland? Sensation?
Though the chance of playing at all the events you have mentioned would be incredible, I think I would love to play at a Cream or Space opening party in Ibiza. The people that go to that island are mental and totally up for it.
Andrea Steyn: Thank you for taking the time to share.
Victor Bravo: Thank you for the opportunity to answer some of your questions.