Superfly. The DJ, The Legend, The Man.Written by Ryan Swano
In the 1980’s he was what in today’s terms we would call a superstar DJ and this was long before the advent of the internet, YouTube and all of the other media hype that is used to promote the careers of those in entertainment.
He is still very much in high demand and he is still consistently entertaining crowds. He may be from the old school but he is not to be considered an old school DJ. He remains relevant and still has a passion for introducing crowds to new music.
His public profile and his personal life has seen its ups and downs over the years but he has overcome much including struggling with a drug addiction. Yet through it all he remained consistent as a top notch entertainer.
At an age when many DJ’s would have long ago retired, he seems ready to take his career to levels that will bring a new twist to the world of dance music entertainment as much as he did 30 years ago at the famous Le Club.
We were fortunate enough to spend some time hanging out with one of Cape Town and SA’s icons of club culture. In an interview in which he showed a sincere openness and a sometimes brutally frank honesty in discussing his glorious career as well as his often turbulent personal life, we not only got to learn more about DJ Superfly the entertainer but with this article we hope to also introduce you to Rayyaan Coetzee, the man who is the legend.
In our interaction with DJ’s, many of them at the pinnacles of their careers, others still starting out, the question of whom or what inspired them to become a DJ usually comes up.
They mostly say that it was another DJ who they observed as they grew up or it could be that inspiration hit them the first time they saw a DJ in action at a club.
It is also highly likely that they were inspired by one or other famous DJ who they have only ever seen in a video, whose mixes they regularly heard on their local radio station or via internet downloads. Then there are the many DJ’s who were young teens in the late 1980’s who say it was DJ Superfly.
Of course we at bruinou.com could not expect that sort of standard answer when talking to a DJ who started out when there were extremely few famous DJ’s not just in SA but around the world. The club scene as we know it today was still in its infancy and could not have produced any legends yet. Those DJ’s of that era became the first legends in their craft.
Superfly is one of the very few DJ’s from that long gone era who is still relevant in the entertainment industry and still draws a large following today. He started out at a time when you could literally without realising it become a DJ by default simply because you were always the one willing to be operating the sound system at a gathering. There were very few other DJ’s to inspire you or show you the ropes.
It was also a time when those playing records at Discotheque Restaurants, as most nightclubs were known at the time, and also at social events, were called operators or selectors.
The main attractions at the time were the live bands while the ‘operator’ was just there to provide continuity in the music between the live sets of the bands.
Born to Entertain
Rayyaan Coetzee also called Rushaan but best known as Superfly was born into a family of entertainers with his father being the brother to the legendary jazz musician Basil ‘Manenberg’ Coetzee and his mother being the sister to the live entertainment industry pioneer Al Hendricks. At their matriarchal family home in Williams Street Woodstock, the very young Rayyaan was constantly surrounded by great musicians and entertainers like Taliep Petersen, Richard Jon Smith and Zayne Adams, lead singer of band Pacific Express. The Express served as the ‘jazz school’ for many now famous artists like Jonathan Butler, Robbie Jansen and a still very young Vicky Sampson who in later years sang the anthem-like hit ‘My African Dream’.
As a boy Rayyaan would attend many Pacific Express shows and by default sometimes became the ‘operator’ playing records in between their sets. At the age of ten Rayyaan and a friend Vincent started getting paid to provide music for social functions at the St Mary’s Church Hall in Woodstock.
It was the height of the disco era in the 1970’s when as a young teen he was already a natural at selecting playlists and with his friend Chacha, he would frequent record stores like Taj in Athlone on the Cape Flats buying LP’s and cassettes.
It was also the time when the Stardust Club came into existence in Woodstock. This later became the Casablanca Night Club with the owner/manager Cazz being well-connected with Rayyaan’s entertainment industry relatives.
It was in this era that the DJ also started being an attraction at venues and bands started getting less and less stage time with DJ Barney being the first resident DJ at Casablanca or the ‘Cass’ as it was known. It didn’t take long for the then 14 year old Rayyaan to also be playing sessions at the ‘Cass’ under DJ Barney’s wings.
Now having regular access to real DJ equipment, albeit belt-drive turntables with rotary knob mixers, he soon started to become a fully-fledged DJ but it was really still just him living up to his passion for entertaining people with his love of music.
DJ Superfly at Le Club - 1986
Of course there were other night clubs also beginning to attract growing numbers of patrons who no longer came for the bands but to dance to the beats of the DJ.
One such club was Route 66 in Mitchells Plain and this was where in 1982 for the first time Superfly was officially hired as a nightclub resident DJ and stepping outside of the comfort zone and familiarity of the Casablanca. From there he moved to the now defunct but once iconic Space Odyssey in Salt River among others and in 1986 it came to what for him at the time would seem to be full circle when he found himself back at Casablanca or the ‘Cass’ as it was informally known.
When the ‘Cass’ was rebranded as Le Club, DJ Superfly became the main attraction. Though he wasn’t the first to hype up local crowds, by most accounts, he was the first club DJ to take spinning records and hyping up a crowd to a bona fide form of entertainment.
The era of the superstar DJ was born and DJ Superfly was Cape Town clubbing’s first-born son.
He derived the name Superfly not only from the Curtis Mayfield album titled Super Fly, but also as much from the concept of the US slang phrase “You’re fly” which meant you were great but when you were told that “You’re super fly” you were way beyond great.
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Superfly never was and to this day is still not afraid to experiment with new sounds. He has a way of predicting what would years later and to this day be genuine Cape Town club anthems. Many DJ’s who were new to the scene in the late 80’s would partly build their record collections on what they heard Superfly was playing.
The ability of DJ’s to record live sets to cassette tape also meant that a Superfly cassette became a commodity in itself and so many who have never been to Le Club could experience a DJ Superfly performance, and what a performance it was!
Superfly would and still does incorporate playing percussion like a tambourine or a shaker into his set as well as blow a referee’s whistle to the rhythm of the songs. He is also well known for using echo and voice effects to their full potential working up crowds with his many unique tag lines and sayings like “Educating the media on an international basis”.
Wait, before you say “What?” It actually had a lot of meaning to it.
This was his way of saying that he was not afraid to play music which was technically banned by the Apartheid regime, and that he was not only educating patrons with all the international club music styles that were not available to South Africans but he was also using the lyrical content of these songs as a broad anti-Apartheid and anti-censorship message. He was being the international media for the dancing masses.
Superfly who was notorious for his drug use and specifically for his addiction to Mandrax, reached a point in the late 1980’s where he became disillusioned by the Cape Town DJ scene and realised that besides being poorly paid, all he really got out of the industry was that people were always eager to buy him his drug of choice.
Being the great Superfly, he did not ever really need to spend any money on having a ‘good time’ but Rayyaan realised that for his level of skill he was not earning nearly as much as he was worth.
When he was offered the opportunity to take up a residency at the Zoom nightclub in Durban he was on the next available flight out of Cape Town.
He spent almost a full decade plying his trade in Durban taking up residences at different clubs including Zoom at first, and then later moving to Palladium and Genesis among others. It was also while based in Durban that he started entering national DJ competitions and in the process earning himself invitations to perform at clubs in Johannesburg and other cities across the country.
A Man Transformed
In the late 1990’s he returned to Cape Town and Superfly took up residencies at various clubs including The Arena, which was located near the V&A Watrefront. Superfly was still a drug addict but that was soon to change.
Rayyaans life was in turmoil. He suffered from severe emotional instability and he was going through a lot of personal difficulties including the break-up of his marriage. He decided to seek spiritual guidance and a greater understanding of his religion of Islam. Though he does not count himself as one who devotedly sticks to all of the stringent rules and traditions of his faith, and admits to questioning a lot of what others merely accept at face-value, Rayyaan is a changed man.
Through this he had managed to kick his drug habit but was still not making any progress in finding any real inner-peace until a mentor helped him come to the realise that he was doing all of this for the wrong reasons. His only aim was to change the appearance of his lifestyle in order to get his wife to take him back into her life and he believed showing her that he was capable of change was all that he needed to do.
Once he understood that what he was doing can only work if he did it for himself, for the sake of his own humanity and not for the sake of anyone else, his life started to make sense. He also came to accept that his marriage really was over and that in spite of that he could go on living his life in a higher state of consciousness.
He is now clean for 16 years, healthier than ever.
He follows a healthy diet and works out daily with at least three full gym sessions a week.
He still takes regular spiritual retreats which serve to strengthen his new lifestyle.
After many years of great residencies all over the country, from the year 2000 onward, Superfly started a long stint at The Gallery in Cape Town which was essentially a Rave club. A long residency at Club Images followed and also he re-introduced strictly vinyl sets during his residency at The @tmosphere.
Though he still does take bookings at regular clubs, he has essentially become a freelancer who plays mostly huge events and festivals.
One of the big festivals and events he’s been booked for in 2016 is the Cape Town Electronic Music Festival.
Superfly gave bruinou.com a glimpse into what his #CTEMF2016 set will include and we know that patrons will be taken on a two hour musical journey through time, heading bravely into the future.
He will not only be playing timeless gems but as he has done throughout his career, he will be relevant to the here and now while taking big leaps into the future.
After four decades of entertaining people he is not only an inspiration as a DJ but is now also a role model to those who have to overcome their vices in order to live life to the fullest.
We asked him what advice he has for aspiring new DJ’s.
“In everything you do people always say that you should be yourself.”
“Being yourself means bringing your own personal energy to everything you do and as a DJ that translates to sharing your own positive energy with your audience.”
“Besides learning all the technical aspects of your equipment and becoming really good at mixing, all that will mean nothing if you do not learn to understand how music affects people on every level of their being and how your selection will affect the people you are entertaining. Your job is to entertain them, so be an entertainer.”
After his interview we spent some time hanging out listening to some great music and then joined The Real Rozzano for a genuine Cape Flats lunch of having a Gatsby while sitting in a park.
Superfly then in a moment of philosophical pondering and as a parting shot gave me his personal view on life.
Life depends on you. You are the only one who can live your life.
How it turns out depends on every decision you make.
Every decision comes with a package deal.
You have to live it with the responsible awareness that you took The Whole Package.
DJ Superfly at Le Club - 1987
- DJ Superfly
- le club
- night club
- club music
- dance music
- old school
- club classics
- club culture
- Cape Town
- Cape Town Electronic Music Festival
- Space Odyssey
- Route 66
- Mitchells Plain
- night life
- drug addiction
- drug rehabilitation