Smiso Zwane is the highly inventive, mustachioed and bespectacled 29-year-old going by the name of Okmalumkoolkat; co-accused at the visual/performance art outfit, Dirty Paraffin. Having partnered up with the likes of Spoek Mathambo, London dubstep trio LV and the Ruffest, this Umlazi-born, Jozi-based cat is not just a musician. He’s an artist, a writer, a designer – and he can bust out The Taxi Driver better than any of you. one small seed had the chance to talk rubber bullets, music of the now and thinking outside of the box… Don’t forget who your favourite uncle is.

Okmalumkoolkat, image: Chris Saunders

Okmalumkoolkat, image: Chris Saunders

‘Siyasebenza, afta five we come alive’ (Dirty Paraffin – ‘Download Part 2′)

It’s now 17:17 on my clock. Will you be getting alive tonight?
I do not work a nine to five anymore. I work around the clock but I am focused on my passions so I’m always alive. You pass time until you knock off if you are doing something you’re not really interested in as your day job.

Where does your moniker come from?
The moniker, Okmalumkoolkat, was inspired by DJ Cool Cat on UKhozi FM. From as far back as I can remember, this guy had a kid’s request show on Saturday mornings. Kids would call in and sing their favourite songs and give shout-outs. I thought this was a really cool concept for a radio show. I have never come across any other DJ with a show similar to this. The man was also heavily involved in Ukhozi FM radio drama, which is also a big inspiration in my storytelling.

Dirty Paraffin – ‘Papap! Papap!’

For someone who’s never listened to, or had the chance to get familiar with Dirty Paraffin or Okmalumkoolkat, how would you describe your craft?
It’s music that should be made in the now but be inspired by the future and the past.

We aim to trigger a new world mindset in those who dare to listen and understand.

What would you say is the biggest difference when it comes to Okmalumkoolkat performing as part of Dirty Paraffin vs. personal projects?
When I play Dirty Paraffin shows I play Dirty Paraffin tracks only. When I play Okmalumkoolkat shows I can perform tracks from Dirty Paraffin, tracks from Sebenza and tracks from my unreleased projects. I am a mixtape.

LV and Okmalumkoolkat – ‘Sebenza’ ( Hyperdub July 2012)


In an interview with Dazed & Confused, LV describe you as ‘a unique and amazing artist who makes us laugh and bowls us over.’ Any words for them?
Yebo. LV is one of the freshest production teams to come knocking at my door and I guess we met [so that we could] dent a little of ourselves into music history.

For the album, Sebenza, you didn’t get to meet Will & Simon of LV, but only Gerv. What was the process like, any major hiccups?
I had met Gerv way back in 2010 when we did ‘Boomslang‘ and I had started communicating with Will and Simon around about that time. So by the time we started on this project I was comfortable with the guys.

There were no hiccups at all. We were sending tracks back and forth like we had planned. They respect my song writing skills and my music direction and I trust them with the projects we put out so there were no major misunderstandings.

behind the scenes of 'Sebenza', image: Frances van Jaarsveldt

behind the scenes of 'Sebenza', image: Frances van Jaarsveldt

What did you and Gerv get up to in your spare time (if there was any)?
Whenever Gerv is in South Africa (he usually comes down because he has family out here). We meet up, rehearse, play shows and record tracks. It’s been like that since day one.

I met Will and Simon in Amsterdam a couple of months back and we did exactly the same thing. We met for the first time at round 14h00 at a festival and played their show around 17h00. We went for a young rehearsal afterwards and played my show at 22h00 that same night. We recorded a couple of tracks at their hotel room the very next day.

Some of your lyrics for ‘Sebenza’ are: ‘Since a way back they’ve been trying to silence us…/ Rubber bullets.’ Do you think people are still being silenced?

I guess there are other ‘rubber bullets’ used today. It’s always a struggle with ‘the powers that be’ to adhere to the ‘freedom of speech’ stipulation that comes with democracy.


You mentioned that the first time you saw street racing go down was in Umlazi early ’90s. Have you been back there and what are people doing now to pass time? Is it still car racing?
I was in Umlazi [just over] a week ago. People are really in party mode in Durban, they are very involved in the Durban kwaito movement. It’s a lifestyle. There are a thousand beat producers and there’s a new dance move every two months or so. People also look good in Durban, it must be the tropical climate.

So I saw you busting the ‘Taxi Driver’ in a video – Have you ever done any train surfing?
I was an only child till I was 11, so train missions with my friends were a no-go. Hell, I wasn’t allowed to go to the beach without my mother’s supervision up until I was a teen. Some of my friends did train surf but we all ended up in dance groups in the ’90s. It was a good exercise and the girls loved it.



Your track – ‘Download This Part II’ (listen above!) – has the lyrics ‘VIRGIN EARDRUMS GET DEFLOWERED’ – What deflowered your eardrums?
I’d say listening to a guy named Johnny Dimba when I was young. He would take instrumentals from Motown and recite Zulu poetry/ stories over them. Mind blowing stuff. Also the first time I heard Kraftwerk I was taken aback, especially because I had just read about them in that book ‘Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: History of the DJ’.

What do you think of kwaito today, and the fact that it has more house influences now than back in the days of artists such as Arthur Mafokate, Zola and TKZee, where it had influences of hip-hop?
Kwaito was really house music slowed down to like a 100 BPM when it hit in the early ‘90s. Kwaito is influenced by what the world has been feeding us, so all these artists making kwaito will make it the best way they see fit. There is no one formula.

On LinkedIn you describe yourself as ‘A student in packaging and selling ideas’. What is the biggest idea you’ve ever been sold?
Biggest idea they sold to me at college was ‘ think outside the box’. I bought it so much that when they organized an internship for me I turned it down because it was contradictory.

Okmalumkoolkat Koolhunting Klub , image: Thanda Kunene

Okmalumkoolkat Koolhunting Klub , image: Thanda Kunene

You’ve said that “Okmalumkoolkat’s Koolhunting Klub” is not a fashion label or a brand. So what differentiates a project from a label?
Well, it’s an on-going project because it’s developing still. I started the club as a side project where I could source and sell lifestyle products to my friends more than four years ago. Then I got really interested in remixing clothing so we started on denim jackets last year. This year, I went crazy and collaborated with people to make products for the club. What I have also realized is that I get to improve my design language with every collection we work on – it’s more exciting than a gallery exhibition in my opinion.

My label will come in the future. I am just gathering tools for now.

Also you mentioned that it’s a project you’ve been working on for as long as you can remember. Is there perhaps a certain memory/time that you do remember that could have led to this project?
The remixing was triggered by Dr. Romanelli and Taz Arnold in America. Then I remembered how I used to customize my gear. The fascination with denim really stems from the fact that I couldn’t afford it for a long time back in the ‘90s. Check out my blog for a more in-depth story on that (go HERE).

The OKMKK Kool Hvnting Klvb MMXII Kollezioni 2012 Part II

The OKMKK Kool Hvnting Klvb MMXII Kollezioni 2012 Part II

The parrot is a take on how people have different personalities online compared to their real life ones.–> Does this apply to you as well? What’s the main difference between your persona online vs. real-life?
There’s a big difference. Online, I can reTweet something you tweeted because I know I wouldn’t necessarily put it out there but I am still backing you up. There are many ways of saying something online. You can put up an image to show your mood and feelings. You can do the same with your daily outfits but only a couple of people catch those messages. I am also pretty shy in real life but I can come off as a loud-mouth on my blog and my music.

As an avid observer of everyday life – anything you’ve come across in the last few days that the general observer might have missed?
The climate and weather patterns have really changed, it’s not a joke. Stores need to stock jackets in summer and vice versa.

Is there anyone you would like to interview and what would you like to ask?
I’d like to interview Shaka Zulu and ask him if he knew his influence was going to last this long and also what inspired the empire concept.

What are you listening to right now? What’s your “go-to” track/artist?
Manage Expectations‘ by Cid Rim.

Dirty Paraffin X Paul Shiakallis, image: Paul Shiakallis

Dirty Paraffin X Paul Shiakallis, image: Paul Shiakallis

Apparently Pioneer Unit’s Damien Stevens considers you one of SA hip hop’s best rappers. Do you consider yourself a rapper?
I don’t know if I am a rapper. My style is more poetry, I play electronic gadgets and I tend to sing a lot so I consider myself a musician.

You worked with Spoek on his new album, Future Sound of Mzansi, with the track – ‘Skorokoro’. Have you owned one?
I am actually looking for a cheap cheap skorokoro next year. A Honda Civic would be ideal but I would settle for a station wagon Toyota Cressida any day.

What made you decide (along with Spoek Mathambo, Bra Solomon & Ayobah) to do a rendition of Brenda Fassie’s classic ’80s hit ‘Weekend Special‘?
‘Weekend Special’ had to be done. It’s a classic. It was Spoek’s project though so maybe he would satisfy that question.

What’s your favourite slang word/phrase?
Shambeez ( crazy ).

Ultimately, when it comes to Okmalumkoolkat (Smiso Zwane) there are no words better to describe him than his own:

‘I am the one. The 8bit champ! The member, the compadre, The Bigbootyholic, Booty Inspector, Duke of Casio. FutureMfana MfanaFuture. Zulu Compura. Smart Mompara. Super Tsatsatsa. International Pansula. Bhuti Yang’chaza. Bhuti Yang’ Washa. Boomslang. The Sjambok Ambu. okmalumkoolkat. Okmalumkillacombo. Holy Oxygen. Smiso’







interview by: Sarah Claire Picton, November 2012
images by: Chris Saunders, Frances van Jaarsveldt, Jamal Nxedlana, Paul Shiakallis, Thanda Kunene